art Installation

Caren Garfen was awarded the Textile Society Professional Development Award in 2017 and was thus able to fulfill her vision of creating a full-size bedroom art installation at The Knitting & Stitching Shows.

The Judges stated:

“Caren Garfen is an experienced artist, whose proposal to create an exhibition around her work on ‘eating disorders’ reflects a passion and sustained commitment to a compelling and unsettling subject. 

The pain and distress of anorexia is sensitively considered and beautifully expressed through her textiles. Caren’s approach in developing miniature maquettes, in preparation for larger scale pieces, is both professionally planned and critically developed. The work demonstrates originality and a highly personal artistic quality.”


YouTube video of What’s Going On Upstairs - Interview and recording by Arnold’s Attic, October 2018

“What’s Going On Upstairs might provoke feelings of discomfort and sadness in the viewer, but Garfen has never shied away from dealing with uncomfortable topics in her work. It is this aspect of her artistry that shows her ability to engage sensitively with difficult human experiences.” Jessica Edney, Selvedge blog, 2018

A bedroom installation has been placed inside a gallery. Hospital and domestic furniture set the scene of an adolescent’s bedroom/sterile hospital ward. Using painstaking hand stitching, a moving and accessible artwork has been created dealing with the devastating world of eating disorders.

Photo credit: Allan Smith

Photo credit: Allan Smith

The main feature of this work is a quilt which has been made using a pattern designed by a talented and creative young woman who passed away after suffering from a complex eating disorder. The underside of the quilt is constructed using three hospital gowns.

Photo credit: Allan Smith

Photo credit: Allan Smith

A dollshouse sits inside the gallery. Its bedroom furnished with a miniature version of a hospital bed, a tiny drip stand, weighing scales, a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff. These objects and others found inside the dollshouse have been reproduced in life-size, incorporating textiles stitched with motifs and researched text.

The concave mirror distorts how we see ourselves…

The concave mirror distorts how we see ourselves…

“Garfen’s works are representations of stories of self-doubt, distorted body images and the imposed pressures from social media and the beauty industry. Her works demand the dismantling of predefined norms of the female body and thus function as a beacon of awareness and hope for body positivity.” Julia Hartmann & Aline Lara Rezende, Curators of ‘Nothing Less!’, October 2019

Photo credit: Gerry Temple

Photo credit: Gerry Temple

Visitors to the gallery were invited to write their personal stories in a diary, sitting on a chair obtained from an eating disorder clinic.


  • Beyond ‘art’, beyond textiles, this body of work is so powerful - conveying the raw emotions, agony and complexity of anorexia.

  • So much empathy and understanding - through visual literacy - this considered collection speaks volumes.

  • This has been one of the most powerful pieces of art I have ever experienced. It is beautiful and sad and very real (as someone who has self-harmed and had mental health problems), I cried. Thank you.

  • A very poignant exhibition of a subject matter that affects both female and male. It allows a sufferer to explore their own thoughts and feeling about their own eating disorders - very gentle but challenging.

  • This exhibition definitely brought mixed feelings and emotions - not that that is a bad thing. Being faced with the struggles I am currently fighting is very daunting but I am happy that this beautifully detailed exhibition is talking about the truths of eating disorders, not just a glorified fantasy, and it’s great that awareness is being raised. Thank you.

  • So powerful. As a health care professional working with children I think we should all be exposed to this exhibition/art piece.

  • My daughter’s been here. What a powerful message this conveys. Thank you.

  • Thank you for articulating such a damaging state of affairs for now an alarmingly growing mental health issue for young people today. What a powerful and moving set of art works about this disease. I will be using this as a way to help young people in my school find a voice with their own story.

  • Incredibly moving exhibition. I currently suffer from a combination of a restrictive eating disorder and bulimia, and it was almost overwhelming seeing my inner feelings laid so bare, and so beautifully curated and designed. Thank you for making something so authentic and real.

  • This work is BRILLIANT! So well research, thought out, planned and executed. Very, very impressed. I sincerely hope this work can be shown across the U.K.

Installation measurement: 6.5m x 6m

Process: Hand stitch, digital printing

Materials: Textile, silk threads, bedroom furniture, medical equipment, dolls house, accessories

Exhibited in:

‘What’s Going On Upstairs’, The Knitting & Stitching Show, Alexandra Palace, Gallery TG11, London (2018)

‘What’s Going On Upstairs’, The Knitting & Stitching Show, The RDS, Gallery TG6, Simmonscourt, Dublin, (2018)

‘What’s Going On Upstairs’, The Knitting & Stitching Show, Harrogate Convention Centre, Gallery TG2, Harrogate (2018)