Tell us a bit about yourself.
This morning I woke up with a clear plan in my head. I was going to be a painter who works with only black gouache. Yesterday I woke up and reached for my notebook to write poem notes throughout the day. Tomorrow I’ll probably sit by a window and stitch a fabric collage of plant-dyed fabrics. Who I am is like chasing a moth, and creatively I like to be this way.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I am a mother to two school-age children. As they grow up I seem to get younger. My creative work is my “main job” and I have been a self-employed person of creative things for the last six years. When I am not working I like to garden and read a lot. Spend time with family and friends. I also like to listen to music and dance whilst washing up, but I am sure you do that, too. I like visiting galleries and museums and discovering new things.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
Write a Poem Every Day would be my memoir. This is a phrase I have used in my work over the past several years. I have scratched it into collages, stitched the words on fabric, and continue to use it as my little saying or mantra. The phrase is completely open to interpretation, really, and that is why I like it —it can mean literally to write verse on a daily basis, or more deeply to live within the moment and make each day a little extraordinary. Of course, life is not about everything always being romantic and wonderful. There are rough times to be witnessed as well as glorious little wonders; a poem can hint at the different layers of life.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I think of myself as rather English, and I’m influenced by an eclectic, bric-a-brac of art and artists and things that I have loved over the years: Eastern European animation from the 1970s, American folk art, outsider art, Medieval churches, shapes in nature, child art… they all get my interest.
I studied both English and art at university, so I’m aware of how both language and image can tantalize. I like how the two can play together. And I enjoy seeing how other artists play with different media. My personal journey is what I explore in my own work — both my life and loves feature in my work, with so many different ideas peeking out.
Also, dreams are particularly special to me, because for years I have been a rather lucid dreamer. I like to find ways of exploring dreams in my work.
What does handmade mean to you?
I like handmade. What I like most is seeing the thumbprint of another artist or maker. I want to know this has been made by them, only them. It has to be special, but it can be simple, too. It’s a sharing of breath and knowledge.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
No one person or influence. But I would say my children are my best critics — they see the work and often their ideas and responses help me as I work. I am mostly self-taught. Yes, I studied at university, but I did little “hands-on” art; it was mostly theory. As a younger person I hated sewing! So when I finally got interested in it, I needed to teach myself. I’ve taught myself how to use a sewing machine as a drawing tool, I’ve taught myself how to paint in different ways, and I continue to allow my skills to evolve.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
There has never been an “aha” moment; I’ve just always been an artist. When I was tiny I made sandcastles and made up songs. I’m just doing much the same these days, but the materials and the skills involved have become more complex and sophisticated.
How would you describe your creative process?
Playful. I will try something and work around ideas. When I feel I am getting somewhere I will try again. I like to keep myself within a framework, so I know where I am heading, even if the destination is quite woolly to begin with. The best thing for me is to have a project and time frame.
I like creating small publications of my work, zines or artist books, and I have a regular schedule of when the next book will come out (there’s one available now and the next will be published in September!) The books give me a clear way forward. I know that alongside the other work I do, and all the different media I play with, I have a little book to make. I like making them.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Several years ago, when I lived in Cambridge, there was an annual open studios event and artists opened their homes. I went to visit a female artist’s house and the place was completely covered with her luxuriant flower paintings in oils, on walls and all surfaces, and the house had bird cages hanging from the ceiling (this was much before the bird cage fashion of late). You just knew this was a special home of an artist. The next year, I was excited to return to this home. Surely the open studios guide had made a mistake by leaving the artist off the list? I got to the house and the sunflowers on the door had been painted over. The artist had moved and it seemed like she may never have lived there. Often, I think about my hour or so walking around that house; I can only imagine what her next home might be like. So, if I could visit somewhere, I would go there, if only I could remember her name.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A tiny porcelain sculpture made by my daughter when she was about seven. She made it in the days when I had a kiln. It is a lovely little glazed piece. It reminds me that children are not afraid of using tricky materials and can use them successfully. (And equally, adult artists should never overlook the simple things children play with.)
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
I take a break. Which is hard, because I am not one for stopping. But I will get myself on the train and go into central London, visit a museum, walk about. I like observing life and people, and walking around London I always feel a tremendous sense of energetic history, the energy of past lives trundling along. Failing that, a good dig in the garden, a good root around favourite poetry books, and spending time laughing with my children helps enormously.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
Doing what I do, reaching an ever wider audience. I’d like to work on projects with others. And also I’d like to mentor other artists, perhaps teach. But yes I would like to support other younger artists and makers.