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Anne Kelly is a popular textile artist and tutor whose work is exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions, including private collections in the Vatican Collection in Rome and at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto. Her new book, Textile Nature, looks at the natural world as an incredible source of inspiration when beginning to think about textile art. Here, Anne shares with us a little more about her career and work. 

What’s your favourite aspect of working with other people on textile projects?
The best thing about working with other people, whether it be artists, curators or students, is the exchange of ideas. It’s always helpful to get feedback and new thoughts (positive and negative) about your work. It challenges you and makes you take the ‘next step’. It can also be a reflective moment where you can share your views and discuss you work, trying to see it from another point of view. I always learn something and really value these exchanges.

When you find a new piece of vintage fabric you like, what are the thought processes that go through your mind?
Whenever I find or am given a new piece of vintage fabric I get very excited! I love to think about its history, about the many hands that have touched it and what it has been used for. Old fabric often has a lovely patina, which is difficult to recreate with newer fabric. I particularly love finding old needlework samples, and these are often the basis of new pieces. I feel that I am living with these pieces, using them and passing them on to new owners – incredibly rewarding…

What other textile work – past and present – inspire you?
I’m afraid this could be a very long list! I’ll try to narrow it down a bit… I am very inspired by native, and folk textiles. Recently I visited the All Russian Museum of Folk and Decorative Art in Moscow. They have an amazing collection of Russian folk textiles, embroidered and printed, which I’ve been working with in a new series of work. I love the quilt collection at the American Museum in Bath – so inspiring and mainly all hand done. Two contemporary practitioners (amongst many) whose work I admire are Anna Torma and Tilleke Schwarz. Both in their unique way convey a quirky, eccentric and personal view of their surroundings and emotions. They are also fantastic hand stitchers. I like Caren Garfen’s subversive domestic textiles – they are funny and make you think.

What artists inspire you?
As I’m a fan of ‘outsider’ art, I really enjoyed seeing The Museum of Everything when it was in London – it is touring now. They had some wonderful pieces by Peter Blake – I love his collections of objects. Recently I saw a great exhibition by Jockum Nordström 
’All I Have Learned and Forgotten Again’ with fantastic drawings and constructions.  The Paul Klee exhibition currently at Tate Modern is inspiring and powerful. I like the scale of his work. Louise Bourgeois is an artist I admire for the fluency with which she crossed over from sculpture to textiles and the fact that she kept working until a ripe old age!

When teaching, what is the most difficult aspect of designing textile in your experience?
Teaching is about being able to communicate ideas effectively. I have been teaching for many years so I generally know what works and how to get ideas across, but I don’t like to take that for granted. It is important to keep up to date with current techniques and be ‘one step ahead’ (at least!) of your students. I find the most difficult part of the process is starting off – once the work is underway it usually goes very well. However, I always tell my students to be open to ‘happy accidents’ as often you can learn as much from them as you can from a successful piece. It is important to listen to your students and respond to their needs.

What is the best thing about teaching textiles to very young children?
I love teaching very young children, as they are incredibly receptive and enthusiastic. They have no inhibitions when it comes to using colour and will ‘dive right in’! They generally have a good attention span (quite underestimated) and can concentrate for quite a long period of time. They are also remarkably dexterous and enjoy stitching when shown how. I remember stitching over drawings of peoples’ faces with a very young group once and they produced some amazing work!

What did you learn working with a sculptor (Louise Giblin)?
It was great working with Louise. The exchange was refreshing as she has a totally different way of working from me, and it was good to observe at first hand. Her drawings are sketchy and as you would expect have a very three-dimensional effect to them. It was a challenge interpreting her work in cloth, and as she uses metallic finishes and materials, I tried to incorporate them into my work as well. We were both very pleased with the results, which were exhibited at the Mall Galleries in London.

Anne Kelly is the author of Textile Nature (Batsford, £22.50)



Frances Moffatt is an illustrator, specialising in fashion and beauty, whose work is characterised by dynamic line work, vibrant colour, and bold patterns. Her book, Fashion Exercise Book, is the latest must-have for any budding fashion designer, packed with exercises involving doodling, drawing, and colouring in among more. We caught up with Frances to find out more about her work.

How did you get into illustration?
I originally studied Fashion Marketing at Northumbria University, a course I chose because it covered a broad base of fashion related skills such as design, pattern cutting, construction, photography, styling, graphic design, illustration, branding and promotion. By my final year I realised that my passion lay with illustration, but upon graduation I was offered a job as Assistant Accessories Designer at Luella, which was too good an opportunity to turn down. I worked there for a year and it was a great experience, but I decided to move back home to the North East and return to education. I studied for an MA in Future Design at Teesside University, which enabled me to produce an illustration portfolio, and one of my pieces was selected for the Association of Illustrators IMAGES 35 annual in the ‘New Talent’ category. This gave my confidence in my work a real boost and I set up a website and began to send my work out to publishers, magazines and newspapers.

What pens/pencils do you use?
I always use a mechanical pencil, a Pentel or Pilot one in 0.5 or 0.3mm with an HB or 2H lead. For colour I use Letraset Tria markers. They are great because they have three nibs so you can have very fine or very chunky lines. For black lines I use Indian ink and a Joseph Gillott Reversible Mapping pen.

Do you have any tips for aspiring illustrators?
I would say its great to take inspiration from other illustrators, but avoid trying to copy another illustrator’s style. Remember that you have your own unique set of artistic skills, influences and interests, so focus on exploring these and your own natural illustration style will emerge. I experimented a lot with different media and subjects when I was a student, but I feel my work really started to come together when I began to focus on what I was really interested in – fashion, beauty and line drawings.

Your new book, Fashion Exercise Book, features ‘street style’ from different cities. Which city has the best style, would you say?
I’m biased, but it’s got to be London! I think people in London have the most playful and eclectic sense of style, and a more eccentric and bold approach to fashion. London style is definitely more edgy than cities like Paris and Milan, where the prevailing look is classic and sophisticated – which is lovely, but sometimes not so interesting to draw.

Do you have any style icons/favourite designers?
I think Alexa Chung always looks great, really cool and not like she’s tried too hard. Solange Knowles always looks brilliant too – my favourite look of hers is the afro hair with a printed suit or clashing co-ords. Not sure we’ll be seeing this for much longer though, as in a recent interview she said she had ‘print fatigue’!
Iris Apfel is another icon – she is a 92 year old retired textile designer/socialite from New York who has a fabulous over the top style and is always featured in the street style blogs. Her look is really eccentric , and it’s so inspirational to see someone paying no regard to what is conventionally regarded as ‘age appropriate’.

My favourite designers are probably Marc Jacobs, Miucca Prada (Prada and Miu Miu) and Consuelo Castiglioni (Marni). I love their use of colour, print and shape, and their collections are always interesting to illustrate.

Do you have a favourite place to work?
At my desk in my studio at home. It’s a lovely room at the front of the house that gets lots of sun, and I’ve got all my art materials, books and magazines there.

What inspires you when you’re working?
It depends on what mood I’m in, and what stage of a project I’m at. Sometimes I prefer to work in silence, but if I have music on it’s usually Radio 1 or 6 Music, or an album – current favourites include Arctic Monkeys AM, Lana Del Ray Born to Die and Smashing Pumpkins Rotten Apples. My drink of choice is tea, either decaf, peppermint or rooibos. I have a pin board above my desk on which I stick visuals that have inspired me like postcards, pages from magazines, fabric and nice bits of graphic design, like a stylish swing tag or business card. To keep it fresh I usually take everything down every couple of months and start again.

Frances Moffatt is the author of Fashion Exercise Book (Batsford, £9.99)


Kim Thittichai is the author of several leading titles on the art of textiles, including Reclaimed Textiles, which focuses on recycling materials and fabrics to create new, fabulous pieces. We asked Kim some questions about her work as a textile artist.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve incorporated into a textile project?
The lead flashing from around my chimney pot, rescued from the builders when they extended my house. It made the perfect frame for a rather special hand stitched piece I had stored away until I found ‘the’ frame. It was just perfect.

If you were on a desert island with only one type of material/fabric to use to make textiles, what would it be?
Hand dyed viscose satin. Once I had finished distressing and fraying it, I would of course need needles and hand dyed cotton and silk threads to stitch layer upon layer of the only stitch I use – Herringbone!

Where’s your favourite place to spend time making something?
In my studio at the bottom of my garden (when I can get into it, I need a good clear out).  It is very quiet, I can open the doors and let the breeze in and listen to the birds in the woods at the back of my house.  Alternatively, I can watch TV or listen to music if I want to dance about and just enjoy the making process. It is a very well equipped studio – I just wish I could spend more time in it – maybe this year?

Kim T 1

When teaching recently, what has been the biggest crowd pleaser?
Using newspaper or any old book or journal with painted Bondaweb instead of fabric. I have always been interested in the re use of materials but have taken it much more seriously during and since the writing of my fourth book Reclaimed Textiles. Students enjoy the redemptive quality of the papers and are fascinated at the beautiful layered effects that can be achieved.

Do you ever like to work on joint projects and if so what sort of joint projects?
The only joint project in recent times would be opening my home for the Brighton Open Houses which I do every December and in May from 2015. I invite a selection of artists who work in various media – ceramics, metal, wood as well as textiles.

I hope to be doing some team teaching with Val Holmes and Anne Kelly for the Jersey Textile Showcase in March 2016 and I am planning a joint exhibition with Hilary Beattie and Susan Chapman, again in 2016. Now I just need to find the time . . . . .

You’re known for your work with heat tools, what’s your favourite material to use with heat tools?
Bondaweb! It is so versatile. It can be painted and used decoratively; it can be foiled with heat transfer foils, used for appliqué. It can be ironed onto wood and sketch books covers as well as fabric and paper. In all my years of teaching and testing products Bondaweb is still my favourite – there is always something new to learn.

Where do you look for inspiration most regularly?
Nature! In all her forms – my training was in 3D – wood, metal, ceramics & plastics and I still love to work in 3D when I can – but using textile techniques. I love seed pods, the lines in the landscape, marks on pebbles… and chaos theory, along with fractals. To be able to find order within chaos is becoming my life’s work!

Are there textile artists of the past that really inspire you now?
Well Constance Howard would have to be at the top – her legacy informs most of what is being achieved in embroidery and textiles today. I remember her teaching a design workshop on my first diploma course in 1985. She was a patient teacher and very thorough.  Her books are still so very useful.  Enid Mason is another teacher whose book Embroidery Design has been very helpful in my own teaching.

Although the books by Constance Howard and Enid Mason were published in the late 1960s, they are still very relevant today.

Kim Thittichai is the author of Reclaimed Textiles (Batsford, £19.99)