Today, DHG is presenting Louise Saxton. An artist who focuses on making textile art, including large scale works, recycling textiles and above all needlework. While at times she has stitched the found needlework together using a vintage sewing machine. For the past nine years her work has been primarily constructed by pinning the extracted embroidery and lace to nylon tulle. However, what impressed me the most was not the process she uses, but rather the subjects she chooses and the incredible light that her works radiate. See for yourself: cages minutely covered in animals and birds, all incredibly vivid and inspired by Kipling’s Jungle Book. And flowers full of needlework, sequins, beads. Anything Louise Saxton creates is a glowing light which spreads energy all around. I’ll leave you to the interview!
You are always working on reconstruction. Indeed, you use discarded embroidery and then put them all together again to make a new piece. How did you develop this technique and why?
This painstaking technique and process of reconstructing old textiles, has developed over many years, following on from earlier work with discarded wall-papers. The patterned lining of every day business envelopes and even; reconstructing my own paintings and drawings. The progression to working solely with domestic textiles began about ten years ago, after an artist residency in Malaysia. I’ve been building on the techniques over that decade. The technique has developed to such a degree that I consider much of what I do “painting with textiles”. I also refer to it as assemblage, as it’s similar to collaging, but rather than using glue and paper, I assemble countless textile fragments upon a swathe of nylon tulle, using pins.
You are also a painter. Does this influence your work as a textile art? To what extent?
I was trained as a painter and print maker, using traditional materials, but have not done so for more than a decade now. But many pieces I have made using old textiles, entail a painterly technique, where I lay down an area of textiles and then overlay with different colours or tones. I do a lot of unpinning and re-pinning, just as a painter will put a layer of paint on and then scrape back and repaint. I am also influenced by the history of painting. Many of the images I am creating are re-interpretations of historical paintings – whether a ‘natural history’ painting of a bird or insect, or a portrait in oil or acrylic.
What is your source of inspiration?
For the past twenty years my main source of inspiration has been ‘the home’. The domestic realm and the domestic arts created in the home, such as embroidery, lace, quilting, etc. I am also inspired by nature, and taking walks through parklands near my home. And, most importantly, I am inspired by the generations of women who have created the exquisite embroidery and lace that I now use as my primary art medium. I am inspired by their patience and their commitment to creating something functional, which are also beautiful and take many hours of painstaking work to realize.
Which of your works do you feel the strongest connection with?
It’s not really possible to single out individual works for the strongest connection, as each different body of work is important to a particular time in one’s artistic journey. As artists we need to keep taking risks, trying new things, in order to evolve artistically. What I can say is the most important body of work to the development of my career, is The Sanctuary Collection, which was developed from 2010 – 2016. It is a collection of birds and insects inspired by natural history painting throughout the centuries. This body of work incorporates my first solo exhibition in a major contemporary art museum. It also led to my being represented by two prestigious commercial art galleries, one here in Melbourne Australia and one in Boston USA.
What is your perfect day like?
Uninterrupted, productive time in the studio following a long morning walk or a swim and a lovely cup of tea! While listening to my favourite pod-casts or music.
What are you most grateful for?
My studio and the ability to now be a full time artist – two years ago I gave up my “day job” and for the past nine years I have rented two rooms above a shop in my local village. It is the space in which, I feel completely myself and can forget about other responsibilities or the worries of the world. It is the space in which I gather all kinds of inspirational objects, as well as my art materials – embroidery and lace from all around the world.
A sound or a smell which immediately connect you with your work?
This is an unusual question, and so my answer will sound strange. Probably the smell of charity shops. I don’t know if you have these in Italy, but they are shops where people donate goods and especially clothing and the money raised is given to charity. That is where I find much of my discarded embroidery and lace. So, the smell of clothes and table linens once used and loved and worn by someone from the past, is the smell, which most connects to my work. The sound would have to be the sound of birds in gardens and in nature. Because much of the embroidery and lace I use has been inspired by the world of flora and fauna.
What do you think about the application of advanced technology to textile art?
In my work I am interested in the re-use of the old and discarded, rather than the consumption of new materials. I think that the textile art world, is always evolving and I know that new technologies are constantly being tried and applied. My work however, is mostly concerned with re-evaluating ancient technologies. This is technology as expressed through hand-made textiles. I use embroidery scissors to extract the needlework by hand. Then I attach it by hand to nylon tulle, using pins (also a very old technology). It is about honouring and preserving aspects of the past, albeit in a new way.
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Louise Saxton official website here.
Photos by Gavin Hansford