Conversations with the Makers

An array of questions to fibre/textile artists and their answers.

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Conversation with Anne Kelly, UK

Anne Kelly is a UK based textile artist, tutor and author. She trained as a fine artist and became involved in art textiles through her teaching. She makes densely embroidered and layered collages in cloth, using the natural world and her local environment as inspiration. She has work in private and public collections in the UK and abroad and curates exhibitions and events for conservation charities and health trusts. She is co-author of 'Connected Cloth' published in 2013 and is working on a new book 'Textile Nature' due out in 2016.

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Conversation with the Maker(CWTM) Did you always envision a life as an artist?

Anne Kelly(AK)I was always interested in looking and making. At school I had inspirational teachers who helped me discover that I could make a life as an artist.

CWTM What was your first experience with making art?

AK My mother was a primary school teacher and always encouraged my sister and I to create things. We had a basement room in our house that became a studio, workshop and playroom from the age of four.

CWTM Do you have a dedicated studio?

AK I have the 'Shed Studio' in my garden, where I work, exhibit and teach. I also have an office in my house for photography and computer based work. I always carry work materials with me when traveling.

CWTM Can you describe a typical day?

AK I don't really have a 'typical' day. I like to breakfast and chat early with my husband - I will then either start to work in my studio or go for a swim (the only sport I'm any good at!). If I'm teaching I will get ready for the session, gathering equipment etc. Afternoons vary depending on whether I'm making or tutoring. I am fortunate to be able to balance my working time with visits to young and older relatives and friends. I have to stitch or draw every day or I really miss it!

CWTM Would you consider your art making to be more about the process than the outcome?

AK Process and outcome have to be considered equally. Thought and reflection help to unite these two parts and give my work depth and meaning.

CWTM Do you agree that a small element of uncertainty about the finished look is what makes the process of creating so enticing?

AK Definitely - I always advise my students to look for 'happy accidents'!

CWTM Any indispensable tools or equipment?

AK I always carry a needle and thread, small sketchbook and fine line pen or pencil

CWTM Do your pieces start with a planned course of action or are they more spontaneous?

AK My fine art training means that I keep sketchbooks for working out ideas, but I am often inspired by a fragment of fabric to create a piece around that. I love the look and feel of vintage textiles and gain huge inspiration from them.

CWTM How do you know when to “stop” – when do you consider a piece actually finished?

AK It's good to step back from your work periodically - I often have more than one piece on the go at any time. After a break it is easier to see what needs to be done.

CWTM Your greatest source of inspiration is....

AK Nature - impossible to improve upon!

CWTM Favourite quote?

AK Louise Bourgeois 'Art is a guaranty of sanity'

CWTM When do you do your best creative thinking?

AK When I'm rested and not rushing around!

CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

AK The pleasure that it gives other people - especially when they fall in love with a particular piece.

CWTM Best advice your’ve ever received?

AK Believe in yourself

CWTM Worst advice your’ve ever received?

AK I suppose I've been fortunate and not really had any - most of my family and colleagues have been incredibly supportive

CWTM Best part of your day?

AK Waking up to the sound of the cluster of sparrows who live in the tree outside my bedroom window

CWTM Who would be 6 people that you would invite to dinner?

AK This is impossible to answer ! I love to cook and entertain for my family and I love getting together informally with other creative friends. Firstly it would have to be my children and their partners - they are great company and we laugh a lot. I'd also love to gather my family and friends from abroad to meet up more often - I miss seeing them!

CWTM What inspires your creativity?

AK As William Morris said 'Love and work only'

CWTM What are you excited about right now in the world of textile art?

AK So much to be excited by - I loved being a part of the World of Threads Festival in Canada in November 2014 - so many inspirational artists and pieces. There are some amazing practitioners young and more experienced everywhere - I've really enjoyed working with some of them on my forthcoming book.

CWTM You’d be lost without...

AK My family and friends

CWTM What would you do with a few extra hours each day?

AK Make more and sleep more!


WTM Your favourite luxury in life?

AK Traveling with my husband - he is a writer and academic and we are very lucky to be able to sometimes explore the world together...

CWTM Has the advancement of computers and technology impacted your work?

AK I can truthfully say I and many other textile artists would not have such a successful career if it weren't for the internet! It's wonderful for sending images and information, keeping in touch and finding out what is happening. By contrast, I think it has made us more aware of the importance of human contact and the value of the handmade.

CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

AK I love it when a piece is going really well and I am in the middle of it covered in threads!

CWTM Is it important for us to be recognized by the art world and if so, how can we help affect that change?

AK Yes I think we are! Artists like Richard Tuttle have shown the art world how unique textiles can be. The gap is narrowing and the public are more accepting and curious about textile art as a medium. I have used a variety of supports for my work like wood and canvas which makes it more accessible.

CWTM What is next for you?

AK I am very excited about writing my book for Batsford 'Textile Nature", due out it 2016. I have some wonderful exhibitions lined up for this year starting with 'Walk on the Wildside' at the Harbour Gallery, Jersey in March/April 2015 and I am really looking forward to visiting Australia in the not too distant future!