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Imagine filling a postcard with rows and rows of machine stitching less than two centimetres apart. How long would that take?

Now imagine doing that on a wall-sized canvas and stitching most of those rows by hand! Impossible, right? Not if you’re textile artist Inga Liksaite.

Inga’s signature style of rhythmic repetitive stitching vibrates across a canvas in both linear and organic shapes. Added layers of paint intensify her impeccable stitch work and engage the eye.

Particularly striking is how Inga’s pieces transform themselves depending upon the distances from which they are viewed. Close up, you’ll drown in row upon row of crisp stitch work and colour. But as you step back, those rows and colours merge and combine into recognizable shapes and features. Remarkable!

Inga’s works have been shown actively in Lithuanian and European art scenes. She has received several awards and grants, including the Lithuanian Council For Culture. She has also received numerous distinctions for solo works, and over the years, has collaborated with artists working in various mediums.

Inga Liksaite: Home #3, 2018, Acrylics and stitch on canvas Stitching to survive

TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium? How was your imagination captured?

Inga Liksaite: Looking back, I think my attraction to textiles was most influenced by my cultural background. I grew up in a culture in which handmade skills were survival tools used to improve and progress within a mostly brutal Soviet environment. Those skills also boosted enormous creativity in all aspects of life, from making clothing to other spheres.

I grew up in a seaside town where I saw fishermen crafting their tools. Both of my grandmothers were sewing and knitting all the time, and my parents were very creative too.

I also recall when playing outside as kids, we’d use open construction sites’ ‘finds’ as a medium to play.

I wasn’t sure about art studies after school, but my inner me wanted to extend that aspect of play. So, I tried this and that, and textiles caught my attention. Textiles seemed both universal and close-at-hand, which allowed a lot of freedom and experimentation in the creative process.

I’ve never treated textile studies as ‘traditional.’ Instead, I see aspects of being flexible, futuristic, multi-purpose, and especially playful. Also important are aspects of being sustainable, meaningful, colourful and timeless. In short, textiles are so cool.

Inga Liksaite: Black and Green (Detail)

What was your route to becoming an artist?

Knowing when to start calling oneself an ‘artist’ was always a serious challenge for me. There wasn’t ever a clear line between my artistic work and my personal life.

I did study art, but I wasn’t a very good student. Classic art studies bored me. I was a maker from the very beginning, so I wanted to try and experiment by myself instead of learning advanced things.

I didn’t really know who or what I wanted to become. But I knew I wanted to create. I wanted to immerse myself in a process with stuff. I followed my gut feelings and had no special plan.

Still, I tried many paths to be a designer, fashion maker, school teacher, and shop display designer. And I’ve tried various kinds of jobs. I think the mixture of those circumstances helped bring me to where I am now.

I also don’t particularly describe myself as a ‘textile’ artist. Textile is only the dominating medium.

Inga Liksaite: A Journey #1, 2015, Acrylic and sewing on canvas

What types of textiles and tools did you use at the start of your artistic journey?

There was nothing very special about my environment or the materials with which I worked. I used ordinary fabrics and minimal choices of yarns, paints, and brushes. I started with a decent amount of supplies, there was a time when I could not afford more. That lack was a kind of impulse that challenged me to generate quality and value with what I had.

So, I used whatever I could get easily, and the rest was creativity.

I also had my DDR Veritas sewing machine, which still functions perfectly today. It was an interesting tool with quite powerful mechanisms, including the foot pedal and back/forward motion functions, that allowed me to play and endlessly experiment.

Inga Liksaite: Black and Green, 2018, Acrylic and stitch on canvas Rows and rows of stitchwork

Tell us about your process from conception to creation

For my work, knowing the timing between ‘conception’ and ‘creation’ is as challenging as knowing which comes first…the chicken or the egg!

All my work sprouts from previous work. I am constantly recalling old sketches and using them to develop some new quality. I make things continuously, and in between, I crystallize some parts that especially intrigue me.

Once I have an idea, I start sketching on paper. Then the project’s progress shifts between digital and manual drawing.

Painting ideas develop through sketching on a screen too.

After that, I identify all the materials I’ll need, and then I set up and adjust my workspace accordingly. My studio is not a big space, but it’s airy and has natural light which is most important. I try to keep it tidy and organized so I can sort my work stages.

The main process is mostly handwork or machine stitching, which can be very colourful and have various outcomes.

There are also more routine activities that need to be done to accomplish the project goals. These include choosing the right fabrics, calculating sizes, making project blueprints, stretching canvases, or even repairing sewing machines!

Then I also have to communicate with clients, galleries, etc. There are plenty of common things to accomplish that count.

Inga Liksaite: Sodu Street (Detail), 2018, Acrylic and stitch on canvas

Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques and how you use them

There are various methods I choose to use. In one method, I make a vector drawing first and then copy it onto a canvas. My earlier works featured rhythmically simple straight or curvy seams that collectively created an image. Now my works are stitched more by hand resulting in bigger stitches than regular machine stitching.

I then use stitch in different forms: freehand embroidery, sewing machine stitching, and/or digital embroidery. Even when I use digital or machine stitching, there is still lots of finishing handwork needed to achieve and combine bigger scale pieces.

The difference between the vector drawing and the actual stitching on fabric is I allow small irregularities in both stitch and yarn which creates interest. The textures of the canvas and yarn also give an additional opaque dimension to a piece.

The tactile nature of my textile work features many layers that offer viewers a different experience when viewing up close and then from a distance.

I’ve also discovered the act of stretching the canvas reveals even more about a piece, as the textures of stitch appear more clear and intense.

Inga Liksaite: Home #4 (Detail), 2018, Acrylic and stitch on canvas

What currently inspires you?

Everything! I love my life, I notice and see many things and nuances, and I feel and enjoy moments. And all of these are inspiring.

I think inspiration comes from a synthesis of experiences.

Inga Liksaite: Home #4, 2018, Acrylic and stitch on canvas Combining stitch and paint

Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?

I am happy when I see my work inspires others and comes into people’s lives as a sign of a new path that vibrates well with their energy or travels with them from one place to another.

One woman purchased my work during her break between leaving a long-term job and starting a new freelancing business. Back then, freelancing was not yet popular, so she was taking a risk to quit her advanced career in a big company.

She told me my painting was the first thing she invested in for her new beginning. It was more a spiritual than a practical investment. Then one year after starting the new business, it blossomed. And now it flourishes successfully.

She also started collecting art in general, and to this day, we’re still good friends. That kind of story makes me know I am in my element.

Inga Liksaite: Forest (Detail), 2015, Digital embroidery on linen

How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

I’m going deeper into the notion of stitch, and I do it with bigger inner freedom. My recent works (2018) are stitched by hand, resulting in more exaggerated and larger stitches than machine stitches. It’s not necessarily more or less expressive…just different.

I’ve also begun stitching on a painted canvas. I paint the raw canvas first, then restretch it, and then paint more layers to make it sustainable. Then I start stitching by hand.

Still, I honestly can’t predict the future. Maybe I’ll do more painting than stitching, or maybe I’ll overdose with art and quit for gardening! I’m not sure yet.

I would like to develop various directions in my present works, but I have learned from life not to have too forward-looking plans because everything is in motion and changes. My to-do list for the upcoming year is mostly full of art projects, but I think it’s better to stay flexible. I don’t want my art to turn into fabrication.

Inga Liksaite: Forest, 2015, digital embroidery on linen

What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?

Well, I would only give advice only if one asks for a special situation. But in general, I would say ‘You know everything!’

For more information visit liksaite.com

How do you use line and repetition in your own work? Let us know below

Inga Liksaite: The language of line was first posted on May 20, 2019 at 10:00 am.
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Gregory Wilkins is a self-taught artist. He grew up in a multi-ethnic, multi-national family and always felt ‘different’ throughout his childhood. His mother encouraged him to express himself and he started to explore creativity through performance and art. He travelled the world, immersing himself in different cultures and supporting causes fighting for equality.

These experiences have driven his life of creativity and form the foundation of his artworks. Greg’s work on paper and canvas uses reconstruction and collage, paint, photography, stitch and beadwork to represent the layers and complexities of life and explore the meaning of existence.

In 2016 and 2019 Greg received Professional Mid-Career Artist Grants from Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council. He was awarded an Artists on Main Street grant (via the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota) and a Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council Small Arts Project Grant in 2018. He has won numerous awards including best in show at the ‘410 Project’ juried exhibitions in 2018 and 2017 (Mankato, Minnesota), the Ringholz Foundation Art Prize in 2018 and first place in the Arts Center of St. Peter juried exhibition, Minnesota, in 2017. His work is held in private collections in Minnesota, California, Florida, Idaho, and Washington, DC.

In this interview, Greg shares how he struggled to fit in as a child and how he gradually learned to embrace his feeling of uniqueness, feeding his passion for creativity with his art. Discover how his career developed and how issues of global community and social inequality inspire his work. Find out how he creates his layered works in a mindful and organic way to satisfy his need to express himself. “For me, art is not a choice. It is a necessity.”

Gregory Wilkins: Varanasi, India: Portrait Number 1, 2017, Colour photography, acrylic paint, ink, graphite, embroidery thread, sewing thread, yarn, collage on canvas Express yourself

TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium? How was your imagination captured?

Gregory Wilkins: When I was a boy, my mother sewed, crocheted and crafted. We had heaps of fabric, yarn, thread, and patterns stacked everywhere. The cornucopia of colours and textures changed with the seasons as she made us Christmas and Easter outfits, school clothes and holiday decorations for our home.

I am one of seven children and she made all of our Hallowe’en costumes. She would work into the night to creating a menagerie of animal costumes; a lion with a full mane, a rabbit with pompom tail and an oversized stuffed carrot, clowns or a witch with black flowing gown and a giant, pointed hat. Every year something spectacular would be created.

As we grew older we began to craft our own creations. One of my favourite costumes was a sailor paddling a canoe. I created a sailor suit on top with the ocean below. Sewn felt seaweed and fabric sea creatures were glued onto corduroy trousers, with a boat form made of chicken wire with hand painted fabric sewn and wrapped around the frame. I was a sight to behold!

Gregory Wilkins: Brisbane, Australia – City River Banks, 2017, Acrylic paint, oil enamel, ink, graphite, sewing thread on paper

What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?

I grew up in a multi-national and multi-lingual home, so I felt different from most; an outsider. My local community did not understand my global perspective, what it meant to be a queer kid and my love of all things different.

But this empowered me to be an advocate for change.

Rather than allowing others to stunt my passion I expressed myself, my authentic, peculiar and unique self, through my art.

I first got actively involved in art when I was nine years old. I was an actor at Bay Street Players at the State Theatre in Eustis, Florida. As a performer, I learned the value of collaboration, taking risks and learning by doing.

I learnt a lot. There was more to theatre than being on stage; set and costume design, lighting, fundraising and audience development. I got involved in the Young Peoples Theatre. We built scenery, created and developed scripts, made masks and costumes and learned about the history of theatre. It made a big impact as I found a group of people that embraced difference as something special, rather than casting it out.

I had found somewhere that accepted me and allowed me to grow.

My mother taught me to crochet when I was eight years old. I was not very good, but she encouraged me to keep trying. A year later I took what I learned from crocheting to my school class and shared it with my peers. It was frowned upon by my teachers because it was something they felt boys “should not do”.

Later that year, I performed in drag version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz. I was in the show at Bay Street Players and was excited to share it with my school classmates. But this led to problems. I began to get picked on, bullied and beaten up.

But my mother supported me. She said, “God does not make junk”. She explained that I was special, even though people did not see it. That I should not hide the person I was.

Art, both visual and performance, became a way to express myself. I was free to be, do or wear anything. Life was about living and living fully, to be full of passion and be mindful, not mindless.

I tried many things; needlepoint, cross-stitch, painting, clay and woodwork, storytelling and drag.

For me, creativity was about exploration. Learning by doing. Today I am a self-taught artist. I take risks, make mistakes, then grow wiser from the experience.

For example, I’d never used a sewing machine until 2017. I was struggling with how I was going to complete enough work for my first solo exhibition at the Arts Center of St. Peter, Minnesota. So I watched a YouTube video on how to thread the machine. I became fully engaged.

I found that learning by doing informs and shapes new directions and outcomes.

The urge to create comes from within. As an artist, I try to find meaning in this hurried, nonsensical world. Few find the time to contemplate, reflect, and renew.

Art for me embraces chaos and brings resolution. I try to give the viewer an opportunity to explore existence. For me, art is not a choice; it is a necessity.

Gregory Wilkins: Dhaka, Bangladesh: Portrait No 3, 2017, Black and white photography, acrylic paint, ink, sewing thread, embroidery thread on paper

What was your route to becoming an artist?

I am self-taught and like to learn continuously. As part of my education, I have visited many galleries and museums, explored UNESCO sites and visit and volunteered with artists and arts organizations around the globe.

When I was an undergraduate (1985-90) at Warren Wilson College, North Carolina, I wrote down all the things I might want to do with my life. I also developed a personal statement, “Creating a life of change, impacting the lives of one or many”. Combined, my goals and vision statement have taken me on a grand adventure.

One goal had great importance to me. I wanted to travel. For me, travel was not just about visiting. It was about living there, meeting people and experiencing the culture. My art is a reflection of those experiences.

Global travel directly impacts my art. It resonates through colour, texture, images, and titles. I am inspired by life stories, community celebrations, the depths of a cave system, the powerful energy of a rainforest, or the vastness of a desert.

I completed my undergraduate degree (1990) in Intercultural Studies, History and Political science. I also worked at the Smithsonian Institution at the American Art Museum in Washington, DC, the Shakespeare Theatre and The Lansburgh. In addition, I volunteered with the Whitman Walker Clinic caring for people with AIDS and worked with the Human Rights Campaign. While in Washington, DC, I attended anti-war protest marches. I took part in demonstrations to bring awareness to the HIV/AIDS crisis and LGBTQ social issues, such as equality in housing, healthcare and the ability to serve openly in the military.

These experiences were powerful because I was able to discover my voice. I began using these experiences to influence my art.

For the next few years, I prioritized my graduate and doctoral studies in Ohio and Florida, receiving a graduate degree in Educational Leadership in 2001. In 2002 I returned to Washington DC. I worked as a figure model for artists at The Foundry in Georgetown and the Washington Drawing Center (formerly the Dupont Drawing Group). I also began to privately model for Bob Worthy for his “Fallen Warrior” series.

After spending time in Idaho I moved on to Minnesota. In 2009, I saw a volunteer opportunity for the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council, to help distribute art grant funding. I served six years (2010-16) on the executive board as secretary, vice president and two years as president. While on the arts board, I reviewed hundreds of grants, attended many art openings, music events, and cultural celebrations. I was motivated to reboot my art practice.

I returned to one of my pieces “Idaho Snake River Wheat”, which at that time had no wheat in it. I began stitching wheat shafts into the canvas. I discovered a new technique in my art.

In the winter of 2012, I spent two months in India. I visited workshops and factories. India has vast sweatshops supplying the world’s fast fashion. I was moved by the people and stories of their hardship. Sewing is historically considered “women’s work” and the women work six or seven days a week, but bring home very little income.

I wondered if there was something I could with my art to bring awareness to their plight.

I wanted to reconnect with the experiences from my trip. I entered a photograph into a juried exhibition and it wasn’t selected. I returned home and cut the piece up. No sooner had I done that I regretted it. I put it back together by adhering it to a canvas as a collage and began painting into it as well as sewing directly into the canvas, blending the photograph, paint, and thread. This was when I first began to develop my artistic style, using photographs and embroidery in my art.

In 2016, I was awarded a four-month sabbatical. I left the United States to visit educational institutions around the world, attend cultural events and work with communities in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo and Bangladesh. The sabbatical energized me.

I was about to turn fifty and had set myself a goal of having a solo exhibition. I applied for a grant and was awarded $3,000. The show was daunting because the gallery space was vast and would need at least sixty pieces.

Rather than hand-stitching all of my mixed media paintings on canvas and paper, I pulled out my trusty sewing machine. I created over a hundred pieces in eighteen months to fill the gallery. I developed a black and white photograph installation, showcasing indigenous people I’d met along my travels.

The show was called, “Lives Unfurled: Chaos to Simplicity” and received rave reviews.

Gregory Wilkins: Under the Sea, 2018, Acrylic paint, oil enamel paint, sewing thread, embroidery thread, crochet thread, glass reads on paper Layers of memories

Tell us about your process from conception to creation

When I travel, I take many photographs and write a travel blog. When I get back home I review my images and re-read my thoughts about the people I met, their stories, celebrations and rituals.

This period of reflection informs my art.

I see pattern in a dress, ripples on the surface of water or an ornate architectural element. I try to express my experiences through my art, using paper, canvas, and fabric.

I currently work full-time at Minnesota State Mankato. When I am not working I delve into my creative practice. I try to do something artful every day, whether creating, researching or experimenting.

My creative space was in my apartment up until February 2019, when I moved into my first studio. In warmer weather, I work outside in a forested area. I have a temporary studio between fallen trees and mud puddles and work while batting away the mosquitoes! My easel is made from fallen tree trunks lashed to living trees and I use a tree stump as a table. In this outdoor studio, I put paint to canvas and paper. In the winter months, I bring my art indoors but focus on needlework and beading.

I do not begin with an end in mind. I don’t use a sketchbook. I refer to my collected photographs, travel blog and my memories.

I also let my emotional self shape my work. I cannot rush the work. It requires patience and reflection.

Gregory Wilkins: Marigold, 2017, Acrylic paint, oil enamel paint, ink, graphite, sewing thread, embroidery thread on paper

Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques and how you use them

There is a lot of responsibility starting with a clean fresh canvas or paper. I start by trying to destroy the sense of pureness. This might be done by crinkling it up, throwing dirt on the surface and pressing it in, pouring something onto it or throwing paint across the surface. I make gestural marks with a marker or graphite or use spray paint to alter the surface. Something always emerges from this process.

I step back to look at the markings and texture that is emerging from the work.

I tape out elements that give me joy so that I may return to them later, and I then add more paint to the surface. I repeat the process until the surface is covered with blue tape and paint. This can take days or weeks. I usually work on six to eight pieces at one time.

When I am ready, I peel away the tape and reveal the many layers beneath. Stepping away again, I see the many marks I have made. If the many elements make sense to me, I set the image aside for a later time. If the elements of the piece do not talk to each other, I go back and add another image on top of the paper to create clarity in the work.

I use the lines and structure to inform me where I am going to sew, either by hand or machine. I build layer upon layer until I feel it is complete.

I use the same process with my photography. I take an image that I like and paint and sew directly on the image. Or I cut it up and put it back together. This takes time and patience because the paper may tear and the damage has to be incorporated into the work.

I also experiment. I make marks on paper or canvas. Then I cut the piece into long strips and weave it back together. The image is transformed into something new. I sew into the piece by hand and machine, add glass beads, more paint and other elements until the work is complete.

Gregory Wilkins: The Hendricks’ Woods, 2018, Acrylic paint, enamel paint, sewing thread on paper

What currently inspires you?

Texture inspires me. Anything that encourages the viewer to step up close and investigate.

I am intrigued by lived experiences that are vastly different from my own, by men with unwieldy beards and moustaches, by women, their wisdom and strength.

I am inspired by the environment, by architecture that pushes structural elements and creates gathering places for silence and contemplation.

I am driven by the possibility of a global community transcending the conflict of nation states.

I am inspired by the question of existence and current political events, from a president who is careless and vulgar, to the ordinary men and women who want to build a better planet for future generations.

Gregory Wilkins: Idaho, Snake River Wheat, 2008 – 2017, Acrylic paint, ink, graphite, embroidery thread, sewing thread, glass beads on canvas From places to textured faces

Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?

In 2008, my work contract at Washington State University in Pullman was not renewed.

I moved to my partner’s farm in Idaho. I had fallen deeply in love with my partner Scott Clyde. Despite where my heart was, I made the difficult decision in 2009 to leave him behind and return to Miami, Florida (where I owned a house) to find work. To stay connected in spirit, I began working on a piece called ‘Idaho, Snake River Wheat’.

It was a painting on canvas of my reflections of the Snake River, the largest North American waterway. When I had completed it, I felt like it was missing something; a..

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It takes a very special artist to turn plant decay, lichen and fungi into beautiful works of art. And that special person is textile artist Amanda Cobbett.

Amanda cherishes the discarded and overlooked treasures found on forest floors. And the way she recreates and presents those items through stitch, papier mache, and pyrography is remarkable. Her goal is to fool the eye, and she’s very successful at doing so.

As the saying goes, words could never express the magic in Amanda’s work. So we strongly encourage you to take a moment before reading further to view this very short video demonstrating her creative process:

Amanda was kind enough to give us an insider’s look at her techniques, including how she creates her own layered ‘fabrics’ with machine stitch and dissolvable backings. She also explains her unique display methods using contemporary versions of Victorian display cases that both amuse and delight.

Amanda trained as a printed textile designer at UAL Chelsea. Her love of mark making techniques which evolved from paper into stitch feature exquisite detail through both colour and composition. From her studio in the Surrey Hills, Amanda creates machine-embroidered sculptures inspired by nature in all of its forms.

Amanda’s work has been featured in galleries and exhibitions across the globe, including the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Botanical Art & Photography Exhibition.

Amanda Cobbett: Orange Birch Bolete, 2019, The cap and pores; free machine embroidery, stem; paper mache, covered with a fine silk embellished, including thread detail for the root and earth as if freshly pulled from the earth Hamburger buns and other shapes

TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium? How was your imagination captured?

Amanda Cobbett: I have always loved textiles. I was encouraged to sew and make stuff on a machine from a very young age. I also made paper structures, and I have always explored everything with my hands.

I studied textiles at secondary school because I liked fashion. But I was more interested in making textile sculptures. Still, while the course was very traditional and tailored, it didn’t put me off. It taught me about the quality of finish.

I mostly researched the fashion designer Issey Miyake in my studies because his origami garments were fascinating! As a result and much to my teacher’s horror, while other students were making beautifully appliqued cushions, I made a giant hamburger cushion with beaded sesame seeds and organza lettuce. I was a challenging student, but the hamburger was well made!

I gave textiles a miss at A-level opting instead for sculpture. I loved it, and I found my happy place. But as much as I enjoyed working with wood and metal, my love for fabric and thread remained, which is why I took a degree in textile design.

I also ventured into specialising in weave, however, the process was too slow and controlled. So, print took preference, and I enjoyed 12 years designing fashion prints.

My need to physically make has always been with me, and now my work fulfills all those desires!

Amanda Cobbett: Lepiota pseudohelveola, 2019, The cap and gills; free machine embroidery, stem; paper mache, covered with a fine silk embellished, including thread detail for the root and earth as if freshly pulled from the earth

What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?

My parents never pushed me academically, but they always gently encouraged me to be creative.

Both my grandmothers were great seamstresses, and my grandfather was a brilliant engineer and problem solver. He could take a 2-D drawing and make a 3-D object without hesitation.

I can visualise in 3-D too and thought everyone could until very recently! When I was about 6 years old, my dad (who was a draughtsman) taught me how to draw a cube and a cylinder. I understood it immediately and practised all the time.

He also used to test me about what basic shapes I saw in household objects.

I love a puzzle and am more adept with visual pointers than I am with letters and numbers. I use hand-eye coordination to mask out an idea.

Amanda Cobbett: Moss Bark and Lichen TQ 086 444, 2018, Built up layers of free machine embroidery, materials used; paper, silk, thread, dye, backing cloth

What was your route to becoming an artist?

After taking an art foundation and exploring my love of texture and mark making, I pursued a degree in textiles and specialised print at the Chelsea College of Art (UAL). I worked in commercial textiles for about 12 years designing print for fashion, furnishings and tableware.

That career taught me about research and the importance of being unique. In a world of millions of fashion prints, it’s the design that stands out above the rest that earns you a living. There is no opportunity to be bland—you need to be forward-thinking and abreast of current trends.

Also during that career, I was given an old Bernina sewing machine by a family friend, and I started experimenting mostly in 2-D. I used the machine purely as a drawing tool and started to make pieces that had texture but no form.

It was my walking in the forest that set me on the path to sculpting again. I wanted to find a way to preserve my beautiful found objects.

I had also been to the Overbeck’s National Trust property in Devon and was fascinated by the display cases of taxidermy birds and pinned-down butterflies. While their colours were iridescent and beautiful, I thought how sad it was that they had been captured and killed for human pleasure. So I wondered if there was a way to replicate that beauty without harm.

Amanda Cobbett: Amanita muscaria, 2019, The cap and gills; free machine embroidery, stem; paper mache, covered with a fine silk embellished, including thread detail for the root and earth as if freshly pulled from the earth Finding beauty in the discarded

Tell us about your process from conception to creation

My process always starts with a morning walk in the forest. Then I return to the studio and start straight away on the sewing machine. I don’t sketch beforehand, as the needle and thread do that job.

I use an embroiderer’s hoop with machine stitching, often sewing into a dissolvable fabric. Discovering dissolvable fabric was a huge revelation. It’s so useful being able to build up layers and then wash away the carrier fabric!

After washing away the dissolvable fabric, I’m left with a new fabric which I can then use to create my pieces.

When it comes to machine stitching to create my fabrics, I am constantly developing new techniques. Different threads behave differently in any combination when put together, so the possibilities are endless. And I use rayon threads for vibrancy of colour.

I also make up papier mache stems for the fungi, but only if I have an hour or so to spare. I use traditional papier mache methods and cover the stem with fine silk. I then embellish the stem with sewing, markers, and pyrography techniques. Burning the fabric helps me achieve the natural colours one would expect from a mushroom stem.

Once each specimen is complete, I drill holes in them to secure a clear Perspex rod, so they can be inserted into a Perspex acrylic display box. I use the display boxes for observation as much as anything else. I want my work to be seen from all angles. But I also want the work to be preserved and to feel special. If it wasn’t in the box, it would be difficult to look after the piece of work.

It took me a long time to find the correct supplier who could share my vision. First attempts with various other suppliers didn’t meet the grade.

Quality has been paramount. It would be a shame to go to all the effort of making something hopefully viewed as beautiful and then mess up with its presentation!

Amanda Cobbett: Penny Bun, 2019, The cap and pores; free machine embroidery, stem; paper mache, covered with a fine silk embellished, including thread detail for the root and earth as if freshly pulled from the earth.

Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques and how you use them

Again, by using an embroidery hoop with dissolvable fabric, I can build up layers of thread by sewing and over sewing. Once this ‘new’ fabric I’ve made is washed and the original carrier dissolved, its thickness is malleable enough for me to begin to sculpt.

I don’t use any pastes, binders or forms. The thickness of my sewing in certain places will determine how it will behave once the dissolvable fabric is washed away.

I use a natural seaweed-based dissolvable material which if not entirely washed away will leave a size on the thread. But there is a fine line between over- and under-washing. So, the amount of thread to each piece is very much a trial and error method that’s unique to that piece.

Amanda Cobbett: Mycena flavo-alba, 2019, The cap and gills; free machine embroidery, stem; paper mache, covered with a fine silk embellished, including thread detail for the root and earth as if freshly pulled from the earth

What currently inspires you?

I am and always have been inspired by nature. As a printed textile designer, I specialised in floral design. And now as a textile artist. my works relate to my forest walks.

The forest is a huge beautiful space. We are naturally inclined to look at the bigger picture, but then we risk missing the tiny details which can be found all around us. It’s creating the natural textile textures and colours that excites me.

I take in every aspect when I’m out walking, but often my eye is drawn to the discarded. To me, it’s a bit like a daily treasure hunt, and my pockets are filled with my finds!

Amanda Cobbett: Moss, bark and Lichen detail TQ 085 44, 2018, Built up layers of free machine embroidery, materials used; paper, silk, thread, dye, backing cloth Fooling the eye

Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?

The first time I exhibited the moss and lichen pieces at an RHS show I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback, You never quite know if what you are doing is going to be interesting to anyone else. So, for someone to be amazed that what I’d made had been completely embroidered and not real is such a thrill. It’s so rewarding to know I can believably trick the eye by using thread.

Amanda Cobbett: Penny Bun and Grey Coral Fungus, 2019, The cap and pores; free machine embroidery, stem; paper mache, covered with a fine silk embellished, including thread detail for the root and earth & Built up layers of free machine embroidery

How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

Taking something that is flat and making it into 3D is the reason I love doing what I’m doing.

When I first started making using free machine embroidery, I was quite tentative, and it took me a long time to make each piece of work. But now I really push the machine and the threads to the limit. I aim to make much bigger pieces of work. I’d love to do a huge installation of forest floor finds.

Amanda : Moss and Lichen TQ 085 439, 2018, Built up layers of free machine embroidery

What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?

Do what makes you happy, and enjoy exploring and experimenting with all kinds of fabric and thread. I’ve never been set on the direction that a piece might be going as I start to make it, so I’m rarely disappointed with the outcome. This philosophy allows me to enjoy the process from start to finish without restraint.

For more information visit www.amandacobbett.com

Amanda enjoys ‘fooling the eye’ with her stitch sculptures. Did she succeed? Let us know in the Comments below

Amanda Cobbett: Stitching the forest floor was first posted on May 6, 2019 at 10:00 am.
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Mandy Pattullo is a textile artist based in rural Northumberland. She sources local vintage quilts, embroidery and other fabrics, collaging them together into exciting new pieces, each telling their own story.

Some of these rescued materials are disintegrated, worn or mended with hand stitching. She unpicks and reconstructs them and then adds to their interest by embellishing, making new surface textures with embroidery stitches. Her collages become stand-alone pieces, are applied to garments or collected into a book structure. Mandy’s aim is to preserve discarded textiles by converting them into beautiful new patchworks incorporating their history, told through the visible signs of wear and tear.

Mandy spent many years teaching in an art college and in the last ten years she has focussed on her creative practice. Her work is based on references to historical textiles and traditional techniques. She explores the importance of local folk traditions and sewing generated in domestic settings. Today she teaches many workshops both nationally and internationally and is a member of The Textile Study Group.

In this interview discover how Mandy Pattullo creates her ‘scrap’ books for her own use, almost as a self-indulgence. She uses collage and embroidery to build layers of texture and colour on fabric background pages, using waste fabric fragments. She creates her stitched books to remind her of previous projects and inspire new ones. Her technique inspires us all to make the most of every last scrap of fabric and avoid waste, building a more sustainable practice.

Name of piece: Wallet Book
Year of piece: 2019
Techniques and materials used: Applique, hand embroidery, pamphlet stitch, Materials – Leather wallet, vintage materials, stranded embroidery thread
Size of piece: 23cm x 16cm

Mandy Pattullo: Wallet Book A book-lover’s dream

TextileArtist.org: How did the idea for the piece come about? What was your inspiration?

Mandy Pattullo: I am an avid reader and I live in a house filled with books. Even with my busy life I manage to read a novel every week and have non-fiction and short stories on the go all the time too. I was brought up in a household where books and reading for entertainment and knowledge were valued. I am ashamed to say that sometimes we used read through meal times and secretly I would like to do that even now!

I love how novels conjure up a little world which you are plunged into. Stories are not all about the narrative drive but about allowing the reader to use their imagination and conjure up colour, texture and context around the characters.

The time-worn textiles I collect also have their own stories and life. When I mix them up a kind of magic occurs. I see my colour stories and collages like the collage of different elements that a writer brings to the page using words.

This link between vintage fabrics and their stories led to me making fabric books. They are not about the words but still ‘speak’ to the viewer. They tell a story about a project I might have been working on. In fact, they are usually made at the end of a project using tiny left-over scraps.

My inspiration started with seeing the Bronte Juvenilia, children’s tiny little books, at Haworth parsonage. I really coveted them and recognised their preciousness and want people to feel the same way about mine. The Bronte Juvenilia are unique one-off productions. I like the idea of this; the fact they are irreproducible.

I also love Louise Bourgeois’ textile books and those big ledgers that you sometimes see at Antique Textile Fairs that are full of little samples of fabrics.

I have a large collection of artists’ books from all over the world and they have influenced the physical ways that I have put fabric books together over the years. My books might be bound Japanese-style or with a simple pamphlet stitch. They might take the form of a scroll or a concertina. Or echo the rag or quilted books made for babies.

The feel of the book in your hand is very important, which is why I started using old leather wallets as book covers. There was a sense of them having been used many times in a past life and possibly held in a pocket close to the heart.

Mandy Pattullo: Closed Book Mandy Pattullo: Leather wallet A box of delights

Was there any other preparatory work?

I don’t do any research for a book project like this. They grow out of other projects that I have on the go.

They are instinctive and self-indulgent pieces!

The books are made as a sideline to another project I am working on. Sometimes I have collected so many scraps left from other projects that I just have to use them! Because of this, my preparation simply involves sorting through my scraps and partially-worked pieces to decide what to incorporate.

Mandy Pattullo: Stitched book – inside view

What materials were used in the creation of the piece? How did you select them? Where did you source them?

The materials are what it is all about!

I have been collecting antique and vintage fabrics for years from charity shops, vintage and antique fairs and from markets in France. I don’t buy any materials online as this seems too easy somehow. I love the thrill of finding the real thing myself.

My studio is located in a complex open to the public all the time, so people often bring me little bits of fabric that they think I can use.

I especially like to use pieces of old quilt. These can be fragments of patchwork or pieces of whole cloth quilt that I have unpicked. I end up with a pile of thin layers with the shadows of the original stitch prickings on the surface.

I often use the back of the fabric piece rather than the front. I also use a lot of pieces of old embroidery, precious items mostly sourced from The Textile Society’s fairs or charity shops.

Living in the North East I can find vintage quilts quite easily. If you can’t find source material then try an eBay or Etsy search to find sellers who sell small pieces at reasonable prices.

Mandy Pattullo: A box of delights – collected source material

What equipment did you use in the creation of the piece and how was it used?

These rag books are very low-tech. All I need is a pair of scissors, pins, a needle and threads and a pile of old fabrics. If I can’t find a wallet then I improvise and make a fabric cover or use a piece of blanket or quilt.

Mandy Pattullo: Stitched book – back page Collages of colour

Take us through the creation of the piece stage by stage

First I cut double-page spreads to a size which will fit inside the perimeter of the case. I tend to cut more than I need. For this book, I used three different pieces of quilt. Other alternatives could be a wool blanket or any other firm fabric. Once folded, three double-page spreads will create twelve ‘pages’. With a thinner foundation fabric, I could increase this to four folded pages.

I want the book to be enticing so a bit of bulkiness is acceptable, but I have actually got to be able to fold the pages!

Mandy Pattullo: Foundation fabric used for the book pages

Next, I start to delve into the fabrics. I sort them and lay out little colour compositions on to the top of the pages.

The pages are going to be interleaved so I need to bear this in mind. Two of the foundation pieces might have four ideas for collage and then the other foundation will be the middle page spread. These piles may not be what I will use in the end. They just get me started. Some elements will be added or taken away from these initial colour stories.

Mandy Pattullo: Collating layers of fabrics into colour stories

Then I start to cut, pin and organise. As I do this I play with interleaving the three quilt foundations so that I can see how things fall next to each other. Deciding on the composition is purely instinctive, but as a general guideline, I try to leave an open area on each page where I can add embroidery stitches and I often choose one very interesting piece of embroidery or fabric fragment to be the central focus of the piece.

I turn over the pages and do the same on the reverse side, pinning elements in that seem to speak to each other.

I concentrate on getting a good first and last page and a strong middle page spread, as that is where the book will fall open naturally. It might take me a whole day of pinning and rearranging to get the elements right. Then I leave it and come back the next day to re-evaluate with a fresh eye.

When everything is right then I cut some of the inner pages down a little in size so that the folded pages line up nicely. Then I start stitching all the elements on.

Mandy Pattullo: Pinning each page collage together

My aim is to sink the stitches into the blanket or quilt so they cannot be seen on the next page. I use a little overcast stitch which goes over the edge of the fragment I am attaching or sometimes a tiny stab stitch just inside the edge.

When everything is attached I add some embroidery stitches. These are fairly minimal but they do add further surface interest.

I am often led by the fabrics, so if there is a stripe it might suggest lines of running stitch. If there is a ditsy print I might use a scatter stitch like seed stitch, fern stitch or French knots. I look for the spaces in between which look a bit empty and need that extra bit of mark-making for interest.

Mandy Pattullo: Stitching the collage and starting to embellish with embroidery

The final task is to sew the book together.

This is done through the middle of the double page spread. I use pamphlet stitch but you could just do a running stitch up the middle. I use a bulldog clip to keep the pages together while I am sewing. If I use pamphlet stitch then I leave the ends hanging from the middle to allow further scope for embellishment with beads and buttons or even an old lace bobbin attached to these hanging threads.

Mandy Pattullo: Adding beads and a lace bobbin to the centre page seam

What journey has the piece been on since its creation?

This piece will not go on any journeys as it is too precious to me. However, I often put out a display of my rag books for visitors to see at my Open Studio events. I also take my collection of books to workshops. It inspires others to use those tiny little precious scraps in a creative way.

Mandy Pattullo: A collection of wallet books

For more information visit www.mandypattullo.co.uk

Do you save left-over scraps from your projects and use them in a creative and constructive way? Let us know your ideas for re-purposing waste fabric by leaving a comment below

Mandy Pattullo: From conception to creation was first posted on April 29, 2019 at 10:00 am.
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No amount of superlatives would suffice to describe Georgina Bellamy’s work. Her fanciful menageries stitched in gold will take your breath away. Reindeer, frogs, pandas and more come to life with intricate goldwork and exquisite detail.

Georgina is on a mission to bring the age-old tradition of goldwork embroidery back to life, but she’s also turning that tradition a bit on its head. Her 3-dimensional sculptures surprise and trick the eye. And her embroidery-embellished apparel is equally stunning.

We’re so pleased to offer a behind-the-scenes look into Georgina’s process, as well as her philosophy and effort to use her talents to build community. It’s a remarkable story.

Georgina graduated from the London College of Fashion with a BA in surface textiles. She has created embroidery for various fashion designers, artists and students, which led to her founding her own brand called ‘That Embroidery Girl.’ Her work has been featured on TV, in magazines, and her ‘In My Garden’ exhibition is featured in the current UK ‘Knitting and Stitching Show.’ Georgina also offers classes in southeast London to help preserve the goldwork craft and provide access to the tradition to lower-income students.

Georgina Bellamy: Lady Frog, 2018, Goldwork metals and leathers A goldwork obsession

TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium? How was your imagination captured?

Georgina Bellamy: Textiles initially attracted my attention in my early 20’s when taking City and Guild’s clothes-making and textile classes at my local adult education college. I added hand embroidery to everything I made during those classes, as the garments seemed so plain without it.

But I’ve always been attracted to ornate and intricate decorations, even as a child. I grew up in an old Victorian house with baroque-embossed wallpapers and old chandeliers, and this nurtured a love for all things grand and over-the-top.

Hand embroidery quickly became the perfect medium to create similar levels of detail and intricacy, and I became quite obsessed with it.

My embroidery journey began with couching but quickly developed into stumpwork and more innovative embroidery development. I would embroider anything just to see if it could be embroidered: an orange peel, wood bark, tyres—I tried them all!

But I was happiest when creating more couture-inspired work with beads and hand stitches.

I then discovered goldwork and all the wonderful metals it offered while working on my degree. I’d seen so many images of this form of embroidery where the finished results were almost like jewellery. It satisfied my love of fine details, so I became quite determined to master it.

I had heard goldwork was one of the most difficult and technical forms of embroidery, but I was lucky enough to have a university goldwork tutor who had worked for Hand and Lock (London’s premier embroidery house established in 1767).

I also bought all the books I could on the subject, including historical information. Knowing there was so much heritage attached to goldwork captured my imagination even more. I felt I was helping keep history alive, and it became so much more than just embroidery.

By the end of my degree, my whole final fashion collection had been created exclusively by hand in light of that tradition. I felt I had a duty to implement my skills and keep hand embroidery alive and relevant in a modern fast-fashion world. And that idea still inspires me to this day.

Georgina Bellamy: Sully, 2017, Goldwork and Organza

What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?

Creativity was everywhere growing up. My mother’s side of the family had many creatives. I have an uncle who is a professional painter and another uncle who makes all manner of things out of metal.

I also had an aunt who often knitted dolls’ clothes, hats and scarves. My littlest sister always drew cartoons, and my middle sister always wrote creative stories.

Growing up without a father figure and two similarly-aged sisters meant my mother often worked late or was occupied by household duties. So, we had a very relaxed upbringing, and our imaginations really ran wild. I think that the relaxed setting further encouraged my artistic tendencies.

I was also homeschooled until 15, and during my free time, I asked my mother to enrol me in creative classes at the local community college. I took porcelain doll making, jewellery making, batik dyeing, pottery—all manner of things until I went to college.

Looking back, I think all of those experiences had a huge impact on me and how I behaved. I was a very different teenager from my peers, and my feelings of being ‘the odd one out’ pushed me even further into my creativity.

Georgina Bellamy: Mr Panda (Detail), 2016, Goldwork, beads and Stumpwork

What was your route to becoming an artist?

My route to becoming an artist is so layered it’s hard to define its real starting point. By my early 20s, I had a son, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life.

I was working at a dry cleaner at the time, and part of my job was taking apart clothes prior to being altered. I learned a lot about clothing construction, and after a while, I got a creative itch to make my son a leather bomber jacket. He was obsessed with cats, so I haphazardly embroidered them all over the jacket.

My son’s father was so proud of my work he had our son wear that jacket everywhere. People often asked where we had bought the jacket, so he convinced me to think about creating some children’s clothes.

I wasn’t confident in my ability to make them to a high enough standard to sell, so I began to look up courses in clothes making at my local adult education college. I found some affordable city and guilds qualifications in fashion and textiles and applied. This really started my embroidery obsession.

I studied at adult education centres all over southeast London for the next two years, taking every city and guilds qualification related to textiles I could find. I didn’t have an end goal. They just made me so happy, I couldn’t give them up.

Luckily, along the way, an external examiner who also worked for the London College of Fashion examined some of my work and suggested I apply for an embroidery degree at the university. University was not something I had ever considered before and certainly not for embroidery. But the more I thought about it, the more my gut told me to go for it.

I had learned many hand embroidery skills from my years of adult education classes, but my design skills were sorely lacking. So, my degree at LCF taught me so much in that respect.

After graduation, I was lucky enough to gain employment in a design studio working on embroidery for designers, artists and students, and all that led me to set up my own brand and become independent.

Georgina Bellamy: Adam the Parrot, 2017, Goldwork, leather and organza ‘Purls’ of wisdom

Tell us about your process from conception to creation

Every single piece I create starts with a sketch or tracing. Because I create  3-D embroidery, it’s very important I gain an understanding of what the finished piece will look like from all angles.

The animal gets broken down into a series of shapes. I then determine if these shapes are really what I’m seeing or what I expect to see. Sometimes my mind plays tricks and leads me to create shapes that aren’t present in real life. This can make an animal look quite cartoonish if not reined in, so careful planning of the shapes is needed.

When creating a sculpture with goldwork, it’s really more about the pressure exerted than anything else. So I am careful to explore that pressure before applying the metals fully.

The goldwork techniques I use really depend on the animal being created. I have developed techniques for furry and smooth-skinned animals and particular ways to bring out certain features.

I mainly focus on eyes. I often think if I get those right the rest of the sculpture will fall into place fairly easily. I often draw these many times before attempting a sculpture to gain an understanding of the shape I need to create.

Colours are also often carefully planned. Purls (metals used for goldwork) have a far more limited colour range compared to threads, so I created an archive of these metals over the years and now have many shades. These shades often feature discrepancies in the dye lots, but the manufacturer’s mistake often makes my day!

I particularly like to find inferior wires that haven’t been dyed correctly and often have uneven tones throughout the wire. I use them to create some wonderful effects in my pieces.

Georgina Bellamy: The Golden Frog (Detail), 2017, Goldwork Purl and stumpwork techniques

Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques and how you use them

Even in my early days, I have always been a multidimensional embroiderer. I cannot seem to work flat, and my need to discover and create something akin to embroidered sculpture has always been present in my work.

While at university, I began to develop techniques that bridged stumpwork and goldwork together in fully 3-D forms. It was an idea I worked on for years making heads and tiny animals. I would often create little 3-D creatures, and they would teach me something new about the metals and how to make the finished product better.

Goldwork creates a very hard surface, particularly when using metal purls. And it can form a very rigid structure when stitched closely together. So, I became immersed in ideas of how to create sculptures with them early on.

Traditional 3-D goldwork only goes so high and often has a boxy shape because thick felts and cards are used. I wanted to come away from that tradition and create 3-D goldwork in a very different way. I much preferred smooth lines and fine details, so I worked on ways to create those effects in a 3-D form with the metals.

3-D embroidery, and goldwork, in particular, is a technique that consumes me to this day and is the only type of embroidery work I do. There is still so much to learn about those little coils of metal. Every time I think I have exhausted an idea with them something else becomes a possibility. And that’s helped my work develop a very distinctive style that’s unique to me.

Georgina Bellamy: Sleeping Fox, 2019, Goldwork and armature wires

What currently inspires you?

At the moment I am fascinated with creating larger pieces and all things Spanish goldwork related. The Spanish have a real flair for creating 3-D goldwork over a card and felts with underside couching. They also layer up several embroideries at a time and create ornate patterns with the metals.

I’m itching to combine these techniques with my own. I love the idea of an ornately patterned bear or elephant sculpture and can’t wait for some free time to see if this fusion works.

The next stage of my work is linking the animals back to the couture fashion embroidery that inspired me so much as a student, and I can see the Spanish techniques as a pathway to that. Working on a larger scale also intrigues me. I want to push my techniques and ideas to the maximum and explore how big I can go.

There are also so many other animals to create. I seem to find a new and interesting shape every day that sparks off a new idea. I am really driven to create a sense of wonderment in my pieces.

Georgina Bellamy: A Trio of Golden Reindeer, 2018, Goldwork, Stumpwork and Wood Building community through stitch

Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?

My trio of goldwork reindeer made for TV Channel 4’s ‘Handmade Christmas’ in 2018 are my favourites. I had originally pitched making a single golden reindeer, which by the way, was an animal I had never made before. So as soon as the proposal was accepted, the pressure was on to create the deer shape.

The window of time was so small and nerves stopped me from sleeping many times. It took at least three attempts before I got a head I was happy with.

Then I kept thinking about how lucky I was to go on national TV and introduce the world to goldwork, and I became convinced I had to put my best foot forward and create something even more unique.

That’s when the idea of a golden Rudolf, female deer and baby reindeer was born. But, of course, that led to even more pressure! I worked into the night for many nights to finish on time.

Still, I cannot express the joy I had watching the trio being showcased. So many people emailed me inquiring about goldwork, and I felt I had given goldwork the platform it deserved. I was so proud.

I am also extremely proud and excited about a current venture I have with my local church. I’m providing more of a ‘movement’ than a piece of work by offering affordable community embroidery lessons. Many embroidery admirers told me the main barrier to their stitch education was the high prices of classes. So, I decided to teach some basic goldwork techniques at an affordable price each month.

It’s exciting to see how my students not only learn how to stitch, but they’re also seeing how beneficial craft and art can be for their mental wellbeing. I’m hoping this community work will improve people’s lives and preserve the goldwork traditions for future generations.

Georgina Bellamy: Jade (Detail), 2019, Goldwork and sequins

How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

It’s been a long journey from my first embroidered piece to where I am now, and so much in my life and expertise has changed. When I started, I had no real grasp of the various forms of embroidery or how to execute them. But as my knowledge expanded, so did my work.

Each piece still teaches me something new. Even shapes I make regularly, like frogs, still surprise me as I find more foundation shapes from which I can make them.

The aim now is to create something that looks alive. This is a distinct change from the beginning of my 3-D goldwork.

It’s an exciting time to be a goldworker as more and more companies create the wires and the colour options are opening up. I’m excited to find people who can now colour match metals for me, and as a result, I’ll be able to further develop my work in ways I can’t even fathom. My levels of detail will be able to reach even higher.

Georgina Bellamy: Beetles, 2018, Goldwork purls and beading wire

What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?

Spend time developing your own voice. The years I’ve spent doing so were crucial in helping me develop my style and future direction.

Authenticity in your work is really important, so resist the urge to jump on a trend or copy others. Doing so detracts from you in the long run and can damage your reputation and work.

Social media is a game-changer for getting artists’ works noticed. This is brilliant news, particularly for those of us who didn’t have a traditional route into their career. Become social media savvy and push your presence as hard as you can.

The life of a textile artist can often be a hard path to tread, but even when times get tough, you have to remember you can do whatever you set your mind to. This career is not built in a day. It takes many years to become a success.

Enjoy the journey and never give up. It will happen. It just takes time.

For more information visit www.thatembroiderygirl.com

Have you worked with goldwork or other historical stitch traditions? Let us know in the Comments below

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Deborah Boschert’s ‘About’ section on her website is as whimsical and creative as her art quilts. You’ll not only learn about her artistic achievements, but you’ll also discover she doesn’t like mac and cheese and usually doesn’t cut paper with fabric scissors.

Deborah first and foremost reports she is a self-taught artist who is known especially for her use of personal symbols. And her fans will tell you she’s also a master at using colour and composition.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah to learn more about her creative process, as well as her road to artistic success. And we think you’ll find her answers both refreshing and inspiring. Especially if you, too, are largely self-taught.

Deborah’s award-winning quilts have been featured in countless quilt show exhibitions and art museums since 2003.

She also currently serves as Vice President of Studio Art Quilt Associates and is author of Art Quilt Collage: A Creative Journey in Fabric, Paint and Stitch. Deborah has been published in several magazines, including a recent three-part series in Quilting Arts. And she teaches regularly, including at the International Quilt Festival, Craft Napa and the Quilters Affair in Sisters, Oregon.

Deborah Boschert: Conversations, 2018, commercial and original surface design fabrics, paint, thread; fused applique, print making, hand embroidery, free motion quilting A self-taught adventure

TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium? How was your imagination captured?

Deborah Boschert: I think it goes back to childhood trips to the fabric store with my mom. I loved perusing bolts of fabric and the astounding variety of prints, patterns, weaves weights and textures found in cloth.

But fiber and needlework is in my blood. My great-grandmother, Mabel, was an accomplished fiber artist. She did weavings, dyeing, embroidery, cross-stitch, needlepoint and more. I wish I still had the needlepoint footstool she made that had my name designed as a set of intertwined letters and was built around several coffee cans.

My father also did needlepoint, including several prayer book covers and other liturgical works.

My grandmother knit sweaters, and my mother is an excellent seamstress.

I am so thankful for the memories of watching all of them work. I think the familiarity of seeing people create with cloth and yarn made it possible for me to see myself creating in similar ways.

Deborah Boschert: Limbs, Ladders, Roots and Rocks, 2016, commercial and original surface design fabrics, paint, thread; fused applique, print making, hand embroidery, free motion quilting

What was your route to becoming an artist?

When I was a kid, I loved latch-hook pillows, woven pot holders and Shrinky Dinks jewellery (a children’s craft product using plastic film). Finding my way from kid’s crafts and casual creative projects to becoming an artist has been an adventure that’s been years in the making. I think the crossover really happened when I began creating exclusively original work using techniques and materials that fit the needs of my vision.

Since I didn’t go to art school, the techniques I use most regularly were initially learned in workshops with art quilt teachers. I first learned raw-edged fused appliqué from Melody Johnson. It’s the foundation of how my work is constructed. Over the years, I’ve finessed the details of that process to fit my needs.

In other workshops, I had opportunities to explore surface design techniques and stitching both by hand and by machine. Usually, these were just one-day workshops that might light a fire of curiosity and possibility for me. Sometimes I took workshops where it became clear I wasn’t interested in using what I learned, but that was equally valuable!

From there, I’d look at examples of what other artists were doing with similar techniques and experiment with how they would fit into my own work.

I find it very helpful to self-critique my work when it’s done, analyzing what techniques worked well, which I most enjoyed, how I might use the same techniques again, or how I might alter it for a different effect.

But learning techniques is just one part of developing as an artist. As I worked toward creating a body of original work, I also needed clarity about things like color sense, themes, composition, style, and personal voice. So I looked at the artwork of all kinds and thought about what I liked AND didn’t like about a work which also informed my own work.

Lastly, an essential part of my development has been the connections I’ve made with other artists working in the art quilt medium. Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) is an especially rich and diverse organization that offers amazing resources to its members, not the least of which are the other members themselves. I’ve learned so much from my friends.

Deborah Boschert: Ever Arise Eventide, 2017, commercial and original surface design fabrics, paint, thread; fused applique, print making, hand embroidery, free motion quilting It all starts from a seed

Tell us about your process from conception to creation

I begin with a seed of inspiration. The work currently on my design wall was inspired by lines of trees I saw during a bus ride in the Dutch countryside.

From that seed, I begin to set additional parameters for myself. They may include size, color palette, themes or deadline. I may also consider opportunities for exhibiting a new work or specific calls-for-entry at this point. I can then incorporate those requirements into the design stage.

I then start sketching very simple compositions to consider. The sketches are just a few inches, very loose and made with a black pen — no color, no specifics, no measurements.

I may also print out reference photos or do some additional research that will give me ideas to draw on that might influence the creative process. Sometimes those ideas simply serve to occupy my mind while I’m designing, but they aren’t ever clearly evident in the finished work.

Once my vision is mostly clear, I gather a ‘fabric palette’ including a variety of commercial prints and some cloth printed with the original surface design. Those fabrics get scrunched, folded, sliced, pinned and arranged on my design wall in the general arrangement of the sketched composition. This part of the design process can come together quickly or may take days.

After settling on all the right fabrics in all the right places, I finesse each shape and fuse all the fabrics to batting.

When the fabric layer is complete, I take a picture and print out several copies on which I can doodle and audition various stitched designs.

I finalize the stitch plans and begin with the hand embroidery. I then fuse a backing onto the quilt and finish with machine stitching through all three layers.

Next, the edges get squared up, and I add a fused binding or a wide zig zag with a beautiful thick top-stitching thread.

At the very end of the process, I title the work. I try to choose titles that hint at the themes I’ve explored, but also leave possibilities for different interpretations. I like titles that roll off the tongue in a unique way and that include alliteration or double meanings.

Deborah Boschert: Conversations (Detail), 2018, commercial and original surface design fabrics, paint, thread; fused applique, print making, hand embroidery, free motion quilting

You incorporate personal symbols in much of your work. Where did that inspiration come from?

When I first began making art quilts of my own design, I made lots of house quilts. At that time in my life, my husband and were moving every two or three years for his military career.

First, I love the very simple five-sided shape that is clearly a house. But I also realized the way the houses in my quilts seemed to float in some undefined space between foreground and background could represent my unsettled feelings about all those moves.

Still, there were also things I loved about moving and living in different places. So those positive elements were represented with color, motifs and other contemporary embellishments.

Now that we’ve settled in one place, I still return to the idea that a simple shape, set in an interesting composition and embellished with other marks, stitches, and patterns can help me tell a story about my life.

But be assured these stories are not necessarily clear to the viewer. In fact, I love it when someone tells me a symbol in my work made them think of an entirely different representation that I had in mind.

The chairs in my work are a reminder to myself that being still and restful does not mean being inactive or unaware. Sometimes it’s essential to sit quietly and take in everything around me. They represent the importance of thought, reflection, and patience.

Deborah Boschert: Provisions, 2016, Commercial and original surface design fabrics, paint, thread; fused applique, print making, hand embroidery, free motion quilting

Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques and how you use them

I use raw-edged fused appliqué to construct the tops of my art quilts. I love the endless possibilities of cutting and layering with fusible webbing. This frees me up from any strict requirements for measurements and allows for a more improvisational and intuitive process rather than planning everything ahead of time.

I also love the ability to emphasize the beautiful tactile quality of cloth by incorporating frayed edges, sheer fabrics, and loosely woven pieces.

Hand embroidery is also an important element in my work. I use it to visually connect different areas of a design, add linear elements and create texture. Pulling embroidery floss through the fabric and batting with each and every stitch infuses the hand of the artist in the work. It’s an intimate detail.

The final technique is adding machine quilting through all three layers — the top, the batting and the backing. I love free motion quilting using motifs that nestle into and wrap around the shapes in the design.

Deborah Boschert: Rising Resting, 2017, commercial and original surface design fabrics, paint, thread; fused applique, print making, hand embroidery, free motion quilting

What currently inspires you?

Ladders! This obsession started when I saw Martin Puryear’s ‘Ladder for Booker T. Washington’ at the Modern Museum of Art in Fort Worth, Texas, US. I’ve made several art quilt collages including ladders.

For me, ladders symbolize the movement from one place to another–physically or emotionally. But I also love the idea that what’s at the top of the ladder may be as interesting and important as what’s at the bottom.

I confess I also like ladders because they are so easy to draw. You can’t mess them up. Two long vertical lines plus several short horizontal lines and you’ve got it.

Deborah Boschert: Glossary, 2018, commercial and original surface design fabrics, paint, thread; fused applique, print making, hand embroidery, free motion quilting Moving into clarity and confidence

Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?

Last year I made a quilt called ‘Glossary’ that acted as a bit of compilation of several important works I had made over the past nine years.

I had been exploring the idea of including personal imagery and how a shape can become symbolic. So for ‘Glossary,’ I set out to include all my personal symbols in one quilt: house, bowl, ladder, stones, leafy stalks and chair.

I also enjoyed using a piece of dynamic ice-dyed fabric that both forced and encouraged me to incorporate more and brighter colors than I generally use in my work. I think the color palette and the somewhat ridiculous challenge of putting together all these disparate shapes and ideas infused some humour and joy into the creative process.

Deborah Boschert: In A Moment, 2017, commercial and original surface design fabrics, paint, thread; fused applique, print making, hand embroidery, free motion quilting

How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

As I’ve become more clear and confident in the materials and techniques I use, my work is also more clear and confident. It all goes together, right?

Some people say in order to develop your voice, you just have to make a lot of work. But I think it’s more than that.

For me, it’s about finding clarity in the ideas I want to explore, joy in the process and mastery of the required skills. I think maximizing everything that’s happening in my head, heart and hands result in the best work.

Looking ahead, I am sure there will be new symbols and themes I’ll need to explore. And there are certainly skills I’d like to develop. To that end, I’d really like to do a residency where I could explore dimensional work. (It’s on my list of things to consider after my son graduates from high school.)

Deborah Boschert: Green Bowl Gathering, 2016, commercial and original surface design fabrics, paint, thread; fused applique, print making, hand embroidery, free motion quilting

What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?

Honestly? Read Jerry Saltz’ recent article in Vulture. It’s..

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Janet Bolton creates her tranquil and harmonious textile art pictures using the simplest of hand sewing techniques; collage, appliqué and straight stitch.

Her inspiration comes from visual experiences, memories and imagination. Sometimes a fabric’s texture or history inspires a composition. For Janet, the placement of each element within the composition is important to her work, in order to evoke a particular feeling. She favours an uncluttered approach with good use of space, to highlight the collaged areas, their colour and composition.

Janet trained in Fine Arts before moving into textile art, following her lifelong passion for working with fabric. She has been on the Crafts Council Selected Index of Makers since 1985 and her work is held in both public and private collections. Janet has become a master of interlacing her home and work commitments to suit her desired lifestyle, working from her home studio and taking the time to enjoy the process of creation.

In this interview, Janet shares how her career developed and gives her advice for aspiring textile artists. She also describes the process of creating her very personal artworks, driven by memories and experiences.

Janet Bolton: Janet Bolton at work on her blinds (Photo credit, Jacqui Hurst) The path from quilts to collage

TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium? How was your imagination captured?

Janet Bolton: Economic necessity first led me to work with textiles. I needed some heavy curtains to cover some draughty sash windows but had a limited budget so I made them. I made patchwork quilts to the required size and lined them with old blankets. The curtains did the job well and were a pleasure to work on.

At that time in the early seventies, quilts were not as popular in the UK as they are today, but I had always loved them. After making my curtains, I started to work on a much smaller scale, making images using fabric in preference to paint.

When I saw the work of Elizabeth Allen at the Crane Kalman Gallery in Knightsbridge, it strengthened my decision to work in fabric. She was a retired seamstress living in Kent and I appreciated the simplicity of the way she worked with materials she had to hand. An article was written about this little-known artist in the Journal of the British Quilt Study Group, Issue 18 in 2017.

Janet Bolton: The Young Cow (Photo credit Jacqui Hurst)

What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?

When I was growing up in rural Lancashire, the cotton industry was still thriving. People knew about fabric and appreciated its qualities.

My father enjoyed making toys for us when we were children. I grew up seeing his pure pleasure of making things and working with his hands.

As a child, I’d always enjoyed arranging objects. I would place flower heads in soft ground to make imaginary gardens or arrange autumn fruits and seeds in shoebox lids for the school nature table. I loved drawing and painting. I even chose to take Biology A level simply because I enjoyed doing the explanatory drawings!

After school, I went to Art College to study fine art. While I was in the printmaking department I was seduced by seeing lengths of fabric coming in to be printed on. I had not realised how much the love of fabric had become part of me.

We were encouraged to try different media and techniques but also to follow our own instincts. Instead of continuing with painting I took up printmaking.

This was a huge mistake and I didn’t enjoy the processes involved. There’s nothing like trying out something and then finding you don’t enjoy it! It can be a negative experience but the end result made me realise how I wanted to work and in which area.

Janet Bolton: Down in the Woods (book cover) – (Photo credit Jacqui Hurst)

What was your route to becoming an artist?

While I was at home looking after my children, I developed my own way of working to suit my lifestyle and responsibilities.

I made fabric bags and purses to sell at local craft markets. At these markets, I used my small textile pictures as stand decorations (no one was framing small pieces as art in those days). To my surprise, they were much appreciated and this led me to being offered a stand at The Chelsea Craft Fair.

After a while, other opportunities flooded in. I became a member of Contemporary Applied Arts and also the Craft Council’s Selected Index of Makers. I spent many years going with the Craft Council to New York to exhibit at the New York Craft Fair with them.

I have published several books about my work as well as some children’s books, one of which is on the New York schoolchildren’s curriculum. I am thrilled when I receive letters from groups of children. My latest book is ‘Fabric Pictures: A Workshop with Janet Bolton‘. In spring 2019 ‘Down in the Woods’, a book for small children will be published by Helene Lesger.

I became a visiting lecturer at various art schools including the Royal College. These days I am a short course tutor at West Dean College and I teach at other venues each year. I also enjoy being invited to work with the flourishing guilds of textile enthusiasts.

My workroom is in my house and this has always been a necessity for me. My home and working life are completely interwoven. Isn’t it amazing how many words that we use to describe life have a textile connection?

Janet Bolton: The Strange Plant (Photo credit Jacqui Hurst) How to build a picture with fabric

Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques and how you use them

I use the simplest of hand-sewing techniques. Usually, I work directly with the fabrics rather than transposing an idea worked out in another medium.

Inspiration springs from my memory and imagination, or following a visual experience. My ideas change and develop as the work progresses. I allow each piece to evolve and take on a life of its own. An idea gives rise to each artwork but I am also pleased when people bring their own interpretation to an image that is different from my own.

I select my colour palette, then arrange and rearrange pieces of cut-out fabrics on to a prepared background. I finish the piece by turning in the edges of the shaped materials. This is almost like a ‘sketching’ process whereby the shapes can be altered or even removed if necessary. I spend more time taking elements away rather than adding them; the notion ‘less is more’ is meaningful to me! I enjoy leaving empty space in my compositions.

This is the most time-consuming stage, but there is no sense in rushing as the journey is so enjoyable. I create my own imaginary world.

Then I use stitch in various ways as a drawn line. The stitching keeps the pieces in place as well as adding a textural element to the finished work. I mount each piece onto card and frame it in a purpose-made shallow box frame.

I work on several pieces at the same time. Moving from one to the other allows me to reassess each one with a fresh eye. Some pieces, I call them ‘put-togethers’, remain unframed as they’re really just an excuse to place selected fabrics together.

My work moves in circles; I often go back to reinterpret old ideas in new ways. I refer to some themes time and time again, as they have proven to be the perfect subject matter to explore new ideas of colour, composition and intent.

Janet Bolton: Polar Bear Box (Photo credit Jacqui Hurst)

What currently inspires you?

At the moment I’m enjoying working with a variety of mediums to make assemblages.

I do sketch and draw but I use these drawings to feed my imagination. I tend not to use sketches as starting points for my works in fabric.

I find inspiration in the many days I spend arranging compositions and working out ideas. Even if they are never finalised, I consider these investigations as days well spent.

Janet Bolton: A Gateway in Japan (Photo credit Jacqui Hurst) Memories of Japan

Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?

‘A Gateway in Japan’ was inspired by a gift of old Japanese fabrics. They were given to me after one of my trips to Japan to exhibit there.

I wanted this wonderful fabric itself to take centre stage, so I arranged the squares simply as if they were samples. The addition of cane came from noticing the way the Japanese wrap gifts. This also inspired me to incorporate found objects to depict the way old Japanese buildings are often set onto boulders. The use of chopsticks made me smile and reminds me of my time in Japan.

It isn’t at all unusual for the fabric to spark a new idea, by bringing back memories of a time and a place.

Janet Bolton: Book Cover Art (Photo credit Jacqui Hurst)

How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

My working methods have remained the same over the years, although new inspiration comes at all times and from the most unexpected places.

These days, I probably incorporate more found objects and even use them as backgrounds to work on. Frequently, an object that I may have collected many years ago is just right for what I am currently working on.

In this piece, the only fabric is the linen book cover but fabric, I believe, will always remain my most valued medium.

The personal history that fabric can evoke really warms my heart. Fabric is easily available and can be used to carry on an old tradition or reinvent a tradition. I find this very satisfying.

Each piece is a new and exciting adventure down to the very last stitch! For me, composition and construction go hand-in-hand, with much of the pleasure being in the slow process.

Janet Bolton: A Bright and Shining Star (Photo credit Jacqui Hurst)

What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?

Be true to yourself. You are the most important critic. It doesn’t matter if others don’t appreciate your work.

Treasure and protect the time to make your work, even if you have to supplement earning a living in some other way. Being a maker is so enjoyable and satisfying.

Don’t be afraid to take on challenges that may lead you in another direction.

As a maker, you get to meet the most wonderful people from all walks of life. On one memorable occasion, I spent time with a group of the Quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, when we were giving workshops in Sisters, Oregon. We were even taken above the snow line and played snowballs! When I first saw an exhibition of their quilts in The Whitney Museum in New York, I was completely bowled over by their work. I could never in a million years have imagined that I would be spending time with them!

In some ways, the whole of my exhibiting life and the opportunities I have been given has been a surprise, but I have made the most of it!

For more information visit www.janetbolton.com

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Janet Bolton: Modern textile collage was first posted on April 8, 2019 at 10:00 am.
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Merill Comeau creates installations, murals and garments. She uses the concept of disruption and reordering to build stories exploring memory, repair, regeneration and women’s experiences. Merill makes comment on societal expectations for sexual and emotional expression in her work. Her pieced fabric compositions explore historical and contemporary women’s roles such as the toil of the maker, the privilege of the wearer, the job of mothering and how to be a ‘good’ daughter.

Merill has shown her art in over seventy exhibitions including at the Danforth Museum of Art, the Fuller Museum of Craft and the Fitchburg Museum of Art. She has facilitated over thirty collaborative community art projects and has received grant support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Covenant Foundation.

Merill has received residencies three times at the Weir Farm National Historic Site in Connecticut. She has also completed residencies at Hambidge Center for Art and Science in Georgia, Acadia National Park in Maine, Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland and the Vermont Studio Center. In addition, she lectures about fibre art in a post-modern context, creates work in healing groups and social justice communities and provides demonstrations of her techniques.

In this interview, read about how Merill drew upon memories of her childhood and her mother’s influence to create an installation titled ‘Family of Origin’, which explores universal themes including trying to make sense of our lives and the influence of our family. In this work, she stitched together snippets of fabric to represent the re-ordering and retelling of childhood narratives and the mending of wounds.

Learn how she prepared for this project through self-reflection, taking courses on dyeing fabrics and reading about the history of fabric design. With a firm base of ideas to guide her, she could focus on the concept behind her work in every choice during the creative process.

Name of piece: Family of Origin
Year of piece: 2017
Techniques and materials used: Dyeing, composting, stencilling, rubber stamps, drawing, stitching and embroidery. Repurposed fabrics and garments, thread, hair, sticks, weights, grommets, shoelaces, rope and yarn
Size of piece: 2m x 1m

Merill Comeau: Family of Origin (Photo credit Will Howcroft Photography) Self-reflection as inspiration

TextileArtist.org: How did the idea for the piece come about? What was your inspiration?

Merill Comeau: I was just emerging from a challenging time. My mother had recently died and I took the time to confront the breadth and depth of my extended family’s dysfunction.

After a weekend away of good food, love and laughter with a dear friend I climbed into my car to drive home in the early morning dark. As I drove the blue-black sky warmed at the horizon with reds and pinks.

Seeing the new dawn evoked a swell of optimism. I survive and thrive!

In my practice, I look into the past to understand the future. I analyse my personal thoughts and memories to try to understand the universal. These things inspired the installation ‘Family of Origin’.

Merill Comeau: Cockcrowing (Detail) (Photo credit Will Howcroft Photography)

What research did you do before you started to make?

The Installation Family of Origin is made up of three elements:

A wall hanging titled “Cockcrowing”. This was created using Toile fabric with children’s designs. It was composted, laundered, reassembled then hand stitched. I wanted to represent the reordering of childhood narratives and the mending of wounds.

Merill Comeau: Cockcrowing (Photo credit Will Howcroft Photography)

A floor cloth titled “Best Laid Plans”. This has stencilled floor plans of my childhood bedrooms overlaid with a grid of red stitching, representing the hours I spent day-dreaming and trying to create order in a disordered childhood.

Merill Comeau: Best Laid Plans (Photo credit Will Howcroft Photography)

A collection of deconstructed, reconstructed, and embellished white blouses worn by my mother, titled “Foundational Garments”. Each garment tells a family story and is labelled with a quote about ‘how to be female’.

Merill Comeau: Foundational Garments (Photo credit Will Howcroft Photography)

I spent a lot of time in self-reflection to prepare for this work.

I was asked by a writer friend to write an essay for her blog. She asked me to describe a building that meant a great deal to me. Tapping into memories of my favourite place as a girl, I wrote “The Farm” about an old house in New Hampshire where I found means of escape and moments of tranquillity.

Merill Comeau: Old photo of the farm used as inspiration for my preparatory essay

From a collection of family photos, I created a large drawing of previous generations, titled “Family Ghosts”. I thought about how we are influenced by family folklore.

Both of these exercises helped me form my conceptual base.

When I develop a strong enough big idea I have a guidepost. Then throughout the process of creating, my decisions are easy; each choice relates to, refers to or strengthens the concept.

Merill Comeau: Family Ghosts preparatory drawing (Photo credit Will Howcroft Photography) Researching fabric history and learning new techniques

Was there any other preparatory work?

In order to develop “Cockcrowing”, I studied historical and contemporary Toile designs and how they convey socio-economics, patterns of cultural exoticism, a society’s fanciful hopes or a designer’s critique.

I played with creating my own Toile design from photos of a bygone family but instead chose to recycle manufactured Toile festooned with nursery and garden imagery.

For the dark blue and warm tones, I drew from my stash of donated fabrics, discarded vintage linens from friends and their families and snippets from my mother-in-law’s old clothing.

Merill Comeau: Preparatory reading books about Toile Merill Comeau: Preparatory sketches for possible Toile desi

To increase my understanding of the history of my materials and to honour the makers and designers of the commercial and hand-made fabrics I used, I took an indigo-dyeing class with Amelia Poole at Port Fiber in Portland, ME  and a reaction-dyeing class with Sue Benner at Pro Chemical and Dye in Fall River, MA.

There is extensive handwork in this installation. I was lucky to have a month alone as artist in residence at the Weir Farm National Historic Site in Wilton CT with oodles of time for focussed labour (from waking till sleep!) to prepare and make the work.

Merill Comeau: Indigo-dyed fabric stash

What materials were used in the creation of the piece? How did you select them? Where did you source them?

In my practice, I transform old used textiles into new contemporary expressions. I feel strongly about environmental sustainability and purposefully make use of recycled materials to highlight the waste of resources in the textile manufacturing process.

Old cloth is loaded with meaning and stories of lives lived. In creating a new textile I add my story to the mix.

This piece has many sources! My materials arrive from friends, family, and strangers that want to place their fabrics into the hands of someone who will respect their value and put them to good use.

One element is a favourite bedspread from a friend’s mother. It was so worn it was deliciously soft and almost transparent. Another was sourced a few years earlier from a woman whose mother had travelled extensively in Asia. I was honoured to receive indigo dyed fabrics which had been used by the mother to make the woman’s clothes. Her mother had died and she didn’t want to throw away the precious remaining scraps so she entrusted them to me. I received pieces of indigo fabric from a young woman who was a babysitter for my daughters; she brought us pieces as presents after living in Japan for a year. Indigo-dyed clothing was sent to me from Africa by a writer I met while on residence at the Hambidge Center for Art and Science.

I used this collection of specimens and fragments to create this as I felt they were particularly relevant in exploring family and how we are formed as women.

When I look at this installation, I see many people from my community all stitched together.

Merill Comeau: Composted Toile

What equipment did you use in the creation of the piece and how was it used?

A simple seam ripper, scissors, needle, thread, and thimble are fundamental to my work.

I am a fanatic composter! My compost bin was essential to wearing and staining the Toile. Worms did a fabulous job of making holes! This destruction of the weave depicts the passing of time and clouding of memory. Stitching together snippets represents the re-ordering and retelling of stories.

I used coffee, tea and rust to stain the cloth. Stitched fibres and paint pens helped me draw lines. I used a small projector to help me create illustrations of the family on clothing.

Merill Comeau: Stitching in progress Combining elements to represent life experiences

Take us through the creation of the piece stage by stage

For the wall hanging, I began by throwing pieces of cloth on the floor!

For me, arranging them and making disparate elements into a whole cloth composition is intuitive. It was important to me to create a mixed up order which I can bring under control by stitching. I leave tails of thread to represent the messiness of life.

I worked in a triptych; a series of three banners of sizes that refer to the..

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Integrating a passion for colour and textiles is what drives Barbara Shaw. She specialises in the construction of complex and colourful collages using stitched together fabric scraps, each chosen deliberately and carefully to achieve a specific look.

Barbara uses each fabric piece to add texture and pattern to her images. She brings her artwork alive with textile scraps in vibrant and subtle colours, adding fabrics with sparkle for light, chiffon ribbons for shading, lace for intricate detail and tweed for texture.

Over the years her work has become more impressionistic and she has challenged herself with more complicated subject matter, like her charming animated street scenes and characterful animals.

Her achievements include her selection as Artist in Residence at Chastleton House (National Trust) Oxfordshire (2014) and in Claydon House (National Trust) Buckinghamshire (2015). In 2014 she won a prize for Best Work as a Member of the Oxfordshire Craft Guild and her picture of a 17th Century chair was subsequently bought for the Oxfordshire County Museum Collections. In 2016, her picture ‘The Fabric of Life’ was displayed in an exhibition in the UK Parliament, ‘Tomorrow’s Child’, and her work on an Arctic theme was exhibited in Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History.

Barbara held her first solo exhibition at Claydon Estate, Buckinghamshire in 2017. Her work has been featured in local, regional and national publications including Leisure Painter, Be Creative with Workbox, Cotswold Life and Buckinghamshire Life as well as in magazines published in America, Germany and Australia. In 2018, Barbara was approached to feature in a UK television programme ‘Junk Rescue’ which she filmed summer 2018 and will be aired on CBeebies in 2019.

In this interview, Barbara shares her journey to becoming a professional artist and gives advice on how to find your style, then persist and succeed with your textile art. She describes how she creates her artworks, by looking closely at the detail of her subject matter and then recreating her vision using tiny pieces of fabric scraps. We discover the artists that inspire Barbara and learn about how she has evolved her own personal style over time.

Barbara Shaw: Thame Flower Seller, 2018, Fabric scraps including lace, chiffon, organza, cotton, silk and sparkly material. Grey thread to hand stitch the pieces together in layers Technicolour textile collage

TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium? How was your imagination captured?

Barbara Shaw: I was a creative child and learned to knit at the age of four. I first became attracted to textiles in 1997 when I started making patchwork quilts.

My imagination was captured by the wonderful selection of coloured and patterned material. Then I found Kaffe Fassett’s work published in books and was hooked. It was the first time I’d seen colours and patterns mixed so successfully. His sumptuous style resonated with me and confirmed there were people who experienced the world in full technicolour, as I did!

I subsequently visited Kaffe Fassett’s exhibition in 2013 at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London. The display showed his progress from painting to knitwear design to fabric manipulation. I was able to see at first-hand how his imagination had come up with these wonderful combinations.

He was a huge influence!

Barbara Shaw: Coffee, 2016, Fabric scraps including lace, chiffon, organza, cotton, silk and sparkly material. Grey thread to hand stitch the pieces together in layers

What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?

As a child, I was encouraged to focus on academic studies and art was not a priority. At the time I longed to learn the basics of painting and drawing. However, the lessons encouraged students to experiment with patterns, woodwork and abstract studies. This did not interest me, so I gave up the subject at school when I was thirteen.

Later, as an adult, I tried several ‘beginners’ classes but was extremely disheartened and disillusioned with them.

So I decided to teach myself how to understand and use colour, shading and perspective. I avidly read books, studied illustrations and practised drawing and painting exercises. I taught myself how to see in a different and detailed way.

Barbara Shaw: 17th Century Chair, 2014, Fabric scraps including lace, chiffon, organza, cotton, silk and sparkly material. Grey thread to hand stitch the pieces together in layers

What was your route to becoming an artist?

In 2002 I won a prize for a fabric collage. I considered it to be very basic, a mixture of paint and fabric glued on to paper. But I was encouraged, so I experimented further with textiles.

My route to becoming an artist was nurtured when a potter friend invited me to exhibit with her in Bucks Art Weeks in 2004. This exhibition was part of a county-wide opening of artists’ studios.

Suddenly I had a different role to play, as a professional artist!

At first I felt an impostor but, as my work has developed, I have grown in confidence. I have taken part in many more exhibitions since and enjoy talking to visitors and demonstrating my technique.

Barbara Shaw: Fabric of Life, 2016, Fabric scraps including lace, chiffon, organza, cotton, silk and sparkly material. Grey thread to hand stitch the pieces together in layers Looking closely at your subject matter

Tell us about your process from conception to creation

Most of my work starts with some sort of visual inspiration; something I have seen, or a piece of fabric which suggests an image to me. The key could be anything; a flower, a building, a creature, a landscape or a portrait.

I research my chosen subject, taking photos and looking closely at what I want to depict. I work hard to understand the essence of the subject matter, so I can interpret it and create my composition.

I never use sketchbooks but store this information in my mind, using photographs as a guide to help me measure proportions accurately. My sketches and subsequent development of a picture are always in fabric as part of the construction process.

I document my progression by posting vlogs on social media and YouTube, where viewers can get a glimpse of my process from the first tentative ideas to completed artwork.

Barbara Shaw: Squirrel, 2018, Fabric scraps including lace, chiffon, organza, cotton, silk and sparkly material. Grey thread to hand stitch the pieces together in layers

Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques and how you use them

I begin a piece of work by cutting small scraps of carefully chosen fabric and pinning them onto a fabric background. I continue to cut pieces of fabric, pinning and layering them.

Once I am happy with the composition of layers I hand sew the materials together with little running stitches. I make sure that the edges are free for me to trim to the size and angle that I want. I use a grey thread and the knots and thread become part of the textures of the picture and blend in like shadows.

I find that by hand-stitching I have control over how tightly or loosely I pull the thread so that the many different weights and textures of the fabrics I use are not crushed.

I work standing at a full-size easel, which helps me see the image better as it develops. I also walk backwards and forwards to check coherence from a distance and at a close-up position.

The process of cutting, pinning and stitching are repeated until I am happy with the piece. Once it is finished, the picture is stretched over mount-board and laced across the back using a strong thread to keep it taut. The image is then ready for framing.

Barbara Shaw: Princes Risborough Church Street 2, 2018, Fabric scraps including lace, chiffon, organza, cotton, silk and sparkly material. Grey thread to hand stitch the pieces together in layers

What currently inspires you?

Recently I have been inspired to stitch street scenes, adding figures to bring them alive.

These tableaux usually also now include a yellow dog similar to one my daughter owns!

I love working on buildings and enjoy recreating them, no matter whether they are period properties or new builds. Black and white beamed houses feature in my latest work but I am equally happy interpreting bricks, wood and thatch and the ageing of the materials.

Barbara Shaw: Cotswold Sheep #1, 2007, Fabric scraps including lace, chiffon, organza, cotton, silk and sparkly material as well as wool. Grey thread to hand stitch the pieces together in layers Pushing boundaries with textiles to develop as an artist

Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?

The first Cotswold sheep I stitched in 2007 holds particular meaning for me.

Creating this piece was a steep learning curve. It took six weeks to construct as it was so complex.

Along the way, I worked out how to reproduce facial features and I incorporated wool for the first time. People cross the room to see the sheep as it is such a dramatic image. I won’t ever sell this picture as it represents a watershed in my development as an artist.

Barbara Shaw: Vineyard in September, 2018, Fabric scraps including lace, chiffon, organza, cotton, silk and sparkly material. Grey thread to hand stitch the pieces together in layers

How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

When I began using textiles in pictures I glued the fabrics to paper or card and sometimes incorporated paint.

Now I use fabrics like painterly brush strokes, hand-stitching each carefully selected scrap together to retain texture.

My style has changed dramatically, becoming much more impressionistic with details suggested by a mark or a line. I can spend ages just looking for one snippet for a feature such as an eyebrow.

Claude Monet’s exquisite paintings have influenced me as have Gustav Klimt’s richly painted pictures. Both artists incorporate glowing lustrous elements in their work, which really resonate with me.

In the future, I would like to continue to develop my own style and share the process of making. This year I have started filming short videos on the development of the pictures, which are reaching new audiences of people interested in textile art.

Barbara Shaw: Demonstrating at a solo exhibition (Claydon Estate), 2017, Fabric scraps including lace, chiffon, organza, cotton, silk and sparkly material. Grey thread to hand stitch the pieces together in layers

What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?

My advice to an aspiring textile artist is to hold on to your own unique view of the world.

Produce and express whatever feels right for you.

Persistence and patience are key to learning. Accept rejection and continue. I send off many applications and have lots of replies saying ‘sorry, the standard was very high and it was so hard to choose…’ but I understand that my work may just not quite be what the curator was looking for.

So keep going and keep sewing!

For more information Barabara’s Website you can also find Barbara on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

Have you been inspired by Barbara’s beautiful textile collage work? Let us know by clicking on the links below

Barbara Shaw: Painterly fabric collages was first posted on March 25, 2019 at 10:00 am.
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New England Digital Fibre artist Wen Redmond is on a mission to take the fear out of working with digital technology in fibre art. And her new book, Digital Fiber Art: Combine Photos and Fabric – Create Your Own Mixed-Media Masterpiece, is her latest tool in that effort.

Printing on fabric with a home printer is not new in and of itself. Fabric and craft stores have a variety of products artists can use. But those who have used such products know their limitations.

Armed with her love of photography, Wen has spent 20-plus years exploring how to merge digital processes, fabric painting, photography, mixed media and surface design. Now she wants other textile artists to know they can do it too…and still use their home printer!

Wen has been published widely in books and magazines, featured on Quilting Arts Television, and has two DVD workshops with Interweave Publishing. Her work has also been included in many juried exhibits and collections, including Marvin Fletcher’s Quilt National collection.

We had the good fortune of having Wen not only share her story of discovery, but she also provides readers with an inside look at her signature Digital Fiber Art techniques. We promise you’ll be both surprised and inspired.

Wen Redmond: Being , 2014, Mixed Media Collage – Paper, textiles, image transfer, digital prints and medium lifts, combining painting and digital media into a one of a kind art piece. Creativity stitched. 12×12 Holding a dialogue with one’s art

TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium? How was your imagination captured?

Wen Redmond: I’ve always liked fiber, texture and how light reflects off surfaces. But I don’t know when exactly that awareness took place.

I chose felt for a high school art project. I liked the way it felt, the colors. I also made clothes for myself, and before that, for my dolls. I just was attracted to fiber, quilts and weaving.

For a time, I thought I’d become a fashion designer. And later I went into Home Economics in college. But in my first teaching job, we made soft sculptures…not aprons!

Working with fabric, color and texture has always been a source of jubilation for me. I allow the materials I work with or create to focus me intuitively. Sometimes I start with a plan, a drawing or photograph. But every piece has an expression of its own.

I like to try new ways of presenting or working with an interesting new medium. I act as the facilitator. I create, and then the piece responds. We have a dialogue until the piece is finished.

Wen Redmond: Capturing Moments, 2000, Hand dyed silk organza collage embedded with hand made paper grid and digital images. Highlighted with oil stick. 18x19w

What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?

My list is long, as I’ve been fascinated by a variety of art and artists, especially modern art and expressionism. I’m also inspired by the hundreds of nameless women who made art with fabric over the centuries.

To name a few, I love and am inspired by the collage works of Joan Schultz and Fran Skies. I also enjoy the texture of works by Dorothy Caldwell, Sue Hammond West and Jill Kerttula. Anselm Kiefer’s grubby approach is fascinating, as are the painterly works of Deidra Adams. Takahiko Hayashi and Cas Holmes are among many incredible mixed media artists I admire. And favourite photographers include the Starn twins and Michael James.

I’ve had the honour to learn from some of the country’s most innovative fiber artists. And I continue to explore my chosen medium of fiber to stretch its possibilities as an art medium.

Wen Redmond: Studio Shot, 2011, demonstrating simple resist

What was your route to becoming an artist?

I have always been interested in photography. The more one does it, the more one develops an eye and a deep sensitivity to one’s surroundings.

One of the first quilts in which I included photography was called ‘Peaceful Dreams’ (1987). It featured a photo of my three small children sleeping under a miniature pinwheel quilt that was positioned on a flower that grew like ‘Jack’s Beanstalk’ soaring from the earth.

The photo was a Xerox transfer that was thick and difficult to applique. And while I liked the end result, it was a real challenge to create.

So when computers and cameras started being able to talk to each other, my creative work exploded! I was able to experiment printing on fiber, and this led to a unique personal artistic expression. I now merge digital processes, fabric painting, photography, collage, media mix and surface design.

Wen Redmond: Continuing the Conversation, 2018, Techniques: Molding paste applied to interfacing substrate, textured, digitally prepared, and printed in sections to create a larger finished photograph. This is quilted and cut into segments. Each segment is edge stitched, sealed with paint and hand-tied together with pearl cotton. The entire piece is protected with varnish. Materials: illustrates mixed media molding paste substrate and segmented quilt presentation Digitally prepared textured molding paste, interfacing, paint, medium, pearl cotton & thread 30×50 Digital technology can be a wonderful creative partner

Tell us about your process from conception to creation

‘Digital Fiber’ is a phrase I coined to describe the intensely creative possibilities of printing photographs directly on fiber using an inkjet printer. The sewn photographs can be presented in so many ways as described in my new book, Wen Redmond’s Digital Fiber Art

I wrote that book because I wanted to share what I’ve discovered in merging the fiber art world with the digital world. My techniques involve so much more than just simply printing on fabric. Instead, they collectively inform a mixed-media process for presenting images on fabric like never before thanks to digital tools that have emerged over the last 20 years.

My ‘Continuing the Conversation’ piece is a good example of the creative possibilities within Digital Fiber Art.

I started by sifting through several photos I had taken before. It’s always easy to choose images when inspiration strikes.

I then uploaded the chosen photos onto my computer and used a sneaky layering technique that integrated my selected photos with other photos I had taken of my painted fabrics and collage processes. I then used the computer to resize and segment the final layered image for printing to create a larger piece (it measures 30” x 50”).

Before printing, I prepped the substrate fabric (medium to heavy interfacing) by spreading a thin layer of moulding paste to create a painterly texture on the fabric. Once dry, I covered the moulding paste with a product called inkAid which is a digital ground that enables printing from an inkjet printer onto fabric.

Once the fabric sections were printed and dried, I quilted them. I purposely use sewing lines as a design element. Each section was then edge stitched, sealed with paint and tied together with pearl cotton. Finally, the entire piece was protected with a thin layer of varnish.

Wen Redmond: Frozen Leaf (Detail), 2006, Multi-layered Surface Holographic Design- Hand painted raw silk and silkscreen of an original photo. Overlay is silk organza, dyed and hand painted Intuitive curved piecing- Hand dyed cottons- machine quilting, rayon Two layers of fabric are digitally printed with sections of an original photograph, a pine tree on Deer Island, ME. The top layer is silk organza, and bottom is rayon. Sections of the bottom layer can be seen beneath the organza. Painted with dye, acrylic and glass bead medium. Stitching and mounted on stretcher bars. 23×34

Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques and how you use them

Continuous exploration has led to creation of several of my signature Digital Fiber techniques. These include a 3-D effect with holographic images, using molding paste to create mixed media textured photographs, and a Serendipity Collage technique. I’ve also mastered how to segment quilts.

I feel like a pioneer of sorts through my exploration of media. And as I create, my pieces respond. Each work becomes an obsession. Time is condensed and almost irrelevant. I don’t keep hours. I ‘work’ all the time.

The simple mechanics of a piece can take several months. But the initial idea can be very hard to capture. It is the germ, the heart of the process. And it’s why I do what I do.

When I first started printing images, I was creating dyed transparent silk collages. I first used commercially-prepared inkjet silk organza on which to print my images. And shortly after I started using the product, I noticed after peeling the transparent silk off the carrier sheet, a shadow print remained on the sheet.

And then I noticed as I pulled the fabric and carrier pieces apart and there was just the right distance between the two, an almost 3-D illusion appeared. That was the discovery that brought my ‘holographic’ works to life.

I published that technique in Quilting Arts Magazine in 2007, and that was followed by an appearance on Quilting Arts TV and production of a DVD

Another technique I developed was using moulding paste as the printing surface. Photographs printed on the paste are thin enough to be sewn or collaged into small compositions. And the ways the paste textures influence final images is magical.

So in 2012, I submitted that technique to Quilting Arts Magazine, which led to yet another DVD called Textured Fiber Photographs

Other techniques I’m known for are segmenting fiber artwork into sectional or modular presentations and using inkAid digital grounds in the printing process. 

Wen Redmond: Edge of Winter, 2016, Photograph was manipulated, edited and printed on digitally prepared textured molding paste on interfacing. Materials- digital ready molding paste, interfacing, paint, medium, wool and variegated pearl cotton. Techniques- Photograph was slightly manipulated for contrast and printed on digitally prepared textured molding paste. This was cut into segments and mounted, with variegated pearl cotton, on black dyed wool, both for color and contrasting matt wool’s appearance. Further collage elements were added.

What currently inspires you?

Experimenting is key to my work. I get bored reproducing work in the same presentation style.

I also find nature inspires me to bring the outside ‘in.’ My walks generally help me clear my mind, work on artistic solutions or just let go enough to allow space for ideas to occur.

My work tends to be biographical. I work out inspirations, insights, feelings and reactions to the outer world. And when I work, I allow and encourage a collaborative process with spirit, my higher self, and that mind-boggling principle of the universe.

When artists are in this state of mind, the intuitive is tapped and the work can become more than the sum of its parts.

Making art always puts me into a certain space, like meditating. I call this ‘being in the flow,’ and I put that energy into my art. Making my art makes me tap into levels of myself that help me become more aware, more conscious and more grateful.

Wen Redmond: Drawn to the Edge, 2018, Recycled teabags liners and Chinese newspaper form the background on interfacing. Digitally printed photo on silk organza image overlays the collage. Recycled teabags and pieces of Chinese newspaper form the background adhered onto interfacing. Digitally printed photo organza image layers on top allowing the background to come forward in subtle ways. hand stitched Listen for your muse

Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?

It’s usually the piece on which I’m working at the moment! But I have to say ‘Drawn to the Edge’ was one of those ‘aha’ moments. I drink a lot of tea, and one day, while tearing open the packet, I saw this lovely matte silver lining (no pun intended!) I thought ‘I could print on this!’ Now everything becomes suspect for printing!

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