Naomi Ryder interview: Different on different days
Textile designer and illustrator Naomi Ryder uses freehand machine embroidery, print and ‘drawing with stitch’ to create exquisite pieces of contemporary textile art reflecting everyday life. Her style is often figurative and it is her unique ability to make the ordinary extraordinary that attracted us to her work.
We’re delighted that Naomi has taken the time to reflect on her journey as a textile artist, tell us what attracted her to the techniques she uses, including freehand machine embroidery, as well as share with us some of her top resources.
A slow formal roundabout pathway
What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
I have always loved drawing and painting. I found the drawing and painting work I was doing after my degree was becoming too hard and graphic. Placing the drawings on fabric meant that I could use really masculine images such as a lorry driver or a spanner and it would still look soft, loose in style.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work ?
My dad taking me to jumble sales collecting annuals such as Bunty, Judy, Dandy and Blue jeans. I knew the photo stories/cartoons back to front and I think that has affected my love of narrative within my work.
Recently I found some portraits I had taken in my GCSE photography and realised they were similar in composition to what I am doing now. It was strange to discover that I have unknowingly referred back to this style of portrait.
Working for fashion designers in my late 20s and 30s reminded me of luxury fabrics and that it is ok to want to make something beautiful.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
A slow formal roundabout pathway. I did a degree in Textiles at Manchester, worked for fashion designers John Rocha and Lainey Keogh, then moved to London where I have a studio at Cockpit Arts from which I now freelance.
A strong inner drive
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
My main medium is freehand machine embroidery. I like to use natural fabrics such as silk and wools occasionally combined with applique. More recently I have been experimenting with handstitch and larger scale pieces for a personal project. I teach different textiles subjects which is great as I have to research many techniques to expand my knowledge such as smocking and dressmaking finishing techniques.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
I have this strong inner drive so it must mean I am an artist. But I love design and some illustration and like things to be aesthetically pleasing so I think I may be half way in between. Different on different days.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
Most recently I set up studio on a four week residency in Buckinghamshire County Museum and had a four week exhbition in a beautiful Georgian room. My studio consisted of fabrics, Bernina sewing machine, embroidery hoop, range of threads, pencils, paper. I like to be near a computer to be able to play with colour in Photoshop.
I photograph subjects or sketch them depending on the project and sew as close to the sketch as I can recreate. Fabric has a different reaction to paper and takes a lot of control. I would like to say I could work anywhere but I always have my camera phone to snap away. I like to have my stuff around me; fabrics, sewing machine and scissors and pencils and stuff.
The strive for perfection
Do you use a sketchbook?
Not really, I keep trying but I have sheets and sheets of paper piled high so you could call it an open sketchbook.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
I love Alex Katz for his contemporary portraits. They appear to be so simplistic yet capture the person so realistically. I also love some of Man Ray‘s photography portraits for the style and Julia Margaret Cameron for the romantic softeness and beauty. Dryden Goodwin too.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
I made three silk chiffon curtains with my friend – “A day in the life of Katherine”
Katherine pieces made me recognise the importance of narrative in my work. Katherine mops also makes me laugh because it is so melancholy. Melancholy subject matter is actually my favourite thing to draw. The same as singing along to and listening to sad folk songs can cheer me up.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
My drawing is constantly improving. I am always developing skills and pushing myself to be the best that I can be. The strive for perfection will continue.
I would like to create some larger scale pieces which am sampling at the moment.
Turning a hobby into a skill
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Work out how you are going to supplement your business in the beginning when you are not in profit. I would suggest starting with a part time job on the side. I have taught in a number of colleges and museums including Fashion and Textiles, the V & A museum, and Central Saint Martins.
Good luck – it is not an easy ride. I made a desicion to concentrate on (and would recommend concentrating on) a few techniques only. Practice turns a hobby into a skill and when people see you have a skill, that is when they take interest.
Can you recommend 3 or 4 books for textile artists?
- Dictionary of Stitches by Mary Thomas
- Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolf (Good if you like scuptural creating pleats, smocking techniques)
- Stitch Show by Sayaka Ishii (Really beautiful embroidery book)
- Karen Nicol – Embellised: New Vintage
What other resources do you use?
I do have to curb my magazine habit. When my friend Katherine and I couldnt afford to go out at college so we could club together to buy beans, a bar of chocolate, and a magazine. I read Elle Decoration, subscribe to Computer Arts magazine as I am obsessed with keeping my computer skills updated. Mr X Stitch blog is good.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
Tricky. If it’s down to one thing it may have to be a pencil, from then it’s my Apple Mac and Bernina sewing machine.
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
I apply for projects and opportunities quite often and see what comes up. I have become more pro-active in putting forward my own proposals so I can focus the direction and placement of my work.
Where can readers see your work this year?
Next showing at Cockpit Arts Deptford. Please come along. There are around 60 designer makers to see and it’s quite inspiring.
For details go to http://www.cockpitarts.com/shopping-events.
For more information about Naomi and her work go to NaomiRyder.co.uk.
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