Chloe Redfern: A creative voyage of discovery
Since completing her year of fine arts, Chloe Redfern has been on a creative voyage of discovery. The textile artist has tried everything from bookbinding to collage and believes that this has guided her creative practice; helping her to find her passion for hand embroidered hoop art.
The daughter of an artist, Chloe is inspired by nature. This motivates her to create exquisite works of art, using sumptuous colours and experimental stitches. She has written articles and created patterns for magazines and runs an online shop.
In this interview, Chloe tells us how growing up surrounded by creativity allowed her the confidence to explore different artistic techniques and which stitches she likes to use. We learn that, sometimes, she just lets the thread guide her; working in an intuitive way and that she enjoys nothing better than looking at her thread collection.
The materials are so tactile and attractive
TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium? How was your imagination captured?
Chloe Redfern: My Mum is an artist, who initially worked with ceramics and then textiles. I have always been surrounded by creativity, I believe this was probably influencing me before I was old enough to realise it!
I did art and photography A-levels at college. I thought I wanted to work with photography, but when I started my art foundation year I really got into working with fabric and stitch. I must confess that it wasn’t a conscious decision, it just sort of happened. I like to think that it was meant to be!
I find the materials used in embroidery so tactile and attractive. Of course, I love the process of embroidery, but I have to admit I do enjoy just looking at my little thread collection!
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
I think growing up in an environment where I was always encouraged to be creative has been the biggest influence on me.
There is a great selection of Mum’s work around the house and there were always lots of art materials, which I made the most of. I always feel like it was sort of inevitable that I’d end up working in a creative field!
What was your route to becoming an artist?
While doing my A-levels I was keen on equestrian photography. I thought this was the field I wanted to work in. However, an interest in experimental photography techniques led me to do an art foundation year. It was during this course that I started to work with textiles; making fabric collages, decorations and producing hand-printed cards.
When I had finished the course I set up a business, selling collages and decorations online. One day, I decided to have a go at putting together an embroidery pattern. I based this on the collage of a Blue Tit I had done. I enjoyed the process so much that I have worked exclusively with embroidery for the last three years.
Adding shine and dimension with beads
Tell us about your process from conception to creation
I often start by making a sketch. This is to help me plan how I want the embroidery to look; it also allows me to decide on the composition. If it’s a bird (which is quite often is!) I will work out ways to simplify feather shapes and decide how to stitch them.
As part of my process, I make two final drawings. One is a sketch with some colour added, and one a pattern drawing, which I will transfer to the fabric. I then work on stitching the design, usually in quite an intuitive way. If I am turning the design into a pattern, I will be more organised; keeping notes of the colours and techniques I use for each area.
If I create an abstract piece, I stitch directly into the fabric without doing any planning or making any sketches beforehand. I just allow the materials to guide me.
Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques and how you use them
I work in a hoop, usually on plain calico fabric; I have tried working on coloured fabrics but I’m always drawn back to the natural look of calico. I almost always use two layers of fabric; adding an extra layer stops the thread showing through.
I like to use quite simple stitches, such as straight stitch or back stitch. I find it really enjoyable to explore the different effects which can be created with these, using many small stitches to fill in areas. I use size 7 John James embroidery needles, and size 10 for more detailed work.
I love to incorporate beads where I can, often using them as flower centres, or to add a bit of shine and dimension to a piece.
What currently inspires you?
I am most inspired by nature, particularly birds and plants. I love to go for walks and visit gardens to find inspiration.
I take a lot of photographs, which I refer to when coming up with new ideas or making sketches for new designs.
I love the idea of going out and doing some drawing in gardens, but I confess, I haven’t been brave enough to do this yet!
Tell us about a piece of your work that holds particularly fond memories and why?
I think the piece of work that holds the fondest memories for me would be my Blue Tit embroidery.
This is the embroidery which really started me off. Although I had dabbled with embroidery before this piece and had stitched into my painted/collage textile pieces, this was my first ‘proper’ embroidery design.
The pattern was published in a magazine and is now available in my Etsy shop and the original embroidery was sold.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I have worked out new ways of simplifying and stitching the shapes of bird’s feathers. The wings are always my favourite bit to stitch.
My designs have also become more detailed and my stitching is neater too! Going forward, I want to experiment with making a larger, free hanging unframed piece, and to try stitching some of my designs onto a jacket or other things.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
The best advice I could give would be to not be afraid of giving things a go. Just keep experimenting with different ideas and techniques.
Over the years I’ve tried many mediums, including painting, paper and fabric collage, papier mache, printmaking and bookbinding. Although these are not directly related to textiles, everything I’ve tried has guided my creative practice. I believe that it was through trying different things that ultimately I found embroidery.
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