My earliest exploration into textiles was on a City and Guilds embroidery course. Here we investigated hand embroidery and design development.
As my interest in textiles grew I decided to pursue a degree. I attended UCE Birmingham as a mature student studying Fashion and Textiles. During this time I specialised in machine embroidery also experimenting in print, weave and fashion design. During my degree I worked for VV Rouleaux, the ribbon and trimming specialist. Other employment has included theatre and television costume. I have always had a great interest in historical costume and it continues to influence my work today.
More recently I completed an MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art. I have written stories since childhood and thoroughly enjoyed this course and hope to work in this area in the future.
Alongside textiles I enjoy printmaking, particularly lino and collagraph and I do see their influence in my textile illustrations.
I first began working with wool fibre during a short course at Bicton College, Devon. Since then I have been hooked by this beautiful material using it in a variety of ways including Nuno felting to create illustrative textiles. I like to include machine embroidery details with the wool as it provides an interesting surface contrast.
Today my work is a combination of felt, silk and machine embroidery. It is a record of all I have gathered along the way and all the things I love. I hope it successfully shows my passion for storytelling, colour and pattern.
I begin work by researching a chosen theme which is usually narrative. For this project I have produced an illustration loosely based on Edward Lear’s limerick There Was an Old Man With a Beard. At the same time I research and record inspirational combinations of colour, texture and pattern.
I employ a combination of wet and needle felting and hand and machine embroidery. I like to use British wool which I dye myself. I solid dye or space dye the fibres. This is a very satisfying if unpredictable process producing exciting colour mixes.
To make a basic wet felt the dyed wool tops are torn into tufts and laid down with all the fibres lying in the same direction. Then a second layer of fibre is added at 90 degrees to the first and so on for as many layers as are needed to make the desired thickness of felt. This ‘pad’ of fibre is then wetted with warm soapy water and rubbed, causing the wool to felt. It is also ‘fulled’ by rolling the felt around a firm tube. This further firms up the wool. This is the time to decide how far to felt the wool depending on the finish required.
In addition to this, I also use Nuno felting. This process allows fine silk fabrics – in my case old scarves – to adhere to the wool fibres, providing me with interesting patterns and surfaces.
Click on any image below to open gallery. These images are copyright Amanda Graham.