Travel and textile art: Less is more

Travel and textile art: Less is more

Cas Holmes trained in fine arts and produces multimedia artworks in colour, paint and stitch. Her meticulous process of collage from salvaged remnants creates pieces without defined borders and reflect her interest in the urban and natural environment. As well as being an artist, Cas is a respected lecturer, workshop leader and regular contributor; past articles include Reflections on life, home and work, Finding inspiration for textile art and An exploration of collaboration. Travel is a major part of her professional practice and continuing to create work as she travels is fundamental to her process.

Extreme Stitching by Cas Holmes

In 1985 I took part in the 12th Biennale International De La Tapisserie Lausanne with a paper and stitch installation ‘Sofonisba Anguissola.’ (One of a series of three installations marking ‘forgotten ‘ women artists.) Each panel was 6 feet in diameter. This postcard close up and the catalogue are sadly all that remain.  I remember finishing some of the stitching to be attached to the piece whilst on the train travelling to Switzerland. The piece had gone ahead in the post! A recent graduate, this was my first international trip and on the return I collected cloth and found materials as a resource to work with back home.

Textile Biennial

Textile Biennial

Being a ‘pack rat’

I have always been a bit of a ‘pack rat’ and have learnt to carry the bare minimum as a working kit and exchange (and dispose) found objects, fragments of cloth and paper as they catch my eye. Limiting what you use in terms of what you may be able to physically carry can be a good creative tool.

As an artist Cas uses any materials to hand and even liberates skips of materials she may use – saving them from a landfill fate. If Cas had to choose one thing she couldn’t do without she would choose to have a stack of very sharp needles so she could sew anything she found around her and one of the brilliant pros about Cas’s type of art is that it is ‘portable art’ meaning she can take her art with her and add to it whenever she likes.

Liz White, Feature Article, 12th April ‘Inside’

Walk on beach, San Diego, Stitch and sketch kit and camera on my back

Walk on beach, San Diego, Stitch and sketch kit and camera on my back

Sewing Kit in a discarded airplane travel kit

Sewing Kit in a discarded airplane travel kit

My work kit for demonstrations

My work kit for demonstrations

Sketch of pots in San Diego and kit

Sketch of pots in San Diego and kit

My workshop guides always suggest people bring materials to fit a small bag (interpretations of what ‘small’ means often differ!).

One student who came to several classes in the USA made the following observation:

It (the class) helped me to open my eyes to the world around me and seeing that I don’t need to have a vast supply of items to create art work and to use what is at hand at that time. I had never sketched or journaled before and now I find my self taking just 5 minutes a day to sketch and journal about the world around me and using it is an integral part of my life and my art. I love to travel and now I have decided to gear down what I take with me and especially what I take to workshops. Cas travels with very minimalist items. She sheds what she does pack and gathers items in her environment which she uses in her artwork. I was also amazed and inspired that she takes 3 small pouches when she leaves her home 1. small sketch book with drawing pens 2) hand held watercolor set 3) small sewing bag with needles and threads. We live in a world which believes more is better like the latest medium or tool, but being around Cas I have come to realize less is actually better, because you appreciate it much more and it is more about the experience. 

Rene Chock

In addition, a small pocket sized camera!

USA workshops: ‘Images and Narratives in Textiles’

San Diego Book Arts 1: Samples the results of a short in exercise drawing, folding and stitching. The pieces create interesting shadows.

San Diego Book Arts 1: Samples the results of a short in exercise drawing, folding and stitching. The pieces create interesting shadows.

San Diego Book Arts 2: More folding exercises. The piece by Altheas Brimm at rear of picture demonstrates the drawing being followed as a line through the piece.

San Diego Book Arts 2: More folding exercises. The piece by Altheas Brimm at rear of picture demonstrates the drawing being followed as a line through the piece.

Textile work in progress by Rene Chock

Work in progress by Rene Chock


Jane LaFazio - Green Spring

Jane LaFazio – Green Spring

Gillian Moss - Cup

Gillian Moss – Cup

It was a joy to work in the USA  and I reported on the trip regularly and There are so many people I should list to thank here (but I would need a book!). But I would like to thank the four main organisors for sterling work in hosting,  South East Fiber Arts Alliance, the wonderful Lorie Garver who shared the Grand Canyon with me,  in partnership with Frenzy Stamper, San Diego Book Arts and my dear friend and colleague Jane Lafazio.

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Sketch

Grand Canyon Sketch

Making use of limited space at home or away

In the last few months access to stored materials in my small studio and workspace has became  more limited as it currently filled with boxes (as is much of the house). A new set of stairs are being built the loft space which will give better storage access and improved hanging space in my home. Good storage is as essential as good packing but this means I have been working on a very small table area.  New works for exhibitions including a guest appearance at the European Patchwork Meeting have been extracted from these limitations. I am delighted that this exhibition has been supported by and

Just outside my front door

I found a scrap of fabric with 40 yards printed on it on a footpath locally so used that as my starting point for the new work.The piece will use materials I collected whilst travelling, combined with changes I record from within my footfall/40 yards connecting me back to my home.  I aim to make a modular piece which may end up being 40 yards long…eventually.

Wisteria is reflection of this process.  The lace came from a recent workshop in Ireland  and the fabric from Atlanta, and some of the embroidery thread from my host in St Diego, all donated by students whilst teaching in the USA.  In Georgia, wisteria is seen to grow everywhere; by the side of roadsides in much the same way as we have buddleia by railway tracks in the UK, and is regarded more as a ‘pest’ than as desirable. I have missed the first blooming of the same plant in my garden for the last couple of years but was delighted to see it on my return this year (where it is still regarded as a desirable garden plant).

Wisteria in Atlanta

Wisteria in Atlanta

Wisteria in my garden

Wisteria in my garden, UK

Sketch of Wisteria

Sketch of Wisteria

Wisteria in textiles Detail

Wisteria (detail)

I am currently working on a project with the Garden Museum and Age UK Bromley and Greenwich  where we will use handkerchiefs as a base as a means to create works in response to gardening in World War One.

Poppy Postcard in support of Plantlife, Cas Holmes.

Poppy Postcard in support of Plantlife

I am continuing with my ongoing project Tea Flora Tales to raise awareness of the need to  preserve plants and related wildife habitats.  This project is now going global and will be shown as it progresses in Germany, at the European Patchwork Meeting  and later next year in Australia. More details of how to get involved with this is at the end of the article.

Tea Flora Tales - contributions from students in San Diego

Tea Flora Tales – contributions from students in San Diego

I attribute this approach to working to my desire to create wherever I am, with a nodding reflection to my Romany grandmother who would have been well versed in using what she had, and having limited storage and workspace. Working ‘on the move’ can be extreme, but ‘extreme stitching’ allows for greater interplay between your work and the world around you.

For information and my current exhibitions and workshops please follow the links from my website

Tea Flora Tales:

Tea-Flora Tales’ started life as a ‘daisy chain’ installation at the Knitting and Stitching Show in 2012  to raise awareness of the need to preserve of our wildflowers and related habitats. You can contribute and tell your own flora ‘tale’ in stitch and/or paint. Email or message me on facebook for the address to send these pieces. See for more information about their work.

Cas Holmes – Upcoming events

Cas Holmes - Red Barge Sails 40x40cm

Cas Holmes – Red Barge Sails 40x40cm

Common Place

Where: Quiltstar, Sophie Maechler, Viktoriahaus in der Basler Str. 61, 79100 Freiburg.Germany
When: July 10 -September 10

Cas Holmes - 40yds Lace-Bird

Cas Holmes – 40yds Lace-Bird


Where: 20th European Patchwork Meeting, Initiatives Evenements, 5, rue Kroeber Imlin F – 68160 Sainte Marie-aux-Mines
When: 18-21 September 2014.

If you’ve enjoyed this article we’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below.

Wednesday 01st, April 2020 / 01:55

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

8 comments on “Travel and textile art: Less is more”

  1. Emma says:

    Great article, I love stitching on the go & using what I can find, there’s always something. Delighted too to have been part of tea Flora Tales at the K&S show, the most peaceful 10 minutes of that day!

  2. cas holmes says:

    Thankyou for featuring this article. Always providing challenging interviews on this site. The airplane sewing kit is also accompanied by a mini zip back kindly given to me my friend and collaborator
    Anne Kelly

  3. Lesley Thomas says:

    Looking forward v much to cas’s workshop – she s so inspiring to listen to!

  4. Carol Naylor says:

    super article as always, lovely, lovely drawings

  5. Great ideas to complete my own traveling/visiting ‘kit’. Thank you !

  6. cas holmes says:

    Thankyou for your kind comments. My next book will cover this aspect of working.x

  7. Irene Burton says:

    I saw a piece of your work in Norwich cathedral and found it very inspirational

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hello and welcome to is a place for textile artists and art enthusiasts to be inspired, learn from the best, promote their work and communicate with like-minded creatives.

From the bookshelf

What the artists say

" is an invaluable resource. I am constantly sending students there and sharing it with other practitioners".

Nigel Cheney
Lecturer in Embroidered Textiles at NCAD

"The beauty of is that whenever you visit you'll discover something that you didn't already know".

Rachel Parker
Textile Study Group Graduate of the year 2012

" gives contemporary textile practice a voice; leading artists, useful guides and a forum for textiles".

Cas Holmes
Textile Artist and teacher

"This website is exactly what we need in the textiles world. A fantastic inspirational resource".

Carol Naylor
Textile and Embroidery Artist

  Get updates from via RSS or Email

Most Viewed