My ‘Fabrications’ are like painting with fabric; cottons flooding an image.
I start off with an accurate drawing of a building, and find out as much as possible about the recipient to individualise it. From this I make a working drawing, which becomes the pattern for the many pieces required. Meanwhile I collect the fabrics, bearing in mind the textures, patterns, colours, and the interaction between them, normally using a material only once in any picture. All the materials required give so many variables that I need time to play with them before they settle and please the eye, and then it’s time for stitching. Occasionally I finish something by hand.
A house needs life, and for this I put in plants and animals. Again, I use the material’s properties to suggest a cat or dog rather than find a printed picture of an animal (but yes, I have made the very odd exception!).
Drawings: I love drawing, especially ‘busy’ drawings with lots and lots of details. This is much harder to express in fabrics than in pen and ink – and also takes considerably less space and time – but pen and paints (or just ink) are perfect. Again, I start with an accurate drawing that I have made in situ or I use photos. I love to add as many relevant touches as possible: pets, hobbies, profession, background, the options are endless. Just using pen and ink may make details stand out more, but I like the vibrancy you get with colour.
I’ve been drawing since I can remember, focusing mainly on illustrating stories that involved animals and amusing situations. I do anthropomorphise animals– they just seems wittier like that. For many years I had a wide range of animals around me, from chickens to llamas. There was never a shortage of inspiration and I have illustrated many an anecdote.
Meanwhile, my old love for textiles surfaced again and remembering the popularity in the nineties of 3-D images, I was wondering if I could achieve something similar in cottons. The answer was Yes, I could. I started off with abstract images, moving to patchwork portraits, and then houses.
Initially these were fairly abstract, in that I tried to make them melt into the background for the viewer to notice. As time went on the houses became more realistic. This made the building more obvious and gave more emphasis to any details I’d added, like an aeroplane or a pet, a special tree or a wishing well.
Although I love the fabric technique, these pictures easily take four weeks from start to finish, and I didn’t always have the time or the patience, and so I went back to pen and ink, adding more and more to a drawing until the paper was full and there was lots going on in the image.
I learnt to look at an early age; I guess it was hard not to, as my father was an architect and my mother is all-round creative. I had no formal training as an artist, but I did learn a few tricks during an evening textiles teacher course as well as one for decorative painting techniques. And I loved doing life drawing courses. In the techniques I use now I am mostly self-taught.
Over the years I have done many commissions of people’s houses, either in fabrics or as a drawing. What started off as an experiment has grown to an activity that I love doing – and people love seeing. I love the variety. And which do I prefer? Invariably the house and technique I’m working on at the time.
- 2d plans & elevations
- Opaque media
- Line & wash
- Marker, pen & ink