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We caught up with artist Deborah Andrews to find out more about the latest Gallery @ Half Moon exhibition, A Stitch in Time – Reflections from Childhood (until 8 July 2015), a delightful collection of intricate machine embroidered works, etchings and digital prints made from observational drawings.
During our chat we fun out find out more about the exhibition, inspiration and how becoming a mother has changed her work.
Tell us a little about your exhibition, A Stitch in Time – Reflections from Childhood, what can we expect?
This show is a compilation of machine embroideries and digital prints. Some titles are duplicated in order to show visitors my working practice as an illustrator. These start as initial sketches, which then become embroidered drawings and then turn into finished illustrations for print. Other pieces are one-off embroideries and etchings as finished works in themselves.
Your work uses a mix of processes and materials. What do you like about this variety and where did the original idea come from to mix them all together?
I’ve been using embroidery in my work for a long time, which one of my tutors hated when I was at college! She implied using stitch and textiles wasn’t ‘proper’ illustration, but I carried on using it anyway.
To be honest, I’ve always loved experimenting with ways to create layers and textures and have never been able to settle on just one medium. Musicians develop and experiment with different sounds and methods while maintaining their artistic identity, and I guess, as an artist, I’ve always felt that’s how I feel – why choose only one and be bound to that choice for my whole career?
“Since becoming a mother, I am reminded of myself at each age and milestone in my child’s life, which stirs a sense of nostalgia in me but also a sadness of times gone by”
Tell us about your love of vintage fabric – are you forever delving into retro clothes shops?
I’ve been sewing and making stuff since I was 13, so I’ve fabric scraps leftover from the late 80s onwards that I’ve just never thrown away. My studio is full of fabric that I’ve somehow acquired, or been gifted, over the years from quilting friends of my mum, or bought from unassuming little shops and community centre sales on my travels.
What’s more important – your Mac or your 1964 Bernina sewing machine?!
Ooh, that’s a tricky one! As far as creativity goes, I tend to get completely absorbed in a piece when I’m drawing with a needle and thread, and often lose track of time. Using the computer uses a different sort of concentration; I love the way an image can be manipulated and coloured, but have to guard against agonising over tiny details! Could I do without either on an everyday basis? No.
You often use a figure of a child in your work. Why is this?
Since becoming a mother, I am reminded of myself at each age and milestone in my child’s life, which stirs a sense of nostalgia in me but also a sadness of times gone by – which now seem otherworldly – and people I love who are long gone. Capturing these moments feels like revisiting the past and preserving it.
Some of the pieces featuring children with food are from a series of illustrations I did for The Guardian newspaper, recounting old family recipes.
How would you describe your style?
Observational drawing is usually at the heart of it. Having said that, when I’m doing live drawing for my installation The Machine of Visual Delights, it’s a much more spontaneous approach, relying on memory and imagination.
What artists have influenced your work?
Many artists and illustrators have informed my style really. The drawings of John Virtue, Hockney, John Burningham, Shirley Hughes and Brian Wildsmith, are a few that come to mind. I am also heavily influenced by the music I listen to.
And finally, if you could make a stich in time and revisit any moment from your childhood, where would you go?
Any place or time would do. It’s the people I was with; that would be the thing that counts.
A Stitch in Time – Reflections from Childhood, by Deborah Andrews, runs until 8 July 2015 during the theatre opening hours: Monday – Friday 10am – 6pm and Saturdays 10am – 4pm (theatre show days only).