What does it mean to make art together, in collaboration with others? In Victorian Britain, groups of people exercised their creativity by sending each other stories in the post. To write, to read, to entertain, to keep in touch; and in this way, their creative spark was a primary vehicle for their correspondence and relationships.

One such example is The Busy Bee (1877-1886), a series of handwritten magazines that were collated by an editorial team and circulated, by mail, to a list of subscribers. The woman editor, Selina Mary Moor, used this magazine as a medium for her own creative endeavours, but also as a means of bringing together a community of likeminded friends and family. After each entry, subscribers were invited to comment on the submission – which provides amusing insight into the wider rapport of a late Victorian social circle.

Welcome to “The Art of Fiction” project website. Here, you can learn more about how the creativity of late Victorian Britain has inspired an investigation into the connections between women’s writing and the decorative arts in the second half of the nineteenth century. You will also be able to read The Busy Bee (launching in March 2024), which has been digitized and will be made openly accessible for the first time.

You can also learn more about how to get involved with our “Patchwork Object Project”, a contemporary artwork that will be designed by Ruth Broadway and made from collaboratively sourced patches. To fit with the broader project themes, we invite you to submit a piece of material that responds to the theme of ‘women’s creative identities’. This patch will be stitched into a larger work that will be displayed at MAKE Southwest in early 2025 (see our Events page for further information). A photograph of your patch, along with its story, will be digitised and made available via our website as a record of the many stories that the “Patchwork Object” will wield.

Our project examines collaborative art making, and in doing so, it examines forms of artistic production that were neglected or considered inferior because associated with the feminine, the popular and the everyday.

We hope you enjoy learning more about our project; you can connect with us on Instagram and Threads; alternatively, feel free to drop an email to Tricia Zakreski or Alex Gushurst-Moore.