‘Reflections, life, home and work’ by Cas Holmes

‘Reflections, life, home and work’ by Cas Holmes

Cas Holmes has a degree in Fine Arts and has travelled widely as a means of developing her work as a textile artist. Specifically, she has visited Japan for two periods of long-term study, researched art based organisations (using re-cycled and found materials) in Canada, and most recently spent time studying and working in India and Australia.

Her work is strongly influenced by the juxtaposition of the natural and built worlds, and she is constantly developing techniques based around drawing and the use of colour. Found materials are layered in her work to reflect the rituals of making, and the passing of time to create pieces of partly recycled textile art.

A truly inspirational and innovative artist, we are delighted that Cas has shared some of her experience and expertise with us.

Cas Holmes – Corn Field

Reflections, life, home and work by Cas Holmes

Issues close to my heart, the threat to wildlife and wildflowers from urbanisation continue to find their way into my work. Many of the materials used in my pieces for my recent exhibition Urban-Nature, at the Knitting and Stitching Show were donated and came out of the informal collaborations with the people I met on a day-to-day basis. Family, students and friends give me old textiles, tablecloths, handkerchiefs and curtains to work with and also send images of plants and wildlife from their locality which may be of interest.


Communication is a constant part of my practice and a stitched collaborative piece, Tea-Flora-Tales, composed of small pieces of textiles, paper and teabags is the on-going legacy of this interaction with others. In her earlier interview with me, Moira Vincentelli clearly states this aspect of linking life, community and work which has become a large and lasting part of my practice:

The cat jumps up on to the table and pads his way across the piece of work laid before me. Cas Holmes smiles affectionately as she lifts him off. The moment is symbolic – for Cas Holmes, life and art are inextricably linked.

The small terraced house on an inter-war council estate seems an unlikely place for an artist to live – a far cry from the stereotype of the old barn or the spacious studio. Cas Holmes’ studio – what would have been the main bedroom – looks out over the street and it doesn’t have net curtains. Life can enter in. The house is part of a larger social structure and this artist wants to be part of that. She grew up in Norfolk, trained at Maidstone College of Art, and has worked as a community artist and teacher for over fifteen years. As such her role has been to give a lead allowing others to find a voice through the creative process. She may suggest materials to use or themes to tackle, but it is the individuals and the group who create the work.

Cas Holmes – Along Peddars Way

Along Peddars Way, Size: 135x85cm

During her years as a community artist, however, she has continued to produce her own personal work which has been exhibited at a national and even international level. She has gained recognition as one of the most inventive artists using paper and textile as a medium. Being a practising artist and a community artist is a kind of double life but she suggests, ‘they are closely interwoven’. The low-tech systems she employs in her personal art practice are flexible enough to be used by people of all levels of skill and ability. It is one of the reasons why her work is accessible to a wide audience.

Moira Vincentelli (From Reflections catalogue 1999)

Cas Holmes – Tea Flower Tales

Tea Flower Tales


The need to re-use does not stop with exhibitions and workshops. My home is largely furnished with op-shop finds, artwork and objects with found materials and furnishings found in a skip or items given to me. My partner Derek is a sculptor and a builder and pretty much makes anything we need and brings to the work an artist’s eye.

Our house is small so every space is used. Shelves above doors store books, cupboards are squeezed into small spaces and hide all kinds of materials and equipment. An old oak folding table in my workroom studio lifts to the wall when I need a bigger floor space (or have guests), when down, it reveals a handy space for dyes and paints. Canvas is placed on hooks to act as moveable surfaces for pinning work as it progresses.

During the early stages of my career, I worked mostly with paper and stitch and used papers made at a local paper mill specialising in hand-made papers, Barcham Green. Unfortunately, the mill is no longer in production, but thanks to the generosity of the owners, a pergola in my garden is supported by the ceramic lined pipes that carried the water to the mill.

This approach to using even the smallest scraps to make in the creation of my textile pieces transfers to the furnishings and cushions and even to my workshops. I keep cloth bags of fabrics for swaps in workshops and always seem to come back with new finds.

Everything made or built for our home carries its own story, something you do not usually get with things mass produced.

Our home is one not ruled by conspicuous consumption but rather one whose emphasis is on creating as small as environmental footprint as is possible. We do of course, buy new things but like to feel our art, home and work life reflects our creativity yet still echoes our environmental choices.

Cas Holmes – Studio & Home

Studio & home


My current work, Urban/Nature, shown at the Festival of Quilts and the Knitting and Stitching show. Looks at the relationship with domestic interiors and outside spaces. I use translucent layers, connecting paint, mark and print with the found surfaces of fabrics and papers I seek the ‘hidden edges’ of our landscape, the verges of our roadsides, railway cuttings and field edges, the places where our gardens meet the outside spaces. I describe the process of sewing and making marks in these pieces as ‘stitch sketching’ as a seek to capture the atmosphere of a place or moment or thing before it is gone. I prefer to exhibit my work unframed, without borders, revealing the raw edges and feel of the textile. This best suits my mode of expression with the materials.

Cas Holmes – Wayside Grasses

Wayside Grasses

We are surrounded by things that are carelessly disposed of and overlooked, such as paper and other things we can gather at our footsteps. I don’t drive. When you walk, cycle, and use public transportation, you aren’t isolated. You make direct contact with the physical world. You have to dress appropriately for the weather! I live in an urban environment next to a park. It gives me a broad range of materials and references to work with both for my own projects and in projects with others. Clothing, plant materials, printed paper, I use whatever I find or am given. I love old fabrics. They’ve been washed so many times the fibres become very receptive to dyes and marks. I like to ‘destroy’ and remake things. My favourite found tool has to be a basic Bernina sewing machine I recovered from a skip. It responds to my movements as a draw with stitch. If I ever lost it, it would be very hard to replace.

Cas Holmes

Cas Holmes – Urban Nature Tulip

Urban Nature Tulip

You can get involved in supporting the wild flowers by visiting plantlife.org.uk

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Wednesday 29th, May 2024 / 18:09

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 Pitcher



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31 comments on “‘Reflections, life, home and work’ by Cas Holmes”

  1. meta says:

    I enjoyed this interview with Cas, having met her just once this summer, I feel that I’ve got to know her a little better. I love how she collaborates with other people in making some of the artwork.

  2. cas holmes says:

    Thank you for putting the article together Sam all best Cas

  3. Lauree Brown says:

    From this article I think that you are a woman after my own heart. I hope to meet you in Hobart next year & looking forward to participating in one of your workshops. You’ll love Tasmania I am sure. I also enjoy your blog. Happy Christmas.

  4. Cas Holmes says:

    Hello Lauree

    I am sure looking forward to getting to Hobart see you soon

  5. Tricia Cook says:

    Hi Cas,
    Great to see how you work and your home and studio. If I had my way my home would also reflect my personal ideals. alas I haven’t the capabilities of doing what you do. However I have often recycled and still do. Only this summer the landlord reinsulated my house externally removing all the airey concrete slabs. I asked what would happen to the slabs and I asked for some as they would be scrapped. I felt it important to have a reminder of the house as it used to be. So I have an unusual shaped raised herb bed in the garden and the others will be placed as stepping stones. When my gardener gets around to it.
    It was so interesting to look around your house having lived opposite you many years ago I know just how small the houses are. You do so well to fit it all in.
    I only wish I had a builder with an artist’s eye for a husband as you do.
    I have spent all afternoon wandering around the various links I obtained from the bookmark in your book. I re-read the book and realised I only got up to the part just before the Magpie. So I am glad that I finished reading it. There is so much you cover in those few chapters. It is mind blowing. It brings back all my art school training much of which I have passed by for quite a few years. I am still looking for the sketchbook challenge I expect I will come across it. Thanks for your help and encouragment you have a wonderful site here. Really great stuff. Best wishes for 2013 Tricia.

  6. cas holmes says:

    Hello Tricia

    It is so nice to hear from an old neighbour…I am overwhelmed. The link to sketchbook is pasted below. It is on side bar on my blog under ‘links to my stuff otherwise.. This includes video of an animated crow and an video interview.

    Keep well and enjoy your unique planted garden and slabs



    • Tricia says:

      Hi again Cas, for some reason I didn’t get your reply but I found it purely by accident. Thanks.
      I have since recently bought the sketchbook challenge book. Great Inspiration. I am afraid I am a bit of a textile/art book collector. So I just had to have a copy of it.
      Thank again Tricia

  7. Lee Abraham says:

    Hi Cas

    Just wanted to say thank you for your inspiring Workshop at West Dean this February just gone. I had never worked with textiles in that way and as you know found it a struggle. However I feel very ‘fired up’ by your approach and am beginning to think of ways to incorporate the process into 3D work. ie bags, boxes etc that would be resilient enough for purpose.

    Whilst in your workshop you mentioned the Tea-Flora Tales and I came across the information sheet that you gave us in class. Hopefully it is not too late to be included but I don’t know where to send it!!! Can you help.

    Hope this finds you well.


    • cas holmes says:

      Hello Lee

      Thank you so much for your kind comments. Sorry to take time to get back to you. Tea Flora Tales is ongoing until its final showing in September 2014 at the European Patchwork Meeting where i will be guest artist. If you email me at cas@casholmestextiles.co.uk I will send you my address.

      all best


  8. Carol Naylor says:

    another super article Cas, and so important for new readers to understand the need for first hand experience

  9. Cas holmes says:

    Urban Nature is on at the Beaney Museum Canterbury from 30th November. See casholmestextiles.co.uk for links.

  10. Marian Roberts says:

    Hello Cas
    I so enjoyed your article, love the descriptions of your work and home. Very inspiring encourages me to continue exploring working with found and collected stuff, with print and stitch. Would love to do one of your courses, I live in Norwich do you ever do anything around this area.

  11. Dhanak says:

    i am currently doing art textiles AS level, I am studying you as an artist for it
    I was curious to know if you use fabrics in your mixed media pieces and how do layer the materials so that each layer shows through?
    Your work is very inspirational and you use some very interesting tecniques

    • Cas Holmes says:

      Hello Dhanuk

      I am sorry I did not pick this up earlier. I hope your AS level went well and you found the information you needed. My publications contain the reserch material you need. Look at casholmestextiles.co.uk for links. All best

      Cas Holmes

  12. randi winters says:

    Thanks so much for this article and all the articles on textile.org–it is so wonderful to be able to read more about my favorite artists like Cas Holmes and also to find out about new ones–fantastic resource! Thanks so much

  13. randi winters says:

    I really enjoyed this article about Cas Holmes and the connections she creates between her art, community and home. I love how she uses her environment for inspiration and incorporates elements from her world in her art. I have enjoyed her books and I find her work very inspiring!

  14. Cas Holmes says:

    Thankyou Randi for your kind comments

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