Lilly Frances Beards
BA (Hons) Textiles in Practice

Lilly Frances Beards

Unmask, Decrypt

I'm a cross-disciplinary fibre artist, weaver, and researcher exploring identity, technology and narrative through textile. Unmask, Decrypt is an autoethnographic written and woven body of work articulating personal experiences of autistic masking in the digital sphere. 

In Unmask, Decrypt, a series of jacquard and double-cloth woven textiles harness the imagery of computer systems and glitches - reminiscent of errors, screen strobes, and jumping pixels. Visual inspiration for several of the pieces come from digital art coded in the programming language Processing; using coding in my visual art practice has allowed me to experiment freely with scale, colour, and how the digital can be transferred over to the physical. Coding, like weaving, feels ordered, algorithmic, and rigid - however, both are capable of creating outputs that by contrast feel entirely random, glitched, and liberatory. It is this feeling of liberation within the glitch of the system that I aimed to communicate with Unmask, Decrypt.

Alongside woven textile, I have written and curated a publication combining my research, personal prose, and imagery, exploring facets of autistic experience in the digital age. The book draws a connection between autistic masking - the act of camouflaging identity, feelings and stims to socially conform - with the digital process of encryption. Whilst the book comes from a personal perspective, autistic experience is exceptionally broad; therefore, the book aims to inspire and offer insights into the importance of unmasking, rather than act as an educational tool. Autistic experience is not a monolith, however the more autistic people feel able to unmask and discuss their own experiences in art and design spaces, the more we can gain wider societal acceptance of autistic people and our perspectives.

My Vertical Gallery commission with Lucianne Canavan, Reprocessing, expands on these themes and explores the importance of community in healing the neurodivergent inner child.

Design Award Highly Commended Vertical Gallery Commission