A life-changing move from the Philippines to the UK at seven-years-old – has inspired budding artist Anna-Marie Gallares to create a rich tapestry of her life and journey.

Anna-Marie’s parents made the brave decision to leave their family home in Cebu City and travel nearly 7,000 miles in search for a better life and opportunities for Anna-Marie and her younger sister.

Anna-Marie, who arrived in the UK in 2008, said: “From my seven-year-old self‘s point of view, my first year in England was filled with positive emotions of curiosity, wonder and excitement.

“I also had my fair share of difficulties, such as struggling to fit in, not understanding or speaking English and just the unfamiliarity with everyday life.”

Fast-forward 15 years and Anna-Marie and her family are happily settled in the north-east.

Anna-Marie’s parents – Cristina and Ananias – and sister Bea-Marie, 16, live in Newcastle and Anna-Marie is currently living in Sunderland while she studies a Fine Art degree at the University of Sunderland.

Anna-Marie, 21, said: “The north-east of England is my home, where I grew up, and it is familiar.

“The Philippines has a place in my heart and identity, but I left when I was young and feel now, as an adult, I need to go back and revisit the connection of my routes.

“It is important to my parents that my sister and I be aware of our Filipino heritage, which we practice within our home, such as speaking Bisaya (Filipino dialect) and eating Filipino food cooked by my mother, recipes she learnt from my grandmother—bringing my parents’ upbringing in the Philippines to our home in the UK.”

As a way of connecting with her Filipino heritage, Anna-Marie has decided to tell her story through her own painted tapestry.

Inspired by the story-telling styles of English artists Grayson Perry and Emma Talbot, Anna-Marie’s 18ft tapestry entitled A Year In My Life is filled with striking and vivid patterns depicting 20 childhood memories from her first year in the UK.

In celebration of her Filipino-British identity, Anna-Marie’s tapestry also includes an array of Filipino tattoo designs, taking inspiration from 106-year-old Filipina tattoo artist Whang-od.

Anna-Marie said: “I feel that within art, immigration has always been a strong topic, but in contrast, I have never seen art that is specific to Filipino immigration.

“Coming into this country at such a young age, I have my own story and experience of British culture and how people have responded to me being a Filipina immigrant.

“I have expressed my experiences in a painted tapestry format to showcase my journey in a story centralising the pride of my Filipino-British identity.”

Anna-Marie’s tapestry is being displayed as part of the University of Sunderland’s annual Degree Shows – a series of exhibitions in the city highlighting the array of artistic talent from the University’s final year art and design students.

It is an opportunity for students to exhibit their work publicly, which for many is their first major public exhibition.

Professor Kevin Petrie, Head of School of Art and Design at the University of Sunderland, said: “Our Degree Shows are a culmination of the hard work and dedication our students put into the final year of their course, where they build their professional practice, skills and experience.

“It is also a celebration of their creativity and the beginning of their exciting new journey as creative professionals.

“Our students use creativity to make the world a better place – they explore, experiment, challenge, inspire and delight through their work.

“So, visitors to the Degree Shows will see a diverse blend of traditional and cutting-edge skills across three venues in the city – the University’s Priestman Building, National Glass Centre and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.”