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  • Shown at Collect 2017: Essex House Tapestries: the Life of Julie Cope, 2015. Crafts Council Collection: 2016.18–19. Purchase supported by Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation) and a donation from Maylis and James Grand. Courtesy the Artist, Paragon Press, and Victoria Miro, London. © Grayson Perry. Photo: Sophie Mutevelian

Julie Cope’s Grand Tour: The Story of a Life by Grayson Perry

A Crafts Council Touring Exhibition

In Its Familiarity, Golden, Grayson Perry, 2015. Crafts Council Collection: 2016.18 Purchase supported by the Art Fund and a donation from Maylis and James Grand. Courtesy the Artist, Paragon Press, and Victoria Miro, London. © Grayson Perry

The Crafts Council has recently acquired an exciting new addition to its national collection of contemporary craft: a pair of large-scale tapestries by Grayson Perry, winner of the Turner Prize in 2003. Presented publically for the first time at Collect (Saatchi Gallery, London, 2-6 February 2017), the new acquisitions are on a grand tour of the UK until summer 2019.

Julie Cope is a fictional character created by Grayson Perry – an Essex everywoman whose story he has told through the two tapestries and extended ballad presented in the exhibition. The Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015) illustrate the key events in the heroine’s journey from her birth during the Canvey Island floods of 1953 to her untimely death in a tragic accident on a Colchester street. Rich in cultural and architectural details, the tapestries contain a social history of Essex and modern Britain that everyone can relate to.

The tapestries are shown alongside a graphic installation, and specially commissioned audio recording of The Ballad of Julie Cope, a 3000 word narrative written and read by Perry himself that illuminates Julie’s hopes and fears as she journeys through life.

These artworks represent, in Perry’s words, ‘the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life’. Historically, large-scale tapestry provided insulation for grand domestic interiors; Perry has juxtaposed its associations of status, wealth and heritage with the current concerns of class, social aspiration and taste. To write Julie’s biography, he looked to the English ballad and folktale tradition, narrating a life that conveys the beauty, vibrancy and contradictions of the ordinary individual.

The narrative originated in Perry’s A House for Essex (2012–15) – his most ambitious project to date. Designed by Perry with FAT architects for Living Architecture, and located on the Stour Estuary at Wrabness, this residential secular chapel is dedicated to Julie Cope and serves as the artist’s tribute to the people with whom he grew up.

Grayson Perry Portrait, © Katie Hyams and Living Architecture


Born in Chelmsford, Essex, in 1960, Perry is known for his ceramic art, in which traditional decorative forms reveal more complex narratives and irreverent political statements. A Turner Prize winner (2003), more recently he has reached a wider audience through a series of socio-cultural television programmes. The Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope is the second work by Perry to be acquired by the Crafts Council. They follow the 1997 acquisition of his Mad Kid’s Bedroom Wall Pot (1996). Presented publically outside A House for Essex for the first time, the tapestries mark a significant development in Perry’s practice and add to an emerging group of contemporary social portraiture and co-produced digital textile works in the Crafts Council Collection.

The exhibition will be touring with a bespoke and playful exhibition design that refers to Perry’s vision of the secular chapel. A Young Visitors’ Guide, learning hand out with activities for families and an interactive app to explore the tapestries will also be part of the touring offer.

The exhibition is currently available for UK touring from mid July 2017 - mid 2019, and bookable in 8-12 week slots. To book the exhibition for your venue please get in touch with Touring & Loans Manager Ashley Fernandez on a_fernandez@craftscouncil.org.uk, 0207 806 2519.

Purchase supported by the Art Fund, Maylis and James Grand, Victoria Miro and other private donors.

Julie Cope Web App

In collaboration with Grayson Perry and Fish In a Bottle, The Crafts Council have created a web app which allows you to explore The Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015). Within the app you can find out about the techincal, historical and narrative elements that went into A Perfect Match and In its Familiarity, Golden. 

The app is available on mobile and desktop and can also be accessed within the gallery. To access the app click below. 

View the App 

Design your tapestry and tell your story!

Grayson Perry has created a ballad and tapestries to tell the story of Julie Cope. On the tapestries he has told her story through the big events that have happened in her life, through family, friends, local buildings, a map of her journey around Essex, different landscapes, fashion, sculptures, food, toys, music, animals, books and more.

Download the Template

What you would include in a tapestry or a ballad about your life or someone from your local area?

Download our template to have a go at writing your story and designing your own tapestry!

You could write a ballad, a song, or a short story, it can rhyme but it doesn’t have to, and it can have one verse or many. It’s up to you!

Our tapestry template has perspective lines to help you draw buildings, a space to draw a map of your local area and the journey of your characters, and a central circle where you can draw your main characters. The template is based on Perry’s design for In Its Familiarity, Golden. We recommend you print the template on A3 paper and use lots of colours and maybe even create a collage to bring your story to life.

When you’ve finished we’d really like to see your ballad and tapestry creations! You can find us on social media @CraftsCouncilUK and send us a photo of your work using #JulieCopesGrandTour or email participation@craftscouncil.org.uk