Iona Danald

b. 1994, Sarawak, Malaysia

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Bachelor of Science, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

Iona Danald Profile Image

Artwork Overview

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Artworks & Narratives

Each of Iona’s fabric-based creations carries with it a unique story. These narratives have been written by the artist herself and provide useful insights to better understand her art.  


Burlap, chiffon, paper, safety pins and tea bags
122 x 109 cm (48 x 43 in.)

During the creative process of Fertilitea, I was inspired by Korean Bojagi. Bojagi is a traditional Korean wrapping cloth which is patchwork that is made exclusively and for the common people, using various colours of small remnants. While making Bojagi, Korean women wished for the recipients good luck and happiness. It is common for me to use recycled fabrics as seen in my previous textile works and my artistic practice aligns with this particular Korean traditional art. It is believed that keeping something wrapped protects good luck and the practice of connecting small pieces of cloth is associated with long life. This is highlighted through my usage of recycled fabric and safety pins in Fertilitea. The safety pin is a familiar symbol of motherhood and early childhood, associated with the image of a fastener for a baby’s diaper. Safety pins often hold a sentimental value in some culture. In some countries, they are a form of good luck and they used to ward off evil spirits when attached to children’s clothing. In India, safety pins are kept over generations and they are passed down to daughters. These relics of good luck and longevity from different countries are personally constructed in Fertilitea to represent blessings.

Fertilitea is Iona’s winning piece for SPOTLIGHT 2019.

Cross Thy Heart

Donated fabric remnants from tailors,arti cially-dyed cotton yarn, wool and thread
155 x 137 cm (61 x 54 in.)

“Cross my heart and hope to die” originated as a religious oath based on the symbol of the cross. Growing up, it was a very common phrase amongst the girls in my class and eventually turned into an overused way of girly promises. They would say to one another; swearing their best friends “to tell the truth and nothing but the truth”. As I grew older, I realised that it became one of the most comforting phrases that I needed to hear. There is a sense of security and solace in someone solemnly assuring you that they are telling the truth. This piece comprises of 5 different weavings, arranged in a multitude of ways and shapes. There is a hidden figure in the weaving as a nod to one’s faith.

A Cross to Bear

Quilt of Tartan-printed women’s skirts and a MacDonald family kilt (previously owned by a Jimmy MacDonald).
142.25 x 113 cm (56 x 44.5 in.)

Just like a quilt offers comfort and warmth to the wearer, so does this biblical quote consoles and reassures my father. “Fear you not; for I am with you.” is his one of his favourite quotes from the Bible, Isaiah 41:10 and it is embroidered on this Scottish quilt. Fear is universal and inevitable. All of us deals with something that scares us. Faith is something that carries us through anything and comforts us when we are fearful. The deconstruction of the tattered tartan skirts and kilt allows an emotional resonance in its physical reconstruction as a quilt. The hidden crosses brings to mind the existence of omnipresent God.


Vintage wool collected from family members and charity shops
279.5 x 53.25 cm (110 x 21 in.)

Through the mechanical way of weaving this Glencoe inspired piece, I was able to physically document and preserve the memory in textile form. Hame is a free flow weaving piece, made from individually hand tied wool on my Ashford Loom. The wool materials were sourced from all over England and Scotland, and some were kindly donated by family members. Like painting on a canvas, I woven the impressive landscape of Glencoe, and its mountains and hillside, where I spent my winters with my family. From the autumn coloured moors to the snow covered mountain tops, from the fresh patches of green grass to the sheltered bushes of wildflowers; Hame encapsulates all aspects of the spectacular Scottish countryside.

Mother Hen (Janet)

Vintage wool donated from family members and collected from charity shops
45.75 x 45.75 cm (18 x 18 in.)

Mother Hen is the materialisation of my maternal genealogies and the female role models in my life. Six square weavings are the textile dedication to the women whom have played a role in my partner and I’s life; consisting of our mothers and grandmothers, and my sisters. Hand stitched silhouettes of their side profile distinguishes their unique features, which is further highlighted through the different multicoloured wool using as the weft in the individual weaving pieces. There is honour in the preservation and celebration of these women and their legacy, whom have greatly influenced me in throughout my life.

Mother Hen (Gaynor)

Vintage wool donated from family members and collected from charity shops
45.75 x 45.75 cm (18 x 18 in.)

Mother Hen (Dorothy)

Vintage wool donated from family members and collected from charity shops
45.75 x 45.75 cm (18 x 18 in.)

Mother Hen (Julita)

Vintage wool donated from family members and collected from charity shops
45.75 x 45.75 cm (18 x 18 in.)

Mother Hen (Izra)

Vintage wool donated from family members and collected from charity shops
45.75 x 45.75 cm (18 x 18 in.)

Mother Hen (Ingrid)

Vintage wool donated from family members and collected from charity shops
45.75 x 45.75 cm (18 x 18 in.)

Princess & The Pea (I, II & III)

Traditional Bidayuh bells, late grandmother’s batik fabric remnants, glass jars, chiffon and paper
17.75 x 10 cm (7 x 4 in.) each

The Princess and the Pea signifies the pressures in adulthood. Layers of textiles are representative of the differing degrees of pressure. Although the textiles are made of various types of fabric, they are subjected to an identical weaving process. The traditional bell is linked back to my Bidayuh roots and how it is worn during Gawai festivals. It is the remembrance and celebration of life itself. I am that bell that is trapped under that glass jar. We, the observers, are all participating viewers of the tall textile tower which has collapsed into a dense mass of impenetrable fibres.


Second hand vintage batik, synthetic silk lining and safety pins
233.75 x 195.5 cm (92 x 77 in.)

Inspired by the traditional kimonos that I had admired during my visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum this year, I used my late maternal grandmother’s collection of vintage batik to recreate my interpretation of a kimono. The deconstruction of the original sarongs allowed the exploration of the origins and its subsequent history. The large and oddly proportioned kimono is textile symbol of transition and displacement. Resurrection is a transformative and wearable piece, with connotations of protection and security through the usage of traditional safety pins.

Survival Kit

Donated cheongsam from sister and embroidery thread
94 x 45.75 cm (37 x 18 in.)

This particular cheongsam was gifted by my eldest sister. Embroidered on the material are uplifting quotes of encouragement related to surviving and restarting. It is the product of my coping mechanism during Movement Control Order. The practice of hand embroidering each letter to make a word, to form a sentence and to provide comfort and some sense of stability to the new norm.

Agi Ngelaban

Pua Kumbu and embroidery thread
111 x 111 cm (43.75 x 43.75 in.)

Pua kumbu is such a traditional and iconic weaving of the Iban tribe from Sarawak. The revision of the age old traditional textile allows the possibility of multiple perspectives of the piece and its embroidered motto.

Embroidered Text in Iban reads:
Agi idup, agi ngelaban”. A direct translation, word for word from Iban to English is “Still Alive, Still Fight.”
English Translation: “As long as you’re alive, you keep on fighting.”

It is equivalent to “Dum spiro spero” in Latin, which means “While I breathe, I hope”.

Ringgis’ Remnants

Late Maternal Grandmother’s textile remnants from her seamstress and handbag-making business, and red trimmings handed down from my mother
124.5 x 73.5 cm (49 x 29 in.)

Ringgis’ Remnants are the literal remnants of my late maternal grandmother’s last sewing projects. Before she fell seriously ill, she had worked on several different sewing projects. Some of her projects were unfortunately incomplete. This year, I revisited her house and I salvaged the remnants of her completed projects. The remnants used in this piece were personally hand cut by the late Ringgis while she was alive and able, and I finished her work through the process of creating a quilt in the late memory of my inspiring grandmother. This is my way of continuing her legacy in the form of textile commodity. These patterns materials are now close to impossible to source at the large fabrics stores on India Streets and Carpenter Streets of Kuching, Sarawak.

Ramin Bari Tayung Babeh

Second-hand Kimono Materials and Weaving
152.5 x 152.5 x 203.25 cm (60 x 60 x 80 in.)

Ramin Bari Tayung Babeh means Grandparents’ Home in English. Ramin Bari Tayung Babeh is inspired by the true story of how my late grandmother bought a piece of unwanted land and built a small house from the ground up with my grandfather as they raised four children together as full time farmers, part time seamstress and part time electrician. In this installation, my usage of textile serves as a personal container of cultural memory and familial meaning. The textile hut is permeated with familial historical significance, personal identities and ancestral journeys.

Mother and Child

2 panels of Textile & Mixed Media (Charcoal, Chiffon, Embroidery Hoop, Mirror, Plaster, Towel, Safety Pins, and Donated Clothing Items)
155 x 48 cm each.

Mother and Child is a tribute piece to the women whom have experienced with a miscarriage. 10 – 20% of women will experience miscarriage during their first pregnancy, and a few of my close friends make up the statistics. A close friend of mine lost her first baby at 20 weeks recently and I was moved by her story. She had opened up to our circle of friends and soon after, our married friends began to open up and shared their stories about their previous miscarriages. It is known that one in four women will experience a miscarriage and/or pregnancy loss. The first panel represents a mother figure and the second panel is a baby. With my friend’s blessings, the embroidery on the mother figure tells my friend’s tale of how she feels and the horrific tauntings that others forced upon her during a time of grieving. The mirror on the mother figure is symbolic to us as the observer, looking at our mother’s womb, our first home. It invites us to look within, to look at where we began, to who we are now and how we are shaped. Most importantly, to question the meaning of life and death.

During the creative process of Mother and Child, I used charcoal as the medium to alter the look of the Good Morning towels and I also used charcoal to draw the ultrasound images on the said towels. It was a challenging and unique experience to combine textile materials with charcoal.

Compartmentalizing Compassion

Textile & Mixed Media (Charcoal, Chiffon, Towel, Donated Fabric, Flowers, Found Objects and Wood)
103 x 92 cm

Compartmentalising Compassion is the interpretation of how I, as an adult deal with the trauma surrounding my mental health turbulence and how I navigate my way through adulthood. The segregation of every specific experience is represented by the pockets on the piece. The textile piece consists of various coping mechanisms; the pockets of the lighter contents resembles of happier times. There are 72 pockets and contents are arranged in a checkered manner.

The lighter pockets consists of dead flowers and its stems trapped in the iconic Good Morning towels with sewing. Donated fabric and found objects add more symbolic meanings to the textile piece, as each item serve a purpose and have been used the specific situation to manage or overcome a certain obstacle. A memory or routine is attached to the said item.

I used charcoal in this piece as its physical form. The weight of the charcoal represents the burden that I have accumulated and the responsibilities that I have succumbed to. I also used charcoal to blackened some of the lighter contents to depict tarnished memories and dark life lessons.

Iona Moira Evemarie Danald is a Bidayuh artist who works with textile and, oil and acrylic on canvas. Her work is the expressive exploration of mental health issues and her journey to recovery.

Identifying as Bidayuh and working primarily with textile, Danald’s work is an exploration of femininity, mental health and recovery. Trained in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, Iona left her role as a Research & Development Engineer in 2017 to focus on her mental health. Through her journey of recovery, Iona rediscovered her initial life’s dedication – her commitment to working with the less fortunate and people with disabilities through visual arts. She helped adults with disabilities and taught art therapy during her residency at Asia Community Services’ Stepping Stone, Penang, and volunteered to teach remedial classes at St Mary’s Primary School, Kuching, in 2019. Currently, she’s an art teacher at Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur.

Iona is the Winner of Spotlight 2019 by Penang Art District and Malaysia Emerging Artist Award Finalist 2019. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions in Kuching, Penang and Kuala Lumpur. AYE: Across Sarawak and Scotland is her first solo exhibition.

Solo Exhibitions


AYE: Across Sarawak and Scotland, Ming Fine Art @ St. Jo’s, George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Group Exhibitions


Common Threads, The Back Room KL, Kuala Lumpur, malaysia


B&W, Artemis Art, Publika, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Young & New VII, HOM Art Trans, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Art Showdown, Bayu Gallery @ ChinaHouse, George Town, Penang, Malaysia
RRRWARRR!!! Maybank Emerging Women Artist Show, Balai Seni Maybank, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Malaysia Emerging Artist Award 2019 Finalists Showcase, White Box, MAP@Publika, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Beginnings – Open Studios Penang, Gudang, George Town, Penang, Malaysia



Winner, Spotlight 2019, Penang Art District
Finalist, Malaysia Emerging Artist Award 2019

In The Media



Common Threads Of Contemporary Textiles – Front Row, on The Bigger Picture, BFM 89.9 podcast, broadcast on September 22 2020
Textiles bridging cultural divide – The Star, August 26 2020
AYE: Across Sarawak and Scotland, a solo exhibition by Iona Danald – Penang Art District, August 7 2020
Uncovering female inwardness through ‘AYE: Across Sarawak and Scotland’ – Haruna Matata (blog), July 25 2020
Iona Danald: A textile artist weaving to heal – Penang Art District, May 28 2020


A spotlight on artistic talents – Bulletin Mutiara, November 19 2019

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