Caroline Bell Interview: Eco printing
Textile artist Caroline Bell’s work focuses on sustainability, often using locally sourced, second-hand and upcycled fabrics. She is inspired by the natural world, and where possible uses natural dyes, mordants and mark making materials. Caroline studied Stitched Textiles at Eastleigh College and is a licentiate member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen.
Here Caroline talks about her route to becoming an artist and shares her eco-conscious principles.
Fabric, paper and thread
TextileArtist.org: What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
Caroline Bell: I can remember there always being some kind of craft going on at home throughout my childhood. My mother and my much older sister knitted, sewed, embroidered and I was taught many skills at quite a young age. I think my passion for hand stitch stems from this early period. I was brought up on a farm and was very much aware of the nature around me. All my adult life I have lived in the city and it is only through my recent work and processes that I have reconnected with this.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I gave up my career as a social worker to bring up my children. As they became more independent I looked for something else to do and I gravitated towards a City and Guilds course in embroidery. Having completed this I set up a small business selling hand dyed threads, fabrics and other items. This took up all my time leaving none for anything more creative. In order to effect a change I enrolled on the Foundation Degree in Stitched Textiles course at Eastleigh College which I completed earlier this year. I was lucky enough to be selected by the Embroiderers Guild to be a part of the Graduate Showcase at the Knitting and Stitching Shows and things seem to be taking off from there.
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
My medium is fabric, paper and thread. I work almost exclusively by hand. My materials are natural, possibly recycled and where they have had to travel to me any distance fairly traded. I try to work ethically.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
My process hinges around natural dyes and at present more specifically the mark making potential of eco printing. This involves the transference of plant imagery and patterning into cloth and paper harnessing the substances contained within the plants themselves to provide print and colour.
Do you use a sketchbook?
I use a sketchbook – in the broadest sense – probably more of a journal. I do some drawing but I am more into photography which played an important part in my last body of work.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
My inspirations are inevitably drawn from nature and more specifically from my own locality.
In terms of artists I admire the person at the top of the list has to be India Flint who developed the process of eco printing. Other textile artists I admire include Debbie Lyddon, Dorothy Caldwell and Alice Fox. Other influences come from the Land Art movement and David Hockney (I am thinking in particular last years exhibition at the Academy). I also love the photgraphy of Fay Godwin and Ansel Adams.
Making marks using natural materials
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
My work has developed tremendously since I began. To begin with it was all about stitch but now I give much more consideration to what goes behind the stitch. In the future think I will probably move on from eco printing and look at other ways of making marks using natural materials. I think it is important to keep moving on and not getting stuck using the same methods and techniques.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
I still see myself as an aspiring textile artist. I think the most important piece of advice I can give is to keep an open mind both with regard to your own work and possibilities but also to any opportunities that might come your way.
What other resources do you use? Blogs, websites, magazines etc.
I am a fan of social media. I find a lot of inspiring work can be found on Facebook for instance. I blog and enjoy the blogs of others.
Wild and Woolly
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes?
I am a reluctant talker and workshop giver but I can be persuaded.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
My most treasured piece of equipment is my steam generating iron – strange but true.
Where can readers see your work this year?
For more information please visit: carolinebelltextiles.wordpress.com
If you’ve enjoyed our interview with Caroline let us know by leaving a comment below or sharing this post on Facebook using the button below.