Finding inspiration for textile art by Cas Holmes

Finding inspiration for textile art by Cas Holmes

Cas Holmes has been a featured artist and wrote a wonderful piece for us reflecting on the life, home and work of a textile artist. She’s recently returned from Australia, where she was invited to share her expertise with fibre arts students.

We’re delighted to welcome her back and excited that she has been kind enough to offer an insight into how her recent trip may inform her future work and share some invaluable words of wisdom on finding inspiration for textile art. What’s wonderful about this piece is that Cas not only gives advice from her own experience but offers a glimpse into what into what inspires the other textile artists she’s been working with in Australia.

A sense of place

Cas Holmes: I tend to create pieces from found materials as I travel and go about my day to day work. Through interaction with the objects and fabrics I evolve a narrative. Being prepared to de-construct and reconstruct has become a vital part of my creative process both physically and mentally. Recently, I spent some time in Australia running workshops and giving talks. One of the questions I was often asked was how this experience would inform my work? How does a foreign place translate as inspiration for textile art

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer. I find the Australian landscape inspirational, full of texture and amazing flora and fauna, but alien. It tells its own story and it is one where I can only, as yet, find the most transient of connections.  For the Aboriginal artist, the landscape tells its own complex stories of place and connection to people. European settlers brought with them Western conventions of pictorial landscape painting to interpret the land.  At best my experience is only ‘fleetingly felt’  as I travel and feels ‘borrowed.’ Finding a more solid connection to place takes time, if it comes at all.

You can view work on the following sites:
Art Gallery of Western Australia. Perth
The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Australia: Drawn to the familiar

I seek the often overlooked aspects of the connections I make to the world around me, the verges of our roadsides, railway cuttings, field edges, the places where our gardens and homes meet the outside spaces. Whilst away from home I sketched and made recordings of travels. In quiet times I stitched and made marks seeking to capture the atmosphere of a place or moment. On looking back, I realised I was drawn yet again to the ‘familiar’ in a more unfamiliar setting. Washing on a line against a weathered fence, gum trees but with Autumn foliage colours on European trees in the background, a golf course but with kangaroos instead of rabbits around the edges, skulls and found objects amidst hanging baskets

A sketch of a washing line by textile artist Cas Holmes

Cas Holmes – Washing line sketch

A sketch by textile artist Cas Holmes - Canberra Autumn foliage and Ghost gum trees

Cas Holmes – Sketch of Canberra Autumn foliage and Ghost gum trees

Textile artist Cas Holmes took a photo of a skull on a veranda which inspired a later sketch

Cas Holmes – Photo of a skull on the veranda

A sketch of a skull by textile artist Cas Holmes

Cas Holmes – Sketch of skull

One of my students bought in a wattle bird (dead) to the class as a ‘gift’ for me to sketch. An unusual gift…but wonderful as a resource and a chance to look at a native bird close up.

Close-up photo of a Wattle bird

Photo of a Wattle bird

A sketch of a wattle bird by Cas Holmes

Cas Holmes – Wattle bird sketch

A work in progress by textile artist Cas Holmes

Cas Holmes – Wattle bird (work in progress)

Hong Kong: Fleeting but deeply felt

I spent a few days in Hong Kong prior to Australia- my time there was fleeting but deeply felt. My father was a National Serviceman during the Korean War and spent some time there recovering from injuries. His stories made the feel of the busy landscape familiar. I made some small pieces whilst travelling such as the Tin Hau Bowl, as little sketches of the places where I stopped to eat, draw and just absorb the colour and life around me.

Photo of Hong Kong Tin Hau temple

Hong Kong Tin Hau Temple

A piece by Cas Holmes (textile artist) entitled Tin Hau bowl

Cas Holmes – Tin Hau bowl

Sketches by fibre artist Cas Holmes

Cas Holmes – Tin Hau sketches

Inspiration for textile art from other artists

Working alongside other artists can open up new approaches to your own work. I find you can learn and develop your own ideas through listening to ‘other voices’. My connection to Australia was through invitation to teach at ‘Fibre Arts Workshops’ in Ballarat, Australia, organised by Glenys Mann, artist and teacher.

Glenys has the ability and reputation to get internationally renowned artists to teach for her. I was drawn to the work of fellow teacher, Chris Atkins; her powerful pieces draw their inspiration from, and talk about sense of place and our connections to the idea of ‘home. The mixed media sculptural works are painstakingly created combining casting of found objects in metal with complex machine stitch which defy translation and are beautiful in detail and content. In a review of the work Judith McGrath says:

Most homes are full of simple treasures, happy memories, comfort and love. Chris Atkins has found her’ home’ in her art work. Best of all, her charming sculptures invite us into her world of whimsy, warmth and wonder.

A piece by artist Chris Atkins entitled Finding home

Chris Atkins – Finding Home’ Thread and Found Objects 104x180x24cm

Work in progress by artist Chris Atkins

Chris Atkins – Work in progress

For further details of Fibre Arts Workshops throughout the year see:

Inspired by Culture

As much as I am inspired by where my feet take me others are equally inspired by different cultural interests. Ro Bruhn, keeps a regular sketchbook and this piece is inspired by Eastern style turrets and links directly to her drawing.

Image of Eastern turrets by artist Ro Bruhn

Ro Bruhn – Eastern turrets

A collective narrative

Creating a narrative can be a combined project. Whilst in Australia, I continued to seek contributions to Tea-Flora-Tales, ongoing sketches by individuals composed of small pages from old books and manuscripts. Individuals attending workshops added their own flora images and stitched stories with an Australian theme. I continue to keep the chain going to create an installation of the piece as the work moves to new venues during 2013-14. The first showing will be at The Front Room, Beaney Museum, Canterbury from Sunday 30 November 2013-Jan12 2014.

Tea-Flora-Tales contributions by Ballarat students

Tea-Flora-Tales contributions by Ballarat students

Tea-Flora-Tales contributions by Opendrawer students

Tea-Flora-Tales contributions by Opendrawer students

To get involved follow this link to Urban Nature
Support the wild flowers by visiting

Absorbing the experience

I am still absorbing the experience but even in the last few days of ‘down time’ I had time to play. I spent some time with my friend boiling up the leaves of the Lilly Pilly tree to dye waste fabrics collected on my travels. I am unsure what I will do with the stash..but am thinking on it.

Lilly Pilly plant

Lilly Pilly

Lilly Pilly dye

Lilly Pilly dye

Lilly Pilly dyed fabrics

Lilly Pilly dyed fabrics

Words of advice to textile artists

Developing the narrative

Developing your artistic narrative is an individual journey. There is no short cut or easy way. I spend considerable time thinking through ideas and developing the processes behind them, both as an artist and a teacher. Why do I consider the act of drawings and keeping a record is important?

  • Your own references are important because you have been there
  • You build your own relationship to the experience; the places you have been, the objects you see, as part of the act of making a record
  • You train your eye and stop to look as part of an investigative approach
  • Your own drawing, notes and photographs act as a memory prompt

Work without fear

Make notes as you go either directly on the material or page. Keep them in a binder or sketchbook ‘journalling’ your thoughts about what inspires you (peeling walls, patterns from a building, flora). Learn all the techniques that interest you but don’t be afraid to experiment with processes, adapt them and make mistakes. These failed ‘experiments’ are time well spent. Work without fear, it will take time but constantly referencing what is around you, combined with practice, helps to inform your work, develops your subject and leads to the development of your ideas.

My on-line journal, Magpie of the Mind acts as ‘aid memoir’ to my thought collecting and journal process.

For more information about Cas and her work visit

If you’ve found this article enlightening let us know by leaving a comment below or check out our other articles by and about Cas Holmes: Featured Artist: Cas Holmes and Reflections, life, home and work by Cas Holmes

Wednesday 29th, November 2023 / 08:26

About the author

Joseph Pitcher is the son of textile artist Sue Stone. He is an actor and voice-over artist and has worked at the RSC, the National Theatre, West End theatres and several other leading regional venues across the UK. Find Joe on Google

View all articles by Joe



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25 comments on “Finding inspiration for textile art by Cas Holmes”

  1. Carol Naylor says:

    another super article Cas especially emphasising the importance of making firsthand references

  2. cas holmes says:

    thank you Carol

  3. Ro Bruhn says:

    Great article about your amazing work Cas, I love how all your pieces tell a story. Thanks so much for including mine.

  4. Emma says:

    A lovely & informative article – I feel you’ve been talking to me personally, giving me the confidence to walk outside & just draw; thank you.

  5. Joe says:

    So please you all like the article – we’re very lucky to have contributions from Cas. Her work is beautiful and she talks about her process with such clarity and passion.

  6. Jeanne says:

    Thank you for an excellent interview with thought provoking responses. Cas’s ideas are well thought out and a good reminder to me to think things through before starting on a new piece.

  7. cas holmes says:

    Thanks for making me a favourite

  8. Cas Holmes says:

    Thankyou for feeding back on this article over the last year. Some of the artwork and discussion initiated in this article sowed the seeds for further debate in Stitch Stories, my next book to be published in August 2015

  9. Jill says:

    I met Cas at Farnham Pottery before her trip…the day was a changing point for me…I am still working on the piece I started there and I am SO pleased with it.
    I am further inspired to see how her themes have developed during her travels. Thank you Cas

  10. Lisa Churchward says:

    Wonderful article, thank you. Cas is so inspiring. I was lucky enough to study with her at Open Drawer in Melbourne Australia. I even spotted my contribution to tea flora tales…the bottom left piece featuring a blue feather.

  11. Thanks so much for this great post. Inspiration is the most important part of the design. Do you have any advice about “Inspired by Culture”? Or any personal experience. I will be more than happy to hear it and if you let me share your idea on my blog. Thanks.

  12. Cas Holmes says:

    Hi Jade. I have only just seen this so apologies for late feedback. My publications often refer to cultural influences as do some of the articles on my blog. Refer to for relevant links. Cas

  13. jennifer gunson says:

    I always love your work, now the lovely slow stitch and beautiful use of colour.

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