Monday, 3 February 2014

… a conversation with claire wellesley smith…..

We are thrilled and excited that the delightful and multi-talented Claire Wellesley Smith will be joining us for the first time this year to lead SLOW COLOUR & STITCH .  Claire will be offering a skill new to our workshops, i.e. dyeing natural textiles and sewing threads with colors obtained from plants and flowers from the gardens of Les Soeurs Anglaises.  But that's not all she'll be teaching…. with the luxury of five days to share her talent and techniques, the idea is for participants to stitch their beautifully colored fabrics into intimate "collages" which can either be further developed as purses, cushion covers, clothing etc.  or simply framed and displayed as works of art in their own right

Here, in her own words, is Claire's creative philosophy:

Why do you enjoy working with dyes and stitch?

The history of colour on cloth fascinates me, and the stories that go with it. Dyeing with local plants gives you a new relationship with the place that they grow, and it creates new connections. There is something magical about the transformation that occurs when cloth enters a dye bath.  The slow nature of plant dyeing and the plain sewing techniques I use mean that there is time to develop a strong connection to the piece of work made.

What do you enjoy about teaching?

The conversations that arise in a workshop environment are so enriching - shared experiences and knowledge that lead to exciting work. Teaching is a reciprocal experience for me - as much as I love to show and to share knowledge, I learn a phenomenal amount from my students. I love the way that so many ideas can develop from one simple technique, and the unique work that is produced by every participant.

What are ‘Slow Stitches’ – how is this approach different?

The pleasures to be had from slowing down processes can be many, with connections to sustainability, simplicity, and multi-cultural textile traditions. I see a slow approach as a celebration of process, work that has reflection at its heart, and skills that take time to develop.

What inspires you in your work?

I live in Yorkshire, a place with a rich textile heritage and a beautiful landscape.  Stories, memories and observations of place inform my work. The idea of ‘using what you have’ - be that repurposed textiles and clothing, or local plants gathered to make local colours - is a strong theme also and I am looking forward to leading a workshop at Les Soeurs Anglaises in South West France with it’s different flora and fauna.

Can you share a little more about what people can expect at the Slow Colour and Stitch workshop?

I am very much looking forward to sharing with participants in May the slow textile processes, using natural dyes and hand-stitch. The wonderful gardens around Les Soeurs Anglaises will be the perfect location for gathering a collection of local colour. We will be using these and other natural dyes to invoke a sense of place, and participants will create a harmonious palette of hand-dyed fabrics and threads. These fabrics - alongside plain sewing techniques - piecing, patching and darning will be used to begin a personal piece of work. I will bring examples of kantha and other stitched work, and hand-dyed textiles, some centuries old, as inspiration. We will also have a collection of vintage and repurposed fabrics for participants to use in their work and there will be an opportunity to visit a local brocante where it will be possible to find traditional French linens and textiles.  The techniques I use can be adapted easily to a domestic setting, so that new, personal, ‘slow’ projects can easily be created by participants when the workshop is completed.

Many thanks, Claire.

to book a place on Claire's Workshop, or if you have any questions, contact

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