Updated: May 22
I’m a final year part-time HNC textiles student, specialising in embroidery. My practice is process-orientated – as much about the making of a piece as the final object. My work featuring within Student House is my final collection, based on my favourite walk – up to and along the towpath to Skipton. Setting out brings a feeling of calm; welcome solitude and the pleasure of walking for the sake of it. It is these feelings that I want to convey in the work.
Q: Within your work, you choose to utilise natural materials – can you tell us a bit more about how this influences your concepts? It appears that both the concept and the process work hand in hand.
In my previous project I used a lot of man-made materials and high-tech processes including laser-cut felt, printing on polyester fabric and stitching into resin. Although I enjoyed the project I found I prefer the feel of natural fibres.
The towpath, although it is a constructed and managed environment, still feels like a wild space, especially when compared to the hard edges of the modern architecture I looked at in my last project.
It felt appropriate to use natural fibres in this body of work – silks, cottons, linen, wool. The fibres are natural but they are still constructed materials, which fit in with the nature of the environment I was passing through.
In the early stages of the project I looked more at colour - foraging for plants and minerals along the towpath to make inks. I used the colours as an initial palette and experimented with eco dyeing.
I kept the eco-ink-inspired colours for the works that were based on pavement surfaces. As the project progressed I found I preferred the subtlety of working with a mostly undyed and neutral palette. I focussed on shape and texture based on the reflections of trees on the surface of the canal, and the larger part of the collection is based on that.
Q: With such a strong inspiration coming from nature and this feeling of freedom, how have you found working under the restraints of this pandemic?
In the early days I struggled a lot - I couldn’t work on the collection for about a month. It wasn’t appropriate to be going for long, linear walks and then needing public transport or a lift home. I felt cut off from that freedom, the light-heartedness. I distracted myself by working on other things – hand-spinning & knitting mostly. Things I could do that required a different focus, which really helped.
I started working on a couple of samples using materials I had to hand, trying to think of how I could look at my project in a different way. I didn’t want to change my collection but I needed to find a way to incorporate the way I was feeling into work I could make once the project was finished; shifting my perspective.
Once I stopped looking at the collection as an end point and more of as part of something that I might want to work with in the future, it started to feel like it had a future, and was worth finishing. There was a lovely moment when I had been trying to get decent photos of the largest piece. I sat down for a moment and just looked at it, and was able to re-establish my connection with it; to appreciate it.
I’ve been in a fortunate enough position that I’ve had access to all my work, and all the supplies I needed to finish the pieces were to hand. So although there have been some frustrations with the collection, the other outlets I have for my creativity have been so helpful.
Q: What are your plans following your studies?
I had been a little concerned about what I would do ‘after’, but the experiences over the past few months have shown me that although nature is something that inspires me, it isn’t the sole source I will be working from as a professional artist. The way I respond to nature, to beauty, to writing, architecture and the work of other creative practitioners – that is where I see my work heading – expressive creativity. Beauty in form with sweeping movements, delicate texture, angles and lines, light and shade.
I had the opportunity to get involved in the Bradford Covid-19 Stitch Journal Project run by local artist Claire Wellesley-Smith. The project is still underway and isn’t due to finish until mid-June. It is exploring the participants’ responses to isolation through embroidery. Although it is interesting, it has a very different feel to the work I see myself doing. I’m looking forward to seeing how the project progresses over the next few weeks.
I am in the process of putting together an application for the internationally renowned Hand & Lock competition. I have used some of my final collection as a starting point, but I am incorporating the lockdown as a source for inspiration, as well as trying to meet the requirements of the brief. The title ‘The Poetics of Colour’ has encouraged me to explore a wider palette as a contrast to the feelings conveyed by the soft tones of my current collection.
As a group, the HNC textile students are also planning on forming an exhibiting group – we’ve got so much out of the workshop weekends of the course that we’d like to continue that collaboration.
We had planned on taking our final collections to exhibit at New Designers, but unfortunately that isn’t happening in its usual form this year. I’m hoping that we can still be involved with the show once their move to an online platform has been finalised.
Longer-term I would love to have a shared studio/gallery space. What I definitely will be doing, regardless of what happens with the pandemic, is continuing as a creative textiles practitioner
To see more of Ellie Taylor's work please see the link below