How one special person wove textiles into my life

Do you ever wonder how your life might have turned out if just one detail had been different? My ‘sliding doors’ moment was when I was allocated my A level art teacher, Diane.

Brimming with enthusiasm, Diane guided us through the curriculum, but her real passion was for textile art. She taught us how to paint directly onto fabrics like linen or cotton, and how to use a sewing machine to add free motion embroidery.

I was instantly captivated by the fabrics, the stitches and the textures. Diane recognised the excitement I found in my designs, and convinced me (and my parents!) that I should follow this route at university. I settled on fashion design and three years later graduated with a 2:1 degree. I had found my life’s passion, and it was all thanks to Diane.

My new career, working for suppliers to high street chains, took me around the world:  Paris, New York and Milan were a whirlwind of excitement, but for me the pleasure came when I had the chance to connect with age-old textile traditions.

I remember sourcing the most beautiful wool from Italian mills in Prato, north of Florence, and feeling the privilege of studying their catalogues, which had been in use for decades.

Working with manufacturers in India was a chance to link product design with my love of textiles, and I soaked up their techniques, developing my own print designs and embroideries.  I’ll never forget the fabric market in Old Delhi – what an explosion of colour!

I put my career on hold when we had our first child, and when she was diagnosed with a life-changing condition I accepted that I couldn’t go back. But I held on to creativity as a way to cope with difficult times. Painting was a source of calm, and, rather than setting up an easel, I instinctively laid out silks and cottons on my table and began applying fabric paints and dyes.

fabric painting

Over the years my style has developed, but textiles and embroidery have always been at the core of what I do – a piece simply doesn’t feel finished without that extra layer of texture, movement and detail.

I feel blessed that my work resonates, and that there are people who love to buy textile art for their homes. But more than that, I love teaching these skills in my textile art workshops, often sharing the very techniques I learnt at school. When I witness someone discovering the creative joy of free motion embroidery, I give a little nod to Diane and send her a telepathic message: “Someone else has joined the club.”

free motion embroidery and hand embroidery from creating Serene painting.
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