Retrouvius are pleased to present Light on White: an exhibition celebrating summer light and natural forms, featuring work by Kirsten Hecktermann, Dhahabu Ngumbao Dadu and Alvaro Picardo. Launching to coincide with the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, Light on White is a nod to the long summer days of midsummer; to the rhythms of nature, the inevitable flourishing of its bounty, and the ethereal light that only arrives with the height of summer.

Presented at The Garages, the north London hub of the Retrouvius studio, this exhibition presents the work of three makers. Kirsten Hecktermann first met Retrouvius founder Maria Speake through a mutual friend almost 20 years ago as Kirsten was evolving out of a decade-long stint in film costume design towards experimentations with her own hand embroidery on old textiles. They have collaborated ever since, with Kirsten’s signature hand-embroidered textile panels and hand-dyed cushions gracing the homes of countless Retrouvius clients. Light on White is, in part, a celebration of this creative partnership, which has been integral to the Retrouvius journey and has helped shaped their studio to what it is today.

Since their first encounter, Kirsten’s work has developed into a mixture of hand embroidery and drawing, with a focus on using simple, good base cloth, and spending time embellishing that. She has always enjoyed sewing with subtle colours, sometimes even the same shade as the base cloth itself, so that it is only when a certain light hits the sewing that one is able to see the patterns.

Kirsten is now developing her practice further to explore how paint can work alongside this. Many of her pieces in Light on White contain motifs of plants and the natural world. Her work is complemented by cushions created by her sister Joan Hecktermann in collaboration with Chizie, and pieces produced by Kirsten which were designed and hand-painted by her niece and Glasgow student Tove Thomas.
“I have always liked to hold up fabrics to the light, fascinated by the marks of sewing and different weaves, and how light changes the effects of marks on cloth. I enjoy moving textiles to let light show through, which often then creates shadows, all of which are typically missed when placed flat against a wall.” – Kirsten Hecktermann

Kirsten was born in Kenya where she first met Dhahabu Ngumbao Dadu through her husband Ngala, who works with Kirsten’s father. Dhahabu’s tribe is Giriama and she lives north of Mombassa. As a girl growing up in humble surroundings, Dhahabu’s parents were unable to afford the schooling that was rarely a priority for girls, and she never learnt to read or write. Similarly, Dhahabu has never received formal training in embroidery or craft, and whilst Kirsten has taught her to sew, she has never influenced or guided her designs. Dhahabu instinctively creates her own pieces with embroidery threads and fabrics periodically sent to her by Kirsten since they began working together. More recently Dhahabu has returned to using basic locally milled Kenyan cloth that she first started out with.

In 2012 Dhahabu’s work was exhibited for the first time at the Centre for Recent Drawing in London, and more recently in Japan in 2019. Since her first exhibition, Dhahabu’s style has continued to develop and evolve, incorporating new techniques and stitches taught to her by Kirsten on her visits to Kenya. As Dhahabu’s work evolves, it remains visually evocative and entirely uncontrived.

Through her work with textiles Dhahabu has become increasingly financially independent and secure, enabling her to extend the family home. Her daughter Raheli is now following in her footsteps and learning to sew too; all of which, Kirsten acknowledges, is a testament to the capability of stitch to empower women and communities.

Complementing the textile-based work is a selection of hand-painted lampshades by Barcelona-born artist Alvaro Picardo. Alvaro is consistently inspired by his Catalan roots: from rationalist architecture to the colourful encaustic tiles one finds in Barcelona, and the luminous light of the Catalan coast. His meticulously hand-painted designs are illuminated as the sun goes down, when the lamps come alive in the glow of the light bulbs. Alvaro’s lampshades are presented on plaster lamp-bases by Pablo Cal-Fernández and a selection of salvaged stone bases from the Retrouvius warehouse.

All viewings are by appointment. Please contact

Wednesday 22nd – Sunday 26th of June

11am – 5pm

The Garages

59 Ravensworth Road

NW10 5NP


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