What is your practice? What are the key drivers for your work and how do you keep your
creative practice on track?
As a printed textile artist and designer, my practice embraces site-specific, often large-scale commissions, domestic linens, and one-off works for interiors, the latter forming the core of my creative identity. I also teach and write.
My goal is to continually refine and to capture the essence of my ideas, and each new work strives to be absolute – the purest embodiment of what I am trying to say. Of course, this distillation process is constantly evolving and is never complete, but my technical knowledge and attention to detail provides a firm foundation for development.
I try to make connections between the different strands of my practice and keep open-minded about any opportunities that arise.
When you are developing new work, are you mainly the catalyst or do you work in
connection or collaboration with others? Do you ever work in connection or collaboration with others?
I usually work alone, which I enjoy. My work is very labour-intensive, and I like to completely immerse myself when I can. However, I recently participated in a small exhibition with two installation artists and I found our discussions provided great food for thought and I would be really interested in doing something like this again – it was very fulfilling and an obvious contrast to the solitary nature of being in my studio. I also have to liaise with others when working on public commissions.
How has your BA Textiles grounding fed the work you do now? Are there still links back to the work you did then, or has your work altered since then for other reasons? How?
As an undergraduate, I was always interested in creating one-off pieces rather than repeat patterns; I also liked working on a large scale and bringing seemingly disparate elements together – I suppose I was wanting to create a narrative. All these factors are still immensely pertinent. Three key types of imagery were important to me then and still are now: a sense of human presence, the everyday object, and creating an atmosphere – albeit now used in a rather more abstract way. I used to work a lot on velvet in the early days, exploiting the pile to create depth, whereas now I use linen and print in multiple layers. It has taken me years to really hone my style, which has come by constantly refining my process and methodology and questioning what I am trying to say.
My degree course was extremely technical, which I must admit, I found a bit frustrating at the time. However, I now frequently cite it as a course that helped me become the textile artist I am, as without that technical understanding, I wouldn’t be able to translate my ideas successfully onto cloth in the way that I do, so I am very grateful to have had that training.
After you graduated with your BA, what were your thoughts about your textile practice at the time? Have they changed now?
When I graduated in 1988, I had a clear idea of the kind of work I wanted to make, but no real sense of how it might be realistically achieved in order to survive and sustain myself. In those days, preparation for life beyond college was minimal and there was very little help or support, let alone studio space. I have learned so much about myself by making my living as a textile artist and it is a continually evolving process. My aim then was to nurture my creative identity come what may, and I am proud that I have managed to keep going over all these years. I feel just as passionate now about my work and the need to keep improving and refining it, as I did all those years ago.
What have been the biggest successes achieved through your own self-promotion of
I have been lucky to have carried out numerous public commissions, which was something I always wanted to do as it has enabled me to work on a large scale. I have also participated in many exhibitions over the years, which often lead to other opportunities.
What have been the biggest challenges of self-promotion?
I used to be really organised with my promotional activities but now I find myself at a time in life where I am juggling many family responsibilities and it’s very hard to carve out the time to do all this, though I know it’s really important – I just have to prioritise. As mentioned earlier, my work is very labour- intensive, and without making the work, there is nothing to promote! It’s all about getting a balance to suit one’s situation.
What platforms or ways have been most helpful to promote your work?
62 Group of Textile Artists
Contemporary Applied Arts
What are the most unexpected things to have occurred in your work or practice and why
were they unexpected?
Writing my book ‘Dyeing and Screen-Printing on Textiles’. Teaching at Glasgow School of Art provided this opportunity, and it has gone from strength to strength – I am in the process of revising and expanding for the 3rd edition. It’s been an interesting process and invaluable in my own teaching practice in lots of ways.
What would your main recommendations be to a new Textiles graduate who would like
to build their art practice.
Be yourself – don’t make work just to try and please others but be true to your own creative identity and nurture this.
Keep focused and make work that you enjoy, but don’t be afraid to accept new challenges if it stretches and interest you.
Value your skills – you have unique capabilities, so don’t undersell yourself. Join an artists’ union (such as the Scottish Artists’ Union) that has recommended rates of pay and try and adhere to this as best you can.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want – you will very often get it.
Talk to other practitioners, don’t suffer in silence when things are hard.
Be professional in everything you do and have respect for your work.
Create connections with and join professional organisations that can help you develop and give you opportunities.
Get your work out into the world in lots of different ways, including social media.
Don’t despair when things go wrong – no work is wasted as there is always something to learn from difficulties, which will stand you in good stead in the future.