Having originally studied fashion design and winning a coveted award upon graduating from Epsom School of Art, which saw her collection become the finale of a Red or Dead show at London Fashion week, Jo Smith more recently turned her attention to embroidery and textile art. We were intrigued by her captivating work at the Knitting and Stitching show and wanted to know more about the inspiration behind her darkly humorous style.
The tactile nature of materials
What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Jo Smith: The endless possibilities and the total lack of boundaries, for me, make textile art so incredibly exciting. The tactile nature of materials and the ability within textiles to work almost seamlessly with so many differing media and disciplines never cease to be inspiring.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
My mother used to make clothes for us as children on an old Singer machine that had been converted from treadle to electric; I thought it was a thing of beauty. I loved the sound it made and the smell of it, but mostly I loved how you could take something flat and make it 3-dimensional, like breathing new life into it. I guess this is where it all started and over the years the love of cloth, stitch and anticipation has just grown.
Sarah Davidson: Textiles and illustration
Sarah Davidson has a background in illustration, which plays a prevalent role in the creation of her distinctive style of textile art. Her work fuses modernism and nostalgia to great effect. Having graduated with First Class Honours from Cleveland College of Art and Design, Sarah has formed the brand Linear Outline, under which she develops collections of work.
Q:What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
A by Sarah Davidson : My mediums are made up of the relationship between textiles and illustration, I heavily use the techniques of hand embroidery, stitch weaving and mono print within my work. Within my current collection, I am working with the technique of collage alongside my signature techniques.
What was your route to becoming an artist? (Formal training or another pathway?)
Sarah Davidson: I studied BTEC Design Crafts at Cleveland College of Art and Design, Middlesbrough, there I was able to have the freedom to play and explore with so many new materials, whilst been encouraged to work within a very mixed media style. I worked with paper, textiles, jewellery and ceramics, and any other found objects which we could get our hands on. I always wanted to steer myself away from the typical style within the class, which consisted of using maps, coffee stained pages and chunky black fineliners, I pushed my way of working and developed a style of my own.
I then went onto education at degree level at the Cleveland College Of Art and Design Hartlepool campus, and completed a three year BA HONS Applied Arts course which eventually led me to graduate with First Class Honours. Despite working in the areas of jewellery, ceramics and textiles, my love and passion always belonged to textiles and illustration, and that’s where the combination of the two began within my FMP project.
“Embroidery has a tradition of suppressing the female,” observes Welsh artist Eleri Mills, before countering, “but I’ve always found it extremely liberating.” Mills’ unconventional approach to stitch is all the more surprising when you see the artist’s diminutive stature. The scale of recent experimental work literally towers above her. “I choose to stitch standing up,” she explains. “I’m always walking when I’m stitching. I work with very, very long threads, which allow me to walk back to see what’s happening and look at the work in progress. It has to have the right composition, the right balance and rhythm and I can only assess these things at a distance. If I were to stitch in a static, traditional way that wouldn’t be possible to do.”
Landscape, in particular the rolling beauty of Montgomeryshire where Mills has spent much of her life, is the initial visual emphasis of her work. But the more you look, and listen to her speak about the inspiration behind her art, the more it becomes apparent that this connection to landscape is not the literal kind. She refers to “layered landscapes” that are “about revealing things and listening to the landscape. They’re about the poetry of a place.” Even her distinctive colour palette is described as a desire to capture a “vivid sense of place – quite emotional” rather than factual. Mills attributes colour inspiration to the Welsh painter J.D. Innes who, working a century before her, captured the Welsh landscapes of Arenig Fawr, Meirionnydd, near Trawsfynydd in what she describes as “almost psychedelic colours”.
Mills’ combination of stitch and paint has been a mainstay of her practice from the outset. “While I was in college I started combining hand stitching with painting and that’s a process that I’ve been developing ever since. But as well as doing hand-stitched work I’ve always drawn. It is the need to draw which has always fuelled my work, whether it is in pencil, charcoal or stitch.” Drawing appears in a range of guises, from the thinking-through drawing of the sketch to the marks of printmaking she was prompted to first explore when embarking on a part-time postgraduate course at Aberystwyth University several years ago. Her study of printmaking introduced the slippery plastic surface of acetate to her visual vocabulary and has prompted a new phase of experimental work. “I ink up the acetate and then scrape or wipe off the ink to reveal the imagery. I’ve found a very new sense of freedom in this work – it is an adventurous time for me.”
Mary Katrantzou, The Queen of Print, born in Greece, trained at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and at Central Saint Martins in London, has a three-dimensional way with prints. She has taken oversize jewels, home interiors and undersea creatures and wrapped them around the body as if they were sculptures. The effect is hyper-realistic patterns mapped to female curves.
" The Print can change the shape of women's body "
Atelier Manferdini is based in Venice, CA. The firm has completed art and architectural projects in the US, Europe and Asia. Notable among the firm’s projects are the Pavilion for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Bianca, a three stories boat in Japan, and a series of interior design renovations in Los Angeles.
Elena Manferdini, principal and owner of Atelier Manferdini, has over fifteen years of professional experience in architecture, art, design, and education. She is a licensed engineer in Italy, and a licensed architect in Switzerland. She received a Professional Engineering Degree from the University of Civil Engineering (Bologna, Italy) and a Master of Architecture and Urban Design from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).
Elena currently teaches at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and is the coordinator of their Graduate Thesis program. She is also currently Howard Friedman Visiting Professor of Practice at the University of California Berkeley (UCB). She has also held Visiting Professor positions at Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania and Seika University.
She frequently lectures, and her work has been exhibited internationally in both architecture and art museums.
Elena Manferdini was recently awarded the 2013 COLA Fellowship given by City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs to support the production of original artwork. In 2013 she received a Graham Award for architecture, the 2013 ACADIA Innovative Research Award of Excellence, and she was selected as recipient for the Educator of the Year presidential award given by the AIA Los Angeles. In 2011 she was one of the recipients of the prestigious annual grants from the United States Artists (USA) in the category of architecture and design.