Anne Kelly: The quotidian influence
Anne is an artist, author and tutor based in south eastern England. She trained as a fine artist in Canada, was awarded two consecutive Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation awards and travelled to the UK where she worked and trained in London at Goldsmiths College.
Her multi layered and densely embroidered works developed through her teaching, as did her collaborative work and writing. ‘Connected Cloth’ (Batsford 2013) was co-written with Cas Holmes. Her second book ‘Textile Nature’ is published in June and will be launched in London at the Knitting and Stitching shows.
In this interview Anne shares with us her journey to becoming an artist and how her passion for the outdoors influences her work. We learn about her favourite techniques and materials and how her art is increasingly becoming bigger in ambition and scale.
TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium?
Anne Kelly: I stitched and made from an early age – my Canadian grandmother was a wonderful needle woman. I worked in mixed media as part of my training and became interested in how to combine stitch with photographic and printmaking processes. When I started looking at my garden for inspiration the symbiotic relationship between image and stitch developed and a new series of work developed.
And, more specifically, how was your imagination captured by stitching?
I am interested in the quotidian/everyday image and influence of what surrounds us. By making a new piece of tapestry, like fabric, I am able to entrap elements of the world and draw over them. I see stitching as a form of drawing.
What or who were your early influences and how has your upbringing influenced your work?
I was influenced by the naïve, folk and outsider art of my native Quebec. Landscape and the natural world were omnipresent and powerful. Visiting my British grandmother in London made me fall in love with the city and life in the UK. I moved here in the early eighties.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I trained as a fine artist in Canada – a university course with a strong tradition of drawing, painting, printmaking and photography. I also am grateful that we had a good grounding in art history. I continued my training in London at Goldsmiths and started a career in teaching. As many women artists do, I continued to teach, tutor and exhibit around my family. They are my greatest supporters and have enjoyed being a part of my success.
The ephemera surrounding us
Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques.
I am a great believer in using everyday materials and techniques – again the quotidian influence. We all have so much fabric and ephemera surrounding us – I like to choose carefully. I use hand and machine stitching, collage and simple printmaking techniques.
How do you use these techniques in conjunction with stitching and collage?
The printmaking techniques I use as part of making imagery and to add texture and depth to my work. The stitch acts as web to bind the work together and for drawing.
A small fragment of fabric
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
My work works well in both traditional and contemporary settings – the naïve references and influence of the natural world make it relevant and topical. I’ve exhibited at galleries, in public spaces and at art and textile fairs.
Do you use a sketchbook? If not, what preparatory work do you do?
I use sketchbooks and often draw and paint directly onto fabric. Photography is an important element for research but often a whole piece can be inspired by a small fragment of fabric.
Tell us about your process from conception to conclusion.
I tend to work in series, often inspired by the natural world, memory and travel. I like to start with a strong fabric (calico, canvas) background layered with fabrics that go with the subject matter. These vary according to the size and shape of the piece I’m working on. They are then stitched to the base and I will then consider the elements that make up the surface. I use sketchbooks, drawings, templates and photographs to determine the final look of the piece.
I then join the piece together using a variety of stitches and appliquéd fabric. I generally finish with free motion embroidery and some hand stitching. I back my work using vintage fabric if it’s being hung without a frame. I have a wonderful framer in a village near me called Altered Images who make bespoke oak frames for larger pieces and commissions.
What environment do you like to work in?
I work anywhere and everywhere when travelling but my preferred environment is my shed studio which doubles as a gallery space during open studios.
What currently inspires you?
I have become interested in portraiture as a part of my pieces recently. Also I have been given some wonderful textiles from family travelling to the Far East and am keen to use them.
Who have been your major influences and why?
I loved Joseph Cornell’s boxes from university days and even wrote a dissertation about him! I enjoyed his exhibition at the Royal Academy. I’ve long admired Anna Torma’s meticulously hand stitched work and am delighted to be exhibiting with her in my native Canada in a few years time. I’ve been fortunate to work with some wonderful tutors and students and learn from them constantly!
Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?
I am fond of ‘St Giles’ a piece based on the area in London near where we used to live. It’s made on a circular tablecloth and was one of the first pieces I made with domestic textiles. It’s quite large and includes birds, maps and plants from the area as well as cranes from a development nearby. It’s been exhibited in London and at a cancer treatment clinic near me in Kent. Currently it’s at home and I see it every day.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
My work has become larger in scale and ambition, more challenging and complex. I hope to continue experimenting with applying stitched surfaces to objects as in my ark piece. I also enjoy creating commissions and works for public spaces.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Work hard and say yes to any opportunity- you never know where it will lead you!
Can you recommend 3 or 4 books for textile artists?
- Howard, Constance, The Constance Howard Book of Stitches, Batsford 1979
- Bourgeois, Louise, Stitches in Time, August Projects/MOCA 2003
- Holmes, Cas and Kelly, Anne, Connected Cloth, Batsford 2013
- Haxell, Kate, The Stitch Bible, David and Charles, 2012
What other resources do you use? Blogs, websites, magazines etc.
I love Selvedge and was delighted to be featured on their blog recently.
I write for ‘Workshop on the Web’.
My work has featured in Embroidery and Stitch magazines and I love working with Embroiders Guild members around the country.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
Several as described here in my article for TextileArtist.org’s Tool kit series, but my trusty Bernina would win I think!
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
Most of my courses are by invitation from groups and guilds.
Current spaces on public courses are here.
I’m teaching for the Made on Holiday weekend in Devon in November.
I also teach regularly at The Fibreworks in Oxfordshire.
And at Canvaspace near me in Kent.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
I’m fortunate now to be invited to exhibit at a variety of venues nationally and internationally and also apply for exhibitions where I feel I have a connection, either with the theme or place.
Where can readers see your work this year?
South East Open Art Studios 3-19 June.
I’m launching my second book ‘Textile Nature’ at the Knitting and Stitching Shows in London, Dublin and Harrogate from October 2016.
I’m also planning several mini launch events – see my blog (below) for details.
For more information visit:
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