A piece of my own

Posted by Agnes Iley , Monday, July 23, 2012 8:33 AM



Posted by Agnes Iley 8:32 AM

In my student profile form I wrote: I've been thinking about taking a course in Textiles for such a long time. But which one? I am not an embroiderer, I am not a quilter, I just work with textiles. So I have been tossing and turning between the various courses on offer and finally decided to sign up for OCA. I am hoping that this course will focus on the design element of textiles, without being limited to one specific technique or genre.

I had to dig deep to find this little note back and didn’t have a clue what I wrote at the time. But reading it back all I can think is “wow, did I pick the right course”, it offered everything I asked for and more. The funny thing is that the “everything I asked for” is what I felt comfortable with. The “more” was what made me feel downright uncomfortable at times and was what really pushed me and probably taught me the most. I had never worked with sketch books before the whole design process was just in my head. I may have jotted down a little note as to not forget something, but that was it! On top of this I am absolutely not a drawer, that talent has definitely surpassed me, so that side of things made me feel very uncomfortable at times. And I still need to develop and utilize this much more than I do know.

Another thing that took me right out of my comfort zone was strangely enough writing about and talking about the pieces I made. This was something that took me by surprise. For my day job I write a lot, give presentations and address large groups of people. So how did those things suddenly made me feel uncomfortable? It took me a little while but then I realized one is work and the other one is personal. I never had to explain any of my artwork before, never felt the need and frankly didn’t want to. I knew what I felt making it and what it meant to me and I didn’t particularly care what anyone else made of it. That had to change. So in the beginning I struggled writing about my inspirations, the design process and especially with the questions that started with “how do you feel”. But I think I made major strides in that field. The course has influenced my work in many ways. It has given me a much wider vocabulary to choose from. I don’t just look at my fabrics and threads anymore, it’s given me a broader outlook and many more options to solve any questions that might pop up.

It has also given me the confidence to speak about my work, so much so that when asked to give a presentation at a Fiber Conference in the United States about my soft sculptures I said yes. That’s a long way removed from the person who had difficulty to write down a few notes. And I guess it was a success, because they offered me a teaching contract for next year’s conference!

This course has drawn out of me what was already there and broadened my horizons, which I am absolutely grateful for. Which leaves me to thank my mentor Liz Smith, her very encouraging comments, nudged me in the right direction and despite never having met face to face she seemed to know exactly what I needed!

What have you achieved?

Posted by Agnes Iley 8:30 AM

Can you see a clear line of progression from source material through to the finished piece? Was there enough information in your source material to stimulate your imagination and sustain your enthusiasm?

Yes I do think I see a line of progression from my inspiration picture to my finished piece. I kept revering to my picture for guidance in colour choices and to keep the “feel” of the picture. There was more than enough information to keep my imagination going, although I must admit that it doesn’t take much to get my imagination going. But I had absolutely loved this picture for a long time, so it was great to finally unleash that and work with it.

Do you feel you made the right choices and decisions when selecting at each stage of the project? If not what would you change and how would you alter the outcome?

Above I describe the choices I have made at every step and I am happy with the outcome. On one hand she turned out to be quite a striking soft sculpt, but on the other hand she got quite a serene feel over her. Just like a Weeping Willow. I don’t think I would change her.

Are there more ideas you would like to pursue that have come out of this project? Are they similar in feeling to the direction you took, or different? Note them down for future use.

I have no immediate plans to start another project based on this picture. But that’s just because working on a sculpt like this is very time consuming. When finished it is nice to get a little distance from the subject you’ve been working on so intensely for quite a long time and think about some fresh new ideas. But in the back of my head there is a wise old willow, wrinkly and a little crooked…. And of course this picture isn’t going anywhere, so I am sure it will creep up in the future in some other textile art forms. At the moment I am still brimming with ideas from the weaving challenge, great inspiration for a tapestry!

Which stage did you find the most exciting? Which stage was most arduous and difficult to get through?

There are so many different stages to get through on a sculpt like this, but in this case I was most excited when I was sewing on the cords and realized the whole thing came together just as I hoped. That was the moment that my human figure became a tree. I didn’t have any really difficult moments. Difficult moments to me are moments that I want to pick the whole thing up and bin it! So no true melt downs. But there were two tasks that can get a little tedious. One is the needle felting. Needle felting the whole body shape is labour intensive and can get a little tedious. But when the figures starts to take shape, all is forgotten. The one thing that got absolutely mind-numbing on this sculpt was making the cords. It was a long and tedious job and the wires where putting a lot of pressure on my hands (trying to keep them going straight and not being hit by the machine’s needle), so it took me a lot of time and I had to take regular breaks. But I loved the result, so I would absolutely do it again! (Just not tomorrow)

Do you like the finished textile? Can you say what it’s strengths and weaknesses are?

I do like the finished piece. What I like most is that it’s a striking figure, but still has a quiet, serene feel about it, just like a tree.  What I would have liked to have done better is some of the finishing. I took this piece with me to the United States for a show (Creations in Fiber in Albuquerque) and she wasn’t quite finished when I left. So I ended up doing some final work in various hotel rooms during our trip and in some places it’s not quite perfect. However she did win Perfect Score, Judges Choice and Best in Show. So maybe she’s not all that bad.


Posted by Agnes Iley 8:29 AM

Now my base was done it was time to make some decisions on tree-i-fying my Willow. imageWhilst making the cords I had been thinking about this. I thought about making hundreds of tiny willow leaves that would hang of individual threads. I was thinking about making the leaves out of light see-trough voile and stitch the outer shape and spines. I even considered digitizing this as an embroidery pattern, so I didn’t have to stitch every tiny leave by hand. But looking at my figure I questioned if it would be too much, too literal and would make the whole figure feel too heavy just by the sheer volume of leaves. So I did a little test run with some leaves cut from paper. And yes it was too much! In the end I decided I needed to keep it simple and instead of branches full off leaves, my sweeping branches are represented by some of the same threads that I used to create the bark. I did threat the threads with a matt polymer varnish to stop them from tangling or knotting.


Posted by Agnes Iley 8:28 AM

So now I had a human looking soft sculpt and had to decide how to morph her into a tree. I considered several options. One was to take fabric and pleat, tuck and manipulate it to look like bark. I did a little trial piece. Now to prove that I learned something during the course… Normally I would spend three days on this little trial, sewing all the little tucks and pleats. But now I covered the back of the fabric in glue and started manipulating it. I really liked the effect and when sewing it I could create knots and all the other features of real bark.


But looking at my inspiration picture I questioned if I could get the depth of colour and richness I was after. I got more and more drawn into my thread colour matching sample. I love that soft sheen of the thread and that would give me the richness I wanted, but how to layer those colours to create the depth and texture? Then it hit me, cords! Zigzagging over cords with the different colours of thread would give me the depth of colour and richness I was after and the cords itself would create a texture that resembles bark if laid next to each other. And since I really wanted the shape to be sharp and keep the strong lines of my sculpt I decided to incorporate a wire in each cord.


When I looked at Monet’s Weeping Willow I felt the tree was a little deeper and sharper in colour at the bottom and a little lighter and hazier towards the top. So each cord got covered in 7 different colours of thread and the stitch width varied as I went up the cord and with each layer, this to create some tonal difference between the top and bottom of the tree. I’ve got to tell you that I ended up cursing this process. Before I had enough cords to create my tree I had covered 35 yards of wire and cord and had used well over 8000 yards of thread! In the end I still was a tiny bit short and having run out of supplies I ended up my piece of demo cord from my scrapbook. To finish my shape, I have sewn the cords with invisible thread (the fishing line type for strength) to my human figure. I didn’t want to just go straight up and down. So I tried to create knots in the bark and really make the tree look like it was swaying in the wind.

I was very pleased how the individual legs came together in the trunk, they still look like separate legs, but at the same time it looks like a tree trunk that has a split down the middle. I felt that I needed a little skin peeking through the bark on one leg. Otherwise it was too solid and too much of a separation…. Feet in skin colour, head in skin colour and a solid tree trunk. The little gaps of skin on the leg break it up a little and give the whole figure a better “flow” for me.

The head

Posted by Agnes Iley 8:26 AM

I really had to think about the head. Usually I go for quite strong facial features. I love my sculptures to show character and emotion.


When I was thinking of my Weeping Willow I wasn’t so sure. I was thinking about walking by yourself through woods in dusk. When you see faces in the trees, do you see a face because of those pronounced cheekbones and strong jawlines or do you just see half an eye, a bit of a nose and a mouth? I thought if I made the face to pronounced it would stand out too much. I wouldn’t fit with the overall tree and serene tree feeling that I was looking for. So when I sculpted the face from pre-felt (I start by needle felting a basic skull shape and build on the face from there with little offcuts of wool that get needle felted onto the skull) I kept the features quite flat.  Besides the wire frame, the only non-textile I use in my sculpts are the glass eyes. I am sorry about this and I have looked for alternatives over the years, but there is nothing that beats beautifully made glass eyes. They are held in place with very thin wires covered in pantyhose, this makes for an immediate eye-lid. After the eyes are in place the whole face gets skinned in the same way as the body, separate layers and each layer gets sculpted with needle and thread.


Posted by Agnes Iley 8:23 AM

The next decision I had to make was skin colour. The skin consists of 2 or 3 layers of pantyhose. Usually I use the various colours of the layers to try and create a realistic skin tone. But here I had to take a different approach. Did I want the skin to morph with the tree as well? Or did I want the skin to stand out and concentrate the morphing on the shape? I decided to do a few samples.


I didn’t want the human form to disappear completely into the tree. But I didn’t want to lively a skin tone either, I thought that would stick out too much and detract from the morphed figure I wanted to create. So after my first samples, I went back to the drawing board and tried to match a more “still” colour, something resembling bleached out bark, almost like driftwood.


So for my next samples I started with a base layer of lilac. The thicker pantyhose I use for a base layer only comes in white, but luckily it dyes very easily. The lilac made sure that any radiance I usually try to achieve was dulled down, over this came a layer of thinner pantyhose one in a light flesh tone, the other in an almost putty-like colour. I decided on the last sample for my Willow.image

The skin gets sown on by hand. I use invisible thread and tiny quilting needles. Each layer gets sewn separately. In between the layers I enhance the features with needle sculpting. With needle and thread I go over the figure and pick out the parts that need to stand out a little more, for example the knees, buttocks, stomach, breasts and collarbone. After the skin layers are sewn and sculpted the basic figure is done.

The human form

Posted by Agnes Iley 8:21 AM

imageOnce I had decided what form my piece would be. I could start working on my base figure. The human shape would be my base, the tree would be “build” around it later. Because I really wanted the tree and human to become one, I decided on a full body sculpt. In a strange way I wanted the legs to show through the tree trunk, but it still had to feel like a tree trunk. How? That was for later. For now I decided to focus on making my basic figure.

When I make my (human) soft sculptures I always start by making a wire frame. I make my frame against a print out of a skeleton, so I know I’ve got the proportions right. The frame gets then wrapped in strips off pre-felt. Pre-felt is a lightlyimage needle felted wool, that just holds it’s shape enough to cut strips from. Whilst wrapping I check for proportions again, but this time against a muscle chart.  After I wrapped the whole frame I start needle felting the wool. This is quite a labour intensive process, I keep sculpting the wool with felting needles until I reach the body shape I want.

(I must admit that the pictures shown here are not of my “Weeping Willow” sculpture. I forgot to take pictures whilst I was working on her. The pictures shown here are of another sculpt I did, but I thought they would explain the process much better than I could ever put into words.)

Where to start?

Posted by Agnes Iley 8:19 AM

imageJust because I had decided on my theme, didn’t make this picture less intimidating. So where to start? Going over my past coursework I decided to break it down in simple steps. I started with a colour analyzing exercise. With threads I tried to match the colours in the picture. Which was very helpful it didn’t only give me a palette, it also broke down the picture into something tangible. I am not sure if I am making sense here but the abstract and subjective feel of the picture, turned into reality and became objective. The next step was to decide what kind of soft sculpture I wanted to make. I should say here that I love Weeping Willows. The draping branches that gently rustle in the wind or get swept into frenzy by an autumn storm. But also the mythical properties of a Weeping Willow. Just the name alone is enough inspiration for some wonderful stories. With all this in my mind I decided to make a figure where the human form would morph with the tree.

Assignment 6 – Design project

Posted by Agnes Iley 8:17 AM


When I thought about my design project when I started my theme book I knew what my inspiration would be. I collect pictures, on my computer I have a big folder of pictures, some I have taken myself, some are collected from the internet, some are postcards from museums, but all captured my eye at some point. In this folder there is also this picture:


Weeping Willow VII – Claude Monet

This picture I saved a long time ago and every time I looked at it I thought “I need to do something with that”. But I never knew what. I love the picture, but it always felt a little intimidating, difficult to grasp, to break down and turn into a useful source of inspiration. So I thought it would be a good test for me to see what I had learned during the course and how I could use the techniques when I ventured out on my own. Another thing I wanted to show for my final assignment is another side of my work, soft sculpture. I think my love for textural and 3 dimensional pieces must have shone through here and there in my work so far. But I thought maybe it was time to really push the boat out.

What have you achieved?

Posted by Agnes Iley 8:15 AM

Did you have enough variety in your collection of yarns and other materials?

I do believe I have, at least enough to give me a good idea what the different textures do.

Which kind of yarns did you use most?

I mostly used thin wool and a wool/linen mix (Venne), because more than creating texture through the material used I wanted to see what I could achieve by using varying techniques.

How do their characteristics affect the look and feel of each sample.

The thinness of the wool allowed me work very precise the feel changed with the weaving technique. When woven loosely it looks and feels soft and fluffy, but when tightly woven it looks solid and feels quite rough.

How did you find weaving in comparison to the other techniques you have tried? Did you find it to slow or too limiting?

I must admit that probably about 15 years ago I tried weaving on a 4 shaft table loom. I made some fabric but found the process very repetitive and rather boring. Weaving on the tapestry loom, although in theory far more limited, I found much more exciting. Weaving with the thin wool is obviously a very slow process (hence the half vase), but it never got boring. I enjoyed myself. In comparison to the other techniques I will always go back to sewing and soft sculpture, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a tapestry or two in my future…

How did you feel about the finished sample? Are you happy with the relationship of textures, proportions and colour and pattern to the finished size? Is there any part you would change? If so why would you change it.

I feel I finished quite a few samples, but don’t feel like I have got a “resolved” sample. Every piece I finished gave me the idea of “next time I must do this, or change that, or has given me more ideas to experiment. So I am quite happy with my samples as experiments, but there is not a finished, faultless piece there.  I purposely chose very thin wool to work in, to try and see how detailed I could work. I also didn’t go for textured yarns, because it was too obvious to me what they would do. I really wanted to try and create pattern and texture by trying various techniques. Which has been fun, I learned a lot and it has been very time consuming.  On one hand I am annoyed because I feel I should have finished this lesson with an amazing piece, on the other hand this has given me a new outlook on weaving. I like the process of tapestry weaving. Even if you have worked out your design on paper, you are still making design decisions, quite literally, on every turn. That keeps it engaging and interesting, even if the process is slow. I’ve got a lot more to learn about this. And that feeling made it difficult for me to decide when to stop. There are more experiments that are bugging me to be made. (For example, what would happen if you set up a double warp? Weaving the warp partially as one and partially single, I think interesting textures could be created that way.) But then I figured tapestry weaving is probably the most “alien” technique to me out of all the assignments (despite having woven before) and it takes more practice to get it perfect. As far as the proportions of the last sample with regards to colour and pattern I do think it works quite well. The pattern reminds of a grey autumn day in Holland, when you see the reeds sway in the wind.

Developing design ideas into weaving

Posted by Agnes Iley 8:14 AM

Don’t run…..

My first attempt at developing my design ideas was a good reminder of the old saying “don’t run before you can walk”, but seeing as it taught me a lot I figured I need to own up…

imageUsually I hate having pictures taken, but my husband was playing with a new app on his phone and came up with this picture of me that reminded me of some block prints by Edvard Munch I had recently seen. So I wondered if I could turn it into a tapestry. So I printed the picture, attached it to the loom and started weaving. All went reasonably well I thought. And I spent a long time wimageeaving the picture. Did I think that varying weaving direction would create bias fabric that would pucker? Of course not, And as long as the piece was under tension the problem wasn’t visible. But when I took it of the loom, disaster! I considered wetting the tapestry and blocking it with an iron. But then I thought that nothing would shrink that much!

However, I really want to try and utilize this puckering effect in the future. I like the texture it creates and surrounded by solid straight weave I can see it making a very interesting tapestry.  Either in an abstract tapestry, where it would create texture or in a “picture tapestry” as a rolling sea with embroidered foam on the peaks.

imageThis piece had one other redeeming feature there was one corner that I liked and this was the base for my “Developing design ideas into weaving” – mark II.

Mark II

So I needed to rethink. One small corner of my “disaster” weave did appeal to me. But did I really want to weave another flat solid piece? Not really, so I wondered if I could weave a shape, sew it and turn it into a dimensional shape. So I decided on a (partial) vase. I drew the design inspired by the little corner of the previous work and started weaving.

Now this one had it’s challenges as well, especially were the design ran from one shape into the next. But I did learn from my previous mistakes and there was no imagepuckering this time! This little vase is woven with the thinnest wool I have ever seen, 2-ply Venne wool in 3 shades of grey. I doubled up on the wool mixing the colours. When I finished weaving and started to sew in the darts that would give it it’s shape, I had another “duh”-moment. I realized I could have just pulled the warp threads and that there wouldn’t have been any need for the darts! I lined the little vase with some fabric and pelmet Vilene. I made the handle by plaiting 8 double threads around some wire and backing this with a cord made of the same yarn.

Tapestry weaving

Posted by Agnes Iley 8:09 AM


After doing the previous exercises I was ready to start weaving with yarn. I was really curious what textures could be created, this time not through the use of strange or unusual materials but by varying the weft. In the run up to this exercise I got incredibly lucky, I found a large Glimakra tapestry loom on the internet, including a bag full of bobbins and a book and it only cost me about 20 pounds! Setting up a warp without instructions was an interesting experience!

In my first sample I wanted to see how I could utilize the slits that appear when doing straight colour changes to create a more 3 dimensional piece. So I twisted the thin purple rectangles before weaving the wider part at the top of them. I think this creates nice dimensional effect.


This made me think a little more about colour changes, all weaving I have ever done or seen tells you to go up and down in the same colour so that you end up with your colour on the right side of the work. But what if I changed colour at every turn? I do like the subtlety of the arrow in this sample, I reversed colours halfway through which obviously didn’t affect the arrow, but did change the background.


Looking at the backside of my previous sample, gave me another idea for texture. Changing colour at every turn made long threads at the back of the arrow. (Of course this could have been eliminated by using two more weft threads, but I didn’t think it would be a problem on a small sample like this.) So I did another sample with the same technique, but did one stripe by changing colour at every turn and did the next one in mirror image, still changing the colour at every turn, but with the backside to the front. It wasn’t easy to coordinate my hands and brain for this one! But I think this could give a really nice texture to a piece.


For my final sample I wanted to try and create a more “open” weave. I did this by twisting the warp thread in between the weft.


I did run into a problem here, I clearly couldn’t keep the tension right and the piece started to pull in a lot. Some research taught me that when using an open weave technique like this, suspenders are used to keep the work at the right width. But I do like the effect and I guess the whole reason to make samples is to learn about these things….

What have you achieved?

Posted by Agnes Iley 8:06 AM

Did you enjoy inventing constructed surfaces? Where you surprised at the results? Can you see a connection between your choice of materials and the type of structures you made; for example regular, irregular, small or large scale? Which samples worked best and why?

I did enjoy constructing surfaces. The first paper samples I didn’t really inspire me. But when I did the sample with the butterfly I started to enjoy myself. That was when saw how this could translate to my textile work. The samples I like the most are the bike tire and the grid made with fabric strips and cords. The bike tire I like because of the unusual combination of materials that are opposites but complement each other well. The grid although being, glued together, not as sharp as I would like and very colourful for my taste, triggered my imagination the most with regards of future uses for this technique.

How successful where you in matching all the colours in your postcard? With paints? With yarns/other materials?

I think (or thought) at first I was quite successful at matching the colours from the picture, until I printed the picture a couple of days later. But in general I don’t think it’s difficult to match colours with paints. Sometimes I may end up with a lot of paint, because I keep mixing and adding colours. But in the end the match is there. With threads it’s a little more difficult, because I simply can’t run out to the shop for every colour. Unfortunately most sewing supply and yarn shops have shut their doors over here, so I sometimes have to make do with what I got. But I think I can get a long way, by mixing the colours I’ve got and sometimes just by going by the “feel” off a piece instead of the exact match. But this obviously depends on the project.

Experimenting with structures

Posted by Agnes Iley 8:02 AM

Working with paper and especially glue is never the most insimagepiring thing to me. So I started by cutting strips of paper and wove them in the most traditional way, interlacing them. So I made a solid rectangle, hardly revolutionary and this solid block of paper just didn’t do it for me. Maybe I needed to cut it again? Create a more open shape?

So I ended up with this, still not revolutionary, but a lot better than my starting point.

I found 2 fancy sheets of paper in my stash that had the same pattern, but in different colours. So what would happen if I cut them as duplicates, but with one paper rotated?


(Can you tell this was the point I started to have fun?)

I really liked the result of this and I can see this effect in some way will come back in my textile work in the future.

Now it was time to ditch the glue!

imageI cut some strips of paper and warped a kid’s loom with chenille thread. Then I wove alternately with eyelash yarn and the paper strips. After taking the structure of the loom, there was a clear difference in tension, because of the variation in materials. And as I was playing around with it a bell shape was formed. (Well it’s Christmas after all).

For my next exercise I wanted to use some different materials. Now I must tell imageyou my husband is an avid cyclist and goes through an incredible amount of inner tubes. At some point I told him not to throw the old tubes away, but keep them for me. So I figured this was a good time to start using one of them. So I cut the tire open and made length way slits.

I really wanted to offset this hard, industrial looking material against something soft and delicate. So I got some fantasy yarn from my stash and a bit of vintage lace.

I also wanted to create a focal point, so experimented with making a narrow rubber tube that is covered with more fantasy yarn. I actually like this piece and I can see how with a bit of work this could make a great belt. If I was making a wearable piece I would stabilize the rubber first by bonding it to a canvas-type fabric and instead of tucking the edges under I would probably sew them in place.

For my last exercise something a little more colourful…


This is a grid made with some cords, a little fabric and some fabric wrapped skewers (for stabilization). This little sample is mostly glued together of little bits and bobs I had laying about and some cords I made. I know it doesn’t look like much, but I had fun playing. And it gave me a few ideas for future samples. I do like the open and airy feel. And it made me think about the rather traditional quilt where you get a number of pictorial blocks set in a framework of borders. I think it would be interesting to try and create blocks but set them in an open framework of cords and fabric strips.

Analyzing colour

Posted by Agnes Iley 7:57 AM

I do enjoy these colour analyzing exercises. It’s something that would never have sprung to mind if I hadn’t done this course. And doesn’t only makes you think about the colours and the proportion of the colours in a picture. But it also forces you to look more in-depth into the image you are working with. I like that it gives me a little more time to reflect then I would usually take. In this case I worked with an image of Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait. Despite getting every bit of yarn and thread out that was lurking in my stash for the next exercise. I decided to go with embroidery threads. Firstly I’ve got those in more colours and tones and secondly I wanted to concentrate on proportion which, I figured, would be easier if I worked with consistent materials.


The question how to determine proportion did pop up, of course the proportion of colour is very different when you look from side to side then from when you look top to bottom. So I decided to go by “the feel” off the picture. ( I realize this is very subjective.)

I did learn one major lesson…

I worked on the image from my computer screen. Our printer had given up the ghost and we were waiting for the replacement printer. Colours on a screen are different then printed colours! So in my sketchbook the colours look just a little off, while they matched perfectly when I was working on it. Very annoying, but I decided not to manipulate the picture and take it as lesson learned!

Understanding the textile world

Posted by Agnes Iley 7:55 AM

The question of textile art, design or craft seems to be cause for constant lively discussions. When is something art? Is it the eye of the beholder that decides or the heart of the creator? I guess for the longest time it was the eye of the beholder after all, that eye decided what we could see in museums and galleries. But with the new media everyone can show their work in one way or another.

To me the difference is imagination. I can be totally in awe of the impeccable skills of a craftsperson, but what makes it art to me is the originality of the design and the innovative way those skills are used. Of course there is a fine line (or a big gray area) between the two. The first example that springs to mind is my favorite designer, the late Alexander McQueen. I own a pair of pants by him, they are beautifully cut and impeccably finished a perfect example of a great design, but art they are not. But when I look at his famous bird dress, not the most wearable thing in the world, I feel like I am looking at an amazing artwork. So is he a designer or an artist? To me he is both, not everything he made was art and not everything he made was design and I think a lot of artists cross that line quite regularly. The fabulous art quilter that starts to sell patterns, becomes a designer, but also remains to be an artist.

It’s always a fun subject for discussion, but at the same time I don’t particularly care about the outcome. To me art is both in the eye of the beholder and in the heart of the artist. And when those two meet that’s when the experience is magical.

I had a long think about which artist to pick, there are so many artist that are inspiring for so many different reasons. But I then I thought I wouldn’t go for the obvious.

Susan Shie


Susan Shie is an art quilter, but not in the traditional sense. Her pieces are paintings on cotton, covered in writing with airpen and then quilted. She calls her work “soft paintings”. Her pieces range from pastel in colour to very colourful and bright. Her smaller wall-hangings are painted with a paintbrush, for the larger pieces she uses an airbrush. Her images are quite na├»ve in style, but this is counteracted by the written thoughts. Her quilts are very far removed from anything I do and compared to my work very bright and cheerful. But the thing I really admire about Susan’s work is the loose and free way that she works. Where I plan and am meticulous about transferring designs. She draws freehand, paints in a very freely, overlapping colours, letting colours flow and finishes her piece with freehand writing. The writing doesn’t just show us her thoughts, it also gives the piece movement and shading. I know we all got our own way of working, but I would love to be able to work this freely once. Her work also reminds me that I really need to use my sketchbook more!

The second artist I choose is the absolutely opposite of Susan Shie and her obsession with detail scares the living daylights even out of me!

Lisa Lichtenfels

Lisa Lichtenfels is very famous in the art doll world and her work has exhibited in museums all over the world. Her soft sculptures are incredibly life-like. So much so that legend has it that a person who saw Lisa put one of her child figures in the boot of her car called the police and reported a kidnapping in progress. The sculptures vary in size, from 25 inches to life size. Lisa sculptures start with a wire skeleton that is incredibly precise, all the main bones in the human body are recreated, next she adds muscles by accurately recreating them in batting. Over this a layer of body-fat (also batting). And finally several layers of pantyhose to create the skin. Her precision and eye for detail are absolutely amazing. She has also been a great influence on my soft-sculptures. When I started to create 3-dimensional figures from textile, I started like most people with a pattern and I was working in cotton. But I got increasingly frustrated. I couldn’t create the emotions I wanted. I realized I had to use a different and stretchy material and could no longer work with patterns. Lisa’s sculptures where the first ones that proved to me that it could be done and although I chose a different way of creating “flesh and bones”, there is so much I have learned from her work. And I can only hope that one day my work will be as amazing as hers!