Sunday 21 April 2019

In the studio with Liz Brooke Ward

Ahead of her residency at Nature In Art, SoGlos goes in the studio with contemporary stitched textile artist, Liz Brooke Ward, to talk about traditional patchwork, lichens and ink jet printers.

Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your creative process.

My name is Liz Brooke Ward. I was brought up in North Yorkshire, but now live in Stroud.

I consider myself to be a contemporary stitched textile artist, with my work being informed by the natural world and landscape.

Although my techniques have their roots in the traditions of embroidery and patchwork, I also incorporate the use of digital technology into my design and making.

And while my portfolio includes pieces based on lichens and stone, there are also those inspired by literature, memory and mood.

It all looks fantastic. What training did you do to master your art form?

I studied drama and design at college, but took a series of City and Guilds courses in quilting and embroidery fifteen years ago. I have been creating pieces of textile work ever since.

In that time, what have you found to be your favourite media to work with?

My favourite media is fabric and stitch. I love cloth for its tactile quality; the ability to manipulate it with stitch, and colour it with dye, paint and print.

What made you decide to incorporate the use of digital technology into your work?

I was interested in getting print onto my own fabric. I hadn’t learnt to screen print, but I had the rudimentary Photoshop skills and an ink jet printer.

In the early 90s, a liquid called Bubble Jet Set was developed, which could be used on cotton or silk cloth, and printed on using a home ink jet printer – with the handle remaining soft, unlike transfer techniques.

Not only is the texture of the cloth very important to me, but this was something I could then do with equipment that I already had at home.

Who or what were your main influences starting out?

Caryl Bryer Fallert, an American quilter, and Sue Benner, who was using cloth in a painterly way to create designs that were often influenced by the natural world.

I was also interested in lichens – the texture and shape of which could only really be seen under a microscope – and I designed a large wall hanging based on graphic lichen shapes.

Wow, sounds impressive. Is this your most memorable piece to date?

A piece I made to exhibit at Forge Mill Museum in Redditch would probably be my most memorable. I had visited India for the first time, and came home to find a book of poetry compiled during World War Two.

In it were two poems my father had written. He had died many years previously, but I finally understood his love for the country. I also found a photograph of him sitting in front of the Taj Mahal in 1947. I made a piece about my visit and included his poem.

Increasingly the pieces I make are about memories – it must be my age!

Describe a typical day in your working life.

No day is typical! Sometimes I get up before dawn and watch the light spread across the valley – especially if I have an idea that I am trying to resolve.

I try to spend at least five or six hours a day in my shed, which has a view across the Painswick Valley on one side. My little dog joins me and I listen to Radio 4 as I work. I just stop to make supper, do chores and mess about in the garden. How lucky am I!

Congratulations on being an artist in residence at Nature In Art this June. How are feeling going into it and what can visitors expect to see from you?

I really enjoy my time at Nature in Art. I love meeting people and very much appreciate the dialogue and conversation with the visitors. The location is stunning and the staff wonderfully supportive and friendly.

I will be finishing a piece of work that I am making for the Ledbury Poetry Festival, inspired by W.B Yeats’ poem ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’. I also hope to do some Procion cold water dyeing and some rust dyeing in preparation for some more lichen pieces.

I will also be displaying some of my hangings and demonstrating drawing with my sewing machine.

Sounds exciting! Have you exhibited anywhere notable outside of Gloucestershire?

The Forge Mill Museum in Redditch; the Weaver’s Gallery in Ledbury; The Guild Gallery in Bristol; and I have also exhibited with Nature in Art at Art in Action in Oxford.

What’s your favourite gallery in Gloucestershire?

Nature In Art, of course! They have such a varied programme of exhibitions and artists.

What’s the last or best exhibition you went to?

The last exhibitions I visited were in conjunction with Stroud International Textiles, where I was taking part in the Textile Trail.

Newark Park had a wonderful location-based exhibition with various artists, and I particularly liked Alice Fox’s exhibition in Stroud. So much so that I bought a piece of her work.

I also really enjoyed the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern earlier this year, and I look forward to seeing the Matisse.

Any Gloucestershire-based artists that you’d recommend to our readers?

I would recommend that readers interested in arts, crafts and textiles look at the Stroud International Textiles programme, and explore the Stroud International Textiles Select Trail in Nailsworth.

Do you have any words of wisdom for up-and-coming artists?

A friend, Roger Jones, once told me to just make what I love and I would add to that, ‘Just do it!’

Where can our readers see your work in Gloucestershire over the next month or two?

I will be an Artist in Residence at Nature In Art from Tuesday 24 to Sunday 29 June 2014.

I will also be displaying stitched landscapes in an exhibition inspired by the Slad Valley, to commemorate Laurie Lee’s centenary of his birth, at Holy Trinity Church Slad, from Saturday 21 to Sunday 29 June 2014.

And I will have an appliqué hanging called ‘Cloths of Heaven’ at The Weaver’s Gallery from Tuesday 1 to Sunday 13 July 2014.

Is there anything else in the pipeline over the next year?

I am giving a talk in King’s Stanley Village Hall on Friday 10 October 2014, and exhibiting in the Oak Hall from Tuesday 21 to Sunday 26 October 2014.

In 2015 I will be taking part in the SIT Trail Open Studios again, and I hope to open my very own posh shed for visitors.

Finally, what’s your number one ambition – if you haven’t already achieved it?

I just want to continue to do what I do now, and continue to be excited and inspired by what I see around me. Having said that, I do have a fantasy about taking off around Britain in a camper van with my dog and a sewing machine… a hand one, of course!

For more information call Liz Brooke Ward on (01453) 751305, email or visit directly.

By Lara Shingles

© SoGlos
Thursday 12 June 2014

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