When water inspires fluid craft


Why did I not realise until recently that my textile art has nearly always been concerned with water?
My early work included manipulated shibori made waves, sea and water images using layered transparent fabrics and hand dyed silk threads. Then, thirty years ago I went to Venice and my heart was captured. Since then my work has been inspired by this beautiful decaying city, its architecture and its canals. Venetian Renaissance architectural decoration with its emphasis on symmetry and proportion is formal and static but it is enclosed and imprisoned by water. Ironically it is this very element which shows this same architecture at its most fluid in the ever changing and fleeting reflections which surrounds one everywhere in Venice.
Light reflecting colour off the water, patterns made by the sunlight shining through glass, fleeting glimpses of transient swirling forms, the ebb and flow of the canals’ gentle movements, and sinuous sensuous curves describe a city whose life blood is water yet at the same time held captive by it. Linking these two apparently disparate ideas has led me to experiment with linear stencils capturing the Gothic quatrefoils within a wave like mesh.
I have literally thousands of photographs of Venice and I have drawn and sketched from these. I enjoy changing the scale of my drawings on the computer with large images becoming jewel like miniatures. I print these and use them in the background of embroideries or make miniature sketchbooks which I add to a background of prints of my textile work.
Many pieces begin with a selection of prints on a wide variety of fabrics and papers, especially Japanese type papers. Roller printing on plastic sheets is a favourite using a variety of textured rollers. I photocopy my own drawings, sketches, photographs and even my embroideries. These I then manipulate in Photoshop, especially using the positive / negative filter finally printing these on to fabrics of all kinds.
Prints on fine transparent fabrics can be starched and details carefully cut out before being applied. On thicker fabrics, for example shiny satins I use Markal Artist Paintstick oil crayons over stencils (wait 48 hours and heat set both sides of the fabric) which are then free machine stitched and quilted.
Backgrounds are made for a variety of these methods developing the design as I work. On the surface I add machine embroidered shapes stitched on water dissolvable fabric, hand embroidery, and, sparingly, small beads and metal threads.
I also like to create three dimensional vessels using free machining on dissolvable fabric with embedded metallic papers. Additional grids are made with machine wrapped silk threads which I attach to dissolvable fabric for accurate results.
My latest work is stitched paper which is then cut and manipulated into 3D shapes to give the added interest in the shadows created. I see future work on water and architecture continuing to explore three dimensional shapes with the option of expressing ideas in virtual pieces which can be “investigated from within”. Did I mention my birth sign is Aquarius!