This month, we caught up with hand embroiderer extraordinaire, arts facilitator and maker behind Copperlight Studio, Isabel Greenlade.
It was a pleasure chatting to Isabel about how she began to work with embroidery, her process and inspiration, as well as how she's carried on making and connecting with the creative community during lockdown!
Grab your cuppa and let's get into it...
How did you first get into embroidery?
I grew up with a very creative mum (she studied at London College of Fashion) who always encouraged me to make things, but only began focusing on hand embroidery when I studied Textiles Design at university.
I started experimenting with hand embroidery and basically never stopped!
Can you tell us how your first project went?
My first big embroidery-focused project was at uni where I built a collection of hand embroidery on plastic (shower curtains to be precise!). As my degree had quite a broad Textiles focus, I never studied embroidery specifically - I'm more self taught.
I think this is evident in my style as I work in quite a fluid and spontaneous way, not following patterns or stitch types and really just experimenting with using thread and stitch as if it was paint on a canvas.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Anywhere and everywhere, I am constantly taking pictures and writing notes about things I see that go on to inform my art.
I spent 5 years working in the fashion industry as a Product Developer and was lucky enough to travel to factories and mills around the world, where I learned from some amazing makers!
I now run textiles sessions for adults with learning disabilities and I am inspired daily by the artists I work with, and their free and experimental approach to embroidery.
What do you love most about the process?
I love the fact you can keep adding and building on embroidered art, layer by layer- I love to mix thread work with beading to create texture.
I think embroidery is quite unique as a medium, as it allows real freedom from the artist to add colour and form without constrictions or pressure to get it perfect first time - if it doesn’t look right, you can always unpick!
What would be your best advice for those starting out?
As I mentioned before, I really love the ability to create art with thread without worrying about the technique or ‘correct way’ to embroider. I think sometimes people can be scared off from using embroidery, as they're too concerned with being neat or learning techniques.
For anyone looking to start experimenting with embroidery, I would say all you need is a needle and thread and something to stitch on - and you’re good to go!
If you're stuck with making the first stitches, use a pen to draw out a doodle on your fabric, then just follow the lines with thread and go from there!
What’s next for you, any upcoming projects you’re working on?
Everything is a little on hold at the moment exhibition wise… but I am working on a series of hand embroidered ’Stitch Bursts’ as well as a larger installation piece, which is definitely keeping me busy in lock down!
Instagram has been great during this time, to keep connected with other makers and get my work out there whilst being stuck at home!
Thanks so much Isabel, we loved hearing your story!
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