Recently I shared a personal fabric sketchbook of mine on Facebook in a private group to show the sorts of things that I like to make. The response has been absolutely huge (currently 328k views) which is amazing but has also provoked some interesting discussions about copyright and the responsibility to share the sources and inspiration for ones work.
This book and others like them (yes, I’ve made quite a few of them) form part of my creative process. Before I started working in textiles I was an Illustrator and worked with hand drawn imagery and collage and kept many sketchbooks filled with all sorts of original sketchings, clippings of other artists work I loved, and work created directly influenced by these artists. These fabric sketchbooks form the same function for me, a place to try out new techniques, experiment with materials and work outside of the constraints of my usual commercial work.
Art doesn’t spring forth from a vacuum and most of the pages have been influenced by amazing work I have seen by other artists, mostly as ideas for page themes, compositions and colour schemes. With other pieces I have experimented with media to try and recreate certain characteristics of the work in fabric. In most of my fabric books I chose a theme that is more abstract and therefore the challenge is how to illustrate those ideas. Here the challenge was to take common imagery and see if I could create it using fabric.
However, I realise that because of the difficulty of writing text on the actual book I have not credited works I have been influenced by as I would have in a paper sketchbook – therefore I intend to do that here!
As I worked on this project for a year, within that time I looked at hundreds of research images. I can’t possibly share them all so these are the ones that I was most influenced by and have a direct relation to the images in the book. Also, as I’ve trying to remember back over a year ago I may have missed something! Where possible I have tried to add a link to the artists blog or website so you can check out their amazing work.
The first page – a collection of mushrooms designed to look like a Victorian collectors notebook was fully inspired by this gorgeous illustration by Susan Farrington
My background is in Illustration and at University I specialised in creating collage using found objects, and that is what I love about this piece – the found textures that have been put together to form the mushroom shapes. In my page I wanted to try this idea using the textures and prints found in fabric as well as practising my embroidery stitches.
Fox In The Snow:
One of my favourite Belle and Sebastian songs is ‘Fox in the Snow’ so I knew there had to be a fox in the book somewhere. There is something special about the contrast between the orange of the Fox and the pure white of the snow. Researching existing images I found loads beautiful illustrations but there are a couple that stick out for me.
This one by John Klassen is the one that really wowed me. I love the shapes of the trees and the shadows on the snow. The graphic quality and minimalism of the piece is also something that struck me and I wanted to see if I could create the same shapes and feel from fabric.
This one by Greg Abbott also struck me and I love the way the fox is leading you into the forest. I decided to try and have my fox similarly leading the reader through into the trees.
I also loved this image by Paula Mela, again because of the graphic black/white against the bright colour of the fox. Because of this one I decided to keep my fox a solid bright, almost cartoonish orange rather than a more realistic tone.
This page in the book is actually the one that I think is most closely following a specific reference: these amazing images by BROOKS SHANE SALZWEDEL .
I saw these pictures of layered graphite drawings coated with resin and needed to see if I could recreate the effect using fabric. Instead of layers of paper and pencil I used 5 sheets of gauze and machine embroidered each layer on top of one another. I don’t think I’ve quite got the shapes right, or the beautiful vintage feel I suppose is created with the resin, but I love the technique and I will certainly be using it for some of my own compositions.
Short Eared Owl:
This illustration by Chris Hagen was one of the reasons I wanted to do this project in the first place. I fell in love with the beautiful colours of the bright flowers against the black background and also the owl being centre stage in this night time scene.
And I used this photo by James Wood as the reference for the actual owl.
This illustration by Rene Casonova was the inspiration for my tree branches page. I often add too many colours and layers to my pages so the use of white space here really grabbed me. I created the same effect using masking tape to mask the white tree branches from a layer of green fabric paint. I have then filled in the space using a range of applique and embroidery techniques.
Another image I fell in love with at first sight is this one by Rich Gemmell. The shapes are amazing and I love the way that it makes the campsite seem cocooned in it’s own little world. In my campsite image I have tried to keep the dome ceiling of the sky and the scale of this tiny tent surrounded by these huge trees.
This image by Lindsay Gardner served as inspiration for 2 of my pages. Both the constellation page and the campsite one. I love the inky shades of the sky and the way the stars form a nonuniform blanket across the sky. In both pages I used Quink to try and get the same multi-tonal black and tiny white seed beads for the stars.
This was another image (by Katie Daisy) that I saw quite early on in my research and I was determined to use the quotation:
How to represent the leaves was another matter. I wasn’t sure if I should try and create a circle of leaves like Katie has done to give space to the quote. However, when I saw this image by Erica Daley I knew what I wanted to do. I love the way the leaves overlap in this piece and it really reminds me of the carpet of leaves covering the forest floor after the leaves have fallen.
Carpet of Grass:
The quotation I have used is from Helen Keller, from Three Days to See: ‘To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.’
Silver Birch by Amanda Cobbett. This image was another I saw at the start of this project and pushed me into choosing the theme of the Woods. I love everything about this work (and this artist) and it catapulted my brain into the possibilities of trying to recreate the texture of tree bark in fabric. After this I looked at lots of photos of trees (and some in real life!) and tried to experiment with how to use hand and machine embroidery to achieve the effect.
The quotation I have used on this page is by Anne Michaels (from her novel Fugitive Pieces) and I adore the idea of a forest being a timeless capsule spanning generations and seasons.
‘Trees, for example, carry the memory of rainfall. In their rings we read ancient weather—storms, sunlight, and temperatures, the growing seasons of centuries. A forest shares a history, which each tree remembers even after it has been felled.’
On the back is a quotation attributed to Henry David Thoreau:
‘I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees’
I hope that has helped to shed light on my creative process here. As I’ve said previously this book is a working sketchbook, so in my versions of these works I have been trying to use specific parts of the work that I love and use it to push my techniques further, opening new possibilities for my practice.
If you still have questions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to discuss the work further. Much love, Kim xxx