Claire Louise Mather: Capturing the beauty of the world around us
The work of Claire Louise Mather is an exploration of drawing with stitch and mixed media. She has a highly individual approach to textile art, applying traditional techniques with a modern twist.
The aesthetic of her work is deeply influenced by walks around the countryside, using her camera to record the shape, tones and form of a continually changing landscape.
In this interview Claire Louise explains to us how she uses her photographs as the start of her creative process.
An Aladdin’s cave of buttons, beads, ribbons and threads
Claire Louise Mather: Sunrise Over Sandy Lane
TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium?
Claire Louise Mather: As a contemporary textile artist with a background in fashion I have always had a real passion for fabric, being drawn to the tactile nature of the materials.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
My mum worked in the fashion industry and her mum, my Nanna Glad, was fantastic at sewing and was always making things for me to wear.
From a very early age my nanna taught me how to sew, firstly with a needle and thread and then, at about the age of five or six, she taught me how to use her old green Singer sewing machine. I remember it was set up in the spare room which was an Aladdin’s cave of buttons, beads, ribbons and threads.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I have worked for many years in the creative industries and graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a Ba (Hons) degree in Fashion.
My passion for Art and Textiles advanced further when, in 2008, I retrained as a teacher and taught both GCSE and A-Level students. I taught in secondary education for three years before moving into higher education and it was whilst working part time as a Fashion Tutor that I had the time to develop my own work.
An exploration of drawing and stitch
Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques.
My art merges photography, collage and textiles. Fascinated by texture, colour and pattern, my work is an exploration of drawing with stitch. I use free machine embroidery as my main technique, however, I also like to use applique and hand embroidery in certain pieces, too.
How do you use these techniques in conjunction with sewing and stitch?
In my work I use both traditional and original textile techniques, alongside a variety of materials and processes. The use of free machine embroidery provides both deliberate and unexpected manipulation of the fabrics.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
I use a highly individual approach to traditional expectations of textile art, one which combines expected techniques with a modern twist.
I would describe my work as rather niche, as most people either think it is photography or illustration. It is usually only upon closer inspection that viewers realize it is actually drawn with thread.
Camera as a sketchbook
Do you use a sketchbook? If not, what preparatory work do you do?
I sometimes do use a sketchbook, although it is mainly used for collating samples of different techniques and experimental pieces. I would say my ‘real’ sketchbook is my camera. I love walking in the countryside and using either my camera or iPhone as a sketchbook, I capture and record the experience. I capture the rich colours, interesting surfaces, striking scenery and intimate details, which are then used as inspiration for the creative process.
Tell us about your process from conception to conclusion.
I use my original photographs as inspiration and to start the creative process. I sometimes manipulate the images before transferring them onto calico, forming the ‘canvas’ for my work. They are then embellished, embroidered and appliqued on, using both contemporary and reclaimed materials.
My work often also incorporates reclaimed paper from discarded publications, as I believe the inclusion of these reflects the notion of disintegration and repair, reusing something old to create something new.
What environment do you like to work in?
Being outdoors enables me to explore the countryside and find new images for my inspiration. However, due to the practicalities of needing a power supply for my Bernina, I often work in the lounge with good light and fabric all over the floor!
I have been known to set the machine up outside on a sunny day before now though, too!
Capture the beauty that exists in the world around us
What currently inspires you?
Walks around the countryside have deeply influenced the aesthetic for my current work.
Captivated by the local landscape, I often return to this same familiar landscape, observing the effects the elements have on it; its shape, tones and form, continually changing, dependent on the weather and season.
Fascinated by texture, colour and pattern, I create pieces which capture the beauty that exists in the world around us.
Who have been your major influences and why?
At school I excelled in Art and thoroughly enjoyed drawing and both my Art and Textiles teachers were hugely supportive. Their support and encouragement definitely helped me pursue my passion for art.
My family have also been a major influence as they have always supported my creativity and love of art.
Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?
‘View from Long Lane’ is one of my favourite pieces, as it was one of the initial pieces I created for my first solo exhibition in 2014. However, it wasn’t shown until my second exhibition ‘Sketches in Stitch’ at Gallery Oldham. I really love the colours and composition of this piece.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
Since my first exhibition my work has definitely moved on. I have begun to experiment with scale and proportion, as well as combining more techniques in certain pieces.
What other resources do you use? Blogs, websites, magazines etc.
I love looking through magazines to get ideas and also use Pinterest when I have the time.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
I couldn’t live without my old Bernina sewing machine, I love it!
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
I am running a workshop as one of the featured artists of the Oldham Open exhibition on Saturday, November 28. Further details can be found on the Gallery Oldham website.
Where can readers see your work this year?
My work is currently on display at the ‘Drawn In’ exhibition at Huddersfield Art Gallery, which is on until January 2016.
My original pieces, along with limited edition prints are available at Authentic, Uppermill, The Old Original, Scouthead and can also be purchased on my website
For more information please visit www.sewsaddleworth.com
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