Piece by Piece

Creating collages of the English Countryside
I live in a beautiful area of England, fifty miles north west of London and close to the Chiltern Hills and the Cotswolds. Watching the change of the seasons and the growth of the flora and fauna in the rural counties inspires my artwork; as do the beautiful period properties, which abound in the small towns and villages and which feature in my street scenes. My garden is a constant source of material for my textile pictures and has been key to developing and sharpening my powers of observation. 
 
As I am completely self-taught, I have had the freedom to explore how I develop my work and experiment without any fixed ideas of how to progress. I never do a pencil preliminary sketch but love the immediacy of using the fabric to do this, cutting out rough shapes and then pinning these and building layers of small pieces, cutting and shaping and hand-stitching as the image develops. Texture is important and I incorporate fabrics such as cotton, silk, lace, organza, chiffon, beaded bits and sparkly material as well as wool and tweed occasionally
 
I first exhibited my work in 2002 and have progressed from early beginnings using scraps of fabric and glue, to now completely hand-stitching the pieces of art. My style has evolved to become impressionistic and I enjoy interpreting subjects as diverse as portraits, landscapes, buildings, plants and creatures. My work draws the viewer in for a second look-from a distance the pictures look like paintings but close up all the details of the threads and textures can be seen. Over time I have become more technically competent and artistically confident, understanding colour theory and how to use lines and marks to represent ideas. 
 
The first Cotswold sheep portrait I stitched in 2007 was a huge learning curve and it was the challenges of shading and stitching to achieve a resemblance, which took my art to a new level; it gave me the confidence to try stitching human portraits. The ‘Tribute to Bob Marley’ is my latest portrait where I have incorporated not just fabrics but also wool. In the close up of this picture you can see the many layers of materials I have used. For accuracy all work starts with research and then I use reference photos for guidance on proportions. 
 
Princes Risborough and Thame are local towns and in these pictures of ‘Church Street, Princes Risborough 2 ‘ and ‘The Flower Seller, Thame’,  I have tried to capture the essence of the activity in them, whilst focusing on the wonderful textures and architecture of the buildings. I have depicted the countryside nearby in the ‘Vineyard in September’ and ‘Late Autumn in the Cotswolds’. From wide landscape views to the plants I see, all can be the stimuli for new pictures such as ‘Summer’ and ‘Autumn Cuttings’. Even a squirrel visiting my garden has been immortalised in fabric! 
 
My work is exhibited and sold in museums, galleries and at local events. I have been Artist-in-Residence at two National Trust properties and a picture was exhibited in Parliament; one piece has been bought for Oxfordshire County Museum Collections. 
 
For further information about Barbara or her work please visit www.artintextiles.co.uk. You can find her on facebook.com/artintextiles; twitter @art_in_textiles;  IG @art_in_textiles where she posts regular progress of the pictures and what inspired them; for short videos on her techniques please see:  https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Barbara+Shaw+textiles
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