Amy Louise Baker: Moss-inspired fiber art
Amy Louise Baker is an artist and maker known for her glorious green hoops and woven designs. She experiments with fiber art techniques including weaving and embroidery to make joyful abstract versions of moss and lichen.
Amy completed a Foundation Degree in Graphic Communications at Kingston University, London in 2011 and also holds a BSc in Biology from the University of York (2007). She combines her love of both science and art in her graphic design and textile art. Her work has been exhibited at Hot Art Wet City “6th Annual Boobies and Wieners” Vancouver BC, 2019 and at the D&AD “New Blood Awards” London UK, 2011, as well as being awarded the Editor’s pick in “Make a Statement Large Format Art Challenge” Minted, 2018 (collaboration).
In this interview, discover her journey to becoming an artist and how her science background inspires her art. Amy also shares her joyful approach of experimentation and explains how her love of trying new techniques and materials drives her.
The toy maker
TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium? How was your imagination captured?
Amy Louise Baker: In some way or another I have always been interested in textiles. My first memory of being really excited by it was when I was very young. I decided I wanted to create my own toys to play with and I used old T-shirts and socks to make little dolls or animals stuffed with cotton wool balls. I created little accessories and clothing for them to wear. They were a little rough around the edges but I loved them!
I hadn’t worked with textiles for some time, but a few years ago a wonderful abstract embroidery piece popped up on my Instagram feed. I was really drawn to the tactile and textured surface and was very curious about how it was made. That sparked a researching frenzy which led me down many fibre arts paths that I had never considered before.
I was fascinated by the many different techniques and the variety of patterns and textures you can create from just yarns and fabrics.
I initially started playing about with mixing inks on fabric and practising new abstract stitches on top of them. I purchased a loom, found in the children’s section at IKEA! I taught myself some basic weaving using a chunky, fleecy yarn. I remember thinking the texture looked a lot like moss and that it could be an interesting avenue to explore. That was the beginning of my fascination with embroidery and weaving, using natural textures like lichens and moss as my inspiration.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
My Nan and Mum are both accomplished dressmakers and so I’ve always been around textiles. They’d make clothes and knit jumpers for my sister and me.
I remember they both had baskets of colourful thread that I loved to look through. They both enjoyed cross stitch and my Mum bought me the little cross stitch starter packs to have a go with. My Dad was a maker too and our garage was filled with every tool imaginable. I think this experience had a lot to do with me being creative early on in life.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I applied to a secondary school where you could focus on languages or art. I took the arts route and had additional art classes throughout my time there. After that, I headed to Richmond Upon Thames College. At the time my two biggest interests were science and art. I really had no idea what I wanted to do in terms of a career, so I just picked my favourite subjects at the time, which were Chemistry, Biology, Geology and Art and Design. An uncommon mix! I remember people looking at bit perplexed when I’d walk into the laboratory holding a huge art folder.
After the first year, we were meant to drop a subject. I didn’t get the grade I was hoping for in art and design. I became disheartened and concluded that science must be the career path I should follow. In 2007 I graduated with a degree in Biology from York University. During my time there I almost completely stopped being creative.
Deep down I knew I wanted to make things but I felt that it was an impossible option. When I started to look for a job after university nothing really struck me apart from the creative roles, but I wasn’t qualified for them.
One evening I was at my local pub and I got chatting to a friendly stranger. She asked me what I did and I said I hadn’t quite figured that out yet, and that I had a degree in Biology. She asked, “If you could do anything, what would it be?” I replied, “Something creative, like being a designer or an artist perhaps” and she encouraged me to go for it. From that very simple conversation, I started to seriously consider what I wanted to do with my career.
I enrolled in a part-time illustration and design college course with the aim of working part-time to fund the course. Sadly the course was cancelled at the last minute due to insufficient student numbers. I was devastated. This was one of the few courses I could study part-time and because it was at a college the fees were lower. I had already taken out a student loan for my Biology degree and so wasn’t eligible for another one. I looked into other options and found a course at Kingston University, but the fees were much higher and it was a full-time course. I felt awful! I’d finally figured out what I wanted to do but was unable to finance it. At that time my family stepped in and offered to pay my tuition fees, which I am forever thankful for.
Kingston was a great place to study and has a great reputation for the arts. All my eighteen-year-old classmates had been studying art and design for years at school and college. Having been away from art education for such a long time, I didn’t have a clue about anything and felt “old” at 24! All my old university friends were getting jobs and moving into their own homes and I was still studying, living with my parents and waitressing to raise funds. I got there in the end though and in 2011 I graduated with a degree in Graphic Communication. I have worked as a full-time designer and illustrator ever since. I’m extremely grateful that I get to be creative every day when I go to work!
In 2016 I moved to Vancouver, Canada. Creatively that was a turning point for me. A fresh start. In the past, I was not confident in my capabilities. I told myself that being an artist wasn’t for me. I didn’t feel good enough as I didn’t have a fine arts degree. I knew it was hard to make a living from being an artist. When I moved to Vancouver I was lucky to find a job that allowed me a lot of creative freedom. And I met my partner, who is an incredibly creative person and has played a huge part in encouraging me to explore new creative endeavours! Only now do I feel I am allowing myself to make art. Moving to Canada allowed me to start thinking of myself as an artist.
Moss and lichen obsessions
Tell us about your process from conception to creation
At the moment I’m still very curious about different fibre art techniques. I want to explore how I can use them to achieve a particular look and feel.
Each piece is usually an experiment with how to do something. What does a certain yarn or stitch look like? What happens if I merge one technique with another?
I make all of my pieces intuitively and with minimal planning. I usually have a few on the go at the same time so I can switch between them.
Currently, I’m exploring how man-made materials can be formed into work that references nature. I have a fixation on moss and lichen! In the beginning, it started simply with searching for images of moss. I headed to the library to dig a little deeper for reference images. Then I moved outside to search for examples and snap my own reference photos.
By referencing these forms, there’s an opportunity to consider these often-overlooked plants and organisms in urban and rural settings. My artworks are similar to the forms found in nature but can be interpreted in different ways. They hover somewhere between representation and abstraction.
Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques and how you use them
Most of my pieces are made using embroidery or weaving on a loom.
I only use a few different stitches, my favourite being the French knot! I like the variety I get simply by changing the colour and thickness of the yarn. I also like to experiment with using different fabrics. I occasionally use beads and felting too, to add an extra dimension.
A lot of my pieces aren’t ‘technically’ perfect. I’ll drop stitches on the loom or a French knot will be wonky. But that’s okay, I’m not looking for perfection. It’s all part of the charm!
Each piece takes a long time. The work can’t be rushed. A lot of it is repetitive, but I like this! I usually rush around and do things quickly, so creating this work forces me to slow down. I like that it doesn’t require 100% of my attention. I can work while listening to a podcast or holding a conversation.
What currently inspires you?
My two biggest passions have always been science and art. I find anything that brings those two things together exciting. That’s why I think my moss embroideries interest me so much!
I like exploring the tension of the natural and unnatural, and representation versus abstraction. I’m inspired by patterns found in nature; from the very tiny, like molecular or cellular structures, to the very big, such as galaxies, and everything in-between!
Just make it!
Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?
That would have to be “Moss Cluster”.
I’m a big fan of Instagram (Amy’s Instagram) and use it to share my work, follow other artists and get inspired.
I was really surprised when I got such a positive response when posting this one. People asked how I made it and if it was for sale. It seemed to really spark interest and led to a lot of lovely discussions. It’s nice when other people are as excited as you are. It encouraged me enormously.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
With every piece, I learn something new. I become more confident in doing something more adventurous. I think I now have a clearer idea of what I’m trying to do and how to do it.
There are so many techniques I haven’t yet tried. I recently bought a latch hook kit so that will be the next thing I experiment with.
I’m also hoping to move onto much larger pieces and I am in the process of trying to incorporate my moss embroideries into concrete moulds.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Just do it! I often get distracted from actually just making something. I buy more supplies, do more research or think about my next social media post. Sometimes I’m just too tired and don’t have any ideas. I make excuses not to work.
But it’s all for nothing if you aren’t making the work. So my advice is to stop procrastinating and just make art! Even if it’s really bad. Even if you have no ideas or you’re tired.
Go and make something for ten minutes. Anything. No excuses. RIGHT NOW!
Did Amy’s work get your fingers twitching and inspire you to make your own fiber hoops? Let us know in the comments below.