During my time at Grays School of Art in Aberdeen, I studied fine art printmaking. My work focused mainly on etching and collage and was largely figurative. I have always adored the work of Nancy Spero whose work around depictions of the ancient feminine led me to the writings of Luce Irigaray and the relationship between visual imagery and written description.
Post Grays, I studied at Chelsea College of art and explored the notion of ‘automatic writing’ and creating my own visual dictionary. I moved into fabric because I felt that paper had such limitations in terms of creating objects from my prints. I wanted to imprint my personal dictionary onto fabric and then to create garments with my inscriptions. Hence I moved with my print processes into fabric which became a far more comfortable home for me. Following Chelsea, I did a fellowship at Cheltenham during which time I further moved into fabric and various print and dye processes.
Upon my return to London, I worked as a technician at London Print Studio where I created editions for clients and assisted with public access. This experience was invaluable, however my preferred materials and techniques now lay with fabric printing. On a wing and a prayer, I moved back to Glasgow and found that although open access paper based print workshops were easy to find in every city, there were no such facilities for textiles based print access. With a friend, I set up a fabric based print workshop and for the next ten years, we did a huge variety of different projects and textiles based products, working with artists and designers from around the world.
I have always had a love of the Scottish Highlands and after many years in Glasgow, in 2008, I made the move. In Glasgow, I had moved away from making my own work in favour of a large product line and of various collaborative projects. I knew that I needed to go back and myself as an artist; I needed to address my drive to return to making my own work.
I started to look at creating symmetrical imagery of myself which I used to echo organs in the human body. From here, I moved into turning these shapes created using my body into embroideries. This use of embroidery as a medium was strangely not a hugely conscious decision. It was what I had to hand and it returned me right to my very early roots as a child sitting with my grandmother who would teach me all kinds of embroidery stitches. She had been a compulsive embroiderer and now I understand her ways and her need to sew.
Walking in the many forests and estates which surround this tiny village near Beauly, I gather all kinds of foliage and am constantly inspired by the colours, the textures and the seasonal changes. I have never more acutely felt such a sense of place and this of course has impacted on my work. The embroideries often incorporate my botanical print work using gathered foliage and a contact steam process sometimes known as ecoprinting. I like the almost fossilized effect that my leaves create on the fabric and the different colours that can be derived from the different types of leaf. The process is wonderfully addictive and I can use this process knowing that it is not harmful to my beautiful environment. I use either reclaimed or sustainably sourced fabrics for my embroidery collages.
I have found my voice again with my work; perhaps even more so than ever. I work with landscape and I like to merge my foliage into my landscapes almost like a pin board of what can be found in which spot. My collages sometimes work purely with the foliage to create gridded panels as a storyboard of gatherings of plants and textures to map the steps of my walks. Without conscious effort, my pieces often reflect the seasons because my gatherings are directly from my walks transferred into my work. The colours change; available foliage changes.
My most current work has become so much about my experience of this place. The immersion in the land; my everyday walks deep into forests and countryside is deeply cathartic. This place has become the lifeblood to my work.
This is an embroidery made by my grandmother. I often watched her sitting working on her embroideries hour upon hour. Those stitches bring me right back to her.