Because growing plants is such an integral part of my art, you will be able to look round my garden which at the end of May should be full of spring colour, including biennials and bulbs in the cutting garden. If the weather permits I also plan to display some art in the garden. In the house there will be mono prints made with gelli plates, and cyanotypes which use the sun to create wonderful blue shades, all inspired by, and made with, plant material. I print on paper and wooden panels plus onto textiles made with my hand dyed fabrics which I alsostitch into with a combination of hand and machine embroidery.
Because of my fascination wit Cabinets of Curiosity my studio will be set up as one of these ‘wonder rooms’. I have some smaller pieces, including a moth series and I’m working on a large textile piece. Plus there will be ephemera and books all inspired by these collections.
We have always sought to understand the natural world and my work looks at how, as well as observing and appreciating the beauty of nature, we have also tried to classify and it. It seems to orderbe a human need to define a species of bird, a type of rock or the colour of a flower and to then give them names, and the way this was done is also revealing about human nature.
When I made a textile piece on the marbled white butterfly (which is a striking black and white) my research led me to many wonderful colloquial names such as flying chequerboard and half-mourner - the latter referring to how in Victorian times, after full black was worn for deep mourning, it was followed by a period when white could be added.
When I print cyanotypes, using the sun to create beautiful shades of blue, I am using the same method that early practitioners like Anna Atkins used at the turn of the 19th century when she captured photograms of seaweed and ferns for scientific knowledge.
Cabinets of curiosity were created by the upper class to show off their weird and wonderful plunder such as shells and fossils, minerals and dried plants, and even pieces of plundered archeology. They revealed as much about the collector as about the objects - a compulsion to own objects as well as understand them and have inspired several pieces that will be in my exhibition.
I use a combination of print, stitch and paint on textile and paper to try and depict this world. I like to build up layers on a piece with surface decoration. I might use a screen I made from a letter by a naturalist even if it becomes abstracted to form rather than being legible. I ‘draw’ with my sewing machine to create pattern and detail onto hand dyed fabrics and although I stylise my subjects, I hope that if someone has a look they might recognise the Tissue Moth or a Japanese fern.
Despite having a chronic illness for many years (thankfully much recovered now) I always managed to garden in some way. That combination of always having plants around me and being at home for much of the time, means that flowers and leaves are a recurring theme. We are lucky to be able to grow such a wide range of species in the UK partly because of the plant hunters who sought out rare specimens, or breeders who created exotic hybrids such as the tulips that famously created a buying frenzy. As well as being inspired by their beauty and history, I also like to use plant material to make monoprints.
I feel everyone deserves to have a flower filled life with both gardening and art and I have a website and YouTube channel both called A Creative Garden that shares methods and inspiration to help achieve this.