Corinne Young: Embroidered assemblages
Artist Corinne Young’s interest in textiles emerged at a young age making clothes for her dolls and herself when she was around 9 or 10. She later went on to study a City & Guilds in Fashion Design before completing a BA (Hons) Textile Design at Bradford College in 2003.
Taking her inspiration from flowers and insects, Corinne’s brightly coloured 3D textile art uses a combination of handmade linen paper and vintage materials. She employs both hand and free machine embroidery with a variety of sculpting techniques including stiffeners, stumpwork and wire.
In our interview with Corinne she tells us about her long working days, her prolific use of sketchbooks and her need to work in ‘organised chaos’.
Fascinated by fabrics and yarns
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Corinne Young: My earliest memories of becoming fascinated by textile art were being given Kaffe Fassett’s first Books on knitting and tapestry when I was in my 20’s. I also went to visit an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite art with my mother and her friend Margaret, where there was a collection of Arts and Crafts embroideries. Since then I have been a regular visitor to the Knitting and Stitching Show, and view textile collections wherever I go.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
I have been fascinated by fabrics and yarns and their uses since I was a little girl watching my Mother gardening and knitting, and my seamstress Aunt making garments. My Aunt would do a quick sketch and then cut straight into the fabric with no pattern and made fabulous garments for my cousins and I. To me it was like alchemy!
I loved to knit and sew at primary school and started making dolls clothes and clothes for myself when I was around 9 or 10. I remember a 1970’s style ‘smocked’ top I made by hand at age 10 which I was very proud of. My sewing experiences at secondary school were rather disappointing – I already knew that there was more to textiles than making an apron!
One of my first courses at College after leaving school was a City & Guilds in Fashion Design. During this time I was working in retail as a trainee manager/buyer in a Harrogate department store. Over the years I have done courses in Interior Design and Decoration, run a knitting wool shop, and been an interior designer and decorator – always something creative. My eyes were opened to the possibilities of textiles by annual visits to the Knitting & Stitching Show. I was finally able to do a degree once my daughters were old enough to be a little more independent.
What was your route to becoming an artist? (Formal training or another pathway?)
I completed a BA (Hons) Textile Design at Bradford College, in 2003, under the tutorage of the wonderful embroiderer and textile artist Diane Bates. I definitely would not be where I am today without the support, encouragement (and sometimes stern words!) that Diane gave me.
Since my degree I have been lucky enough to exhibit in lots of shows and galleries. One of the first was at the Mall Galleries with the Society of Designer Craftsmen where I was commissioned to make 16 embroidered publicity panels for the Lord of the Rings stage show in Toronto and London.
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
I use both hand and free machine embroidery together with a variety of sculpting techniques including stiffeners, stumpwork and wire in order to make my work three dimensional. I do use fabrics as my backgrounds for machine embroidery, but prefer to use paper, and in particular handmade linen paper which I developed during my degree. This paper is quite stiff and of course does not fray, so is ideal for my needs.
Vintage inspired art
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
I describe my work as ‘embroidered assemblages’, and I think most ‘fits in’ with the current passion for vintage inspired art. I do look at the trends and movements in contemporary art, though find it largely uninspiring. Some exceptions are Andy Goldsworthy, Grayson Perry and Carne Griffiths and current textile artists such as Mandy Pattulo, Caren Garfen, Karen Nicol, Janet Haigh and Kaffe Fassett.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
My most recent pieces are three dimensional plant portraits mounted onto a collaged background using archived drawings of plants. Once I have decided on my subject (usually a plant with a structure I find interesting) I study the plant and sketch it out with notes as to how to construct it, prepare my background, machine and hand embroider, cut the pieces out from their background, construct the flower by folding and shaping the pieces, use wire to reinforce the shape; and finally attach it to its background. I work on several pieces at once in this way.
I work in ‘organised chaos’ in my chosen workspace, with everything arranged in cupboards and drawers, but with a table in front of me and boxes of materials positioned around me so that I don’t have to keep getting up and down for paint, wire, thread etc. I am having a room converted into a dedicated studio at the moment, though that may well be used for storage as I like to work in comfort, and work up to 15 hours a day!
Do you use a sketchbook?
I am a prolific user of sketchbooks, and have several. The ones I keep for ‘best’ are quite precious and consist of pictures gathered from various sources, along with tidy detailed sketches. I then have another working one for quick sketches which I use on a daily basis, and a box for samples – very important to work out any problems before embarking on a full scale work. My old sketchbooks are usually the first thing I refer to when researching for a new piece of work.
A passion for antiques and artefacts
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
I am constantly inspired by nature, in particular architectural plants and butterflies, and never tire of its colour and intricate structures. I also have a passion for antiques and artefacts, and have a large collection of vintage ephemera such as antique patchwork, old postcards and Victorian scraps. I love to visit and study at stately homes, and am a regular visitor to the V&A.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
I think this would be my first ‘Passion Flower’ piece. It was the first piece where I used the 3D techniques I now use all the time, was very well received and just seemed to come together really well. I find the structure of Passion Flowers fascinating, as is the fact that their exquisite flowers only last for a day. In a way I would have quite liked to live with this piece for a while, so of course it sold in its first exhibition about a week after I made it!
I am also very proud of the pieces I made for the finals of my degree. These were embroidered ‘wallpaper’ panels; 8ft x 2ft in size, and heavily embroidered onto linen paper. They were natural in colour as they were inspired by the papery seedheads of the plants Bells of Ireland and Scabious ‘Paper Moon’. The pieces were the culmination of a huge amount of study including research trips to Kew Gardens and the RHS Lindley Library. I still draw on this study for my work today, though now have to turn ideas around much faster!
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
My first pieces of work as a textile artist were natural colours because they were inspired by seedheads. Since then I have gradually introduced more colour and structure. My current work is the brightest yet.
I tend to make seasonal collections, so my spring and summer work is bright and the winter work uses darker, richer colours and more texture. I have been working on various pieces for interiors this year, and have recently launched an interiors business ‘The Garden Room’ alongside my textile art where I will create bespoke pieces and even entire rooms inspired by a garden theme. I see everything as a canvas to work on, and at the moment I particularly like to make embroidered covers for upholstered chairs.
Wonderful and rewarding
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Being a textile artist is wonderful and rewarding in all sorts of ways, and the textile community is very welcoming and supportive. However, it requires hard work and an incredible amount of dedication to succeed. My advice would be only to go into working as a textile artist if you are prepared to work 15 hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week to achieve your goals.
Can you recommend 3 or 4 books for textile artists?
I have always loved Kaffe Fassett’s books, particularly ‘Kaffe Fassett at the V&A’. I have a very well-thumbed copy of ‘Gardening in Silk and Gold’ by Thomasina Beck and ‘Inspired to Stitch’ 21 Textile Artists by Diana Springall. This last book features the work of several of my favourite textile artists including Audrey Walker, Janet Haigh and my lovely tutor from Bradford College, Diane Bates. A contemporary book I love is ‘Push Stitchery’ by Jamie Chalmers. I went to the accompanying exhibition at the Knitting and Stitching Show in 2012, and was particularly fascinated by the stitched garden tools and car door!
What other resources do you use? Blogs, websites, magazines etc.
I love ‘hard copy’ magazines, and my favourites are Selvedge, Embroidery Magazine, Mollie Makes, Pretty Nostalgic, Country Living and BBC Homes & Antiques. A blog I absolutely love is actually for florists – Rona Wheeldon’s at www.flowerona.com. I find Facebook vital as a working tool and am an avid Pinterest fan. I have also found Twitter to be very useful for making business connections.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
I have just started doing workshops and classes as until recently I was managing an art gallery alongside my practice. Currently I can only really do these in the North of England, unless it is for a residency. I am putting together a programme of workshops for the latter part of this year and next year, and will be putting a section on my website for these. If anybody is interested, they can contact me, as I have a contact list just for workshops. www.corinneyoungtextiles.co.uk.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
I am finding now that galleries are approaching me, but I do my research very carefully, and only approach galleries where I know my work would fit in. Historically, few ‘fine art’ galleries seem to recognise the value of textile art, though thankfully this is starting to change.
Where can readers see your work this year?
I have work in an exhibition ‘Animal Magic’ at the Masham Gallery in July/August – www.mashamgallery.co.uk.
I am also taking part in East Yorkshire Open Studios in October from my studio in Kilham – www.eastyorkshireopenstudios.co.uk. I am working on some very exciting projects for 2015. Please see my website for details.
For more information please visit: www.corinneyoungtextiles.co.uk
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