It only feels right that my introductory blog post should reveal a little bit more about Artisan Needlework, so allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Amberley and I am a hand embroiderer and graduate from the Royal School of Needlework.
Why did I choose embroidery?
First of all, I have always been a magpie by all accounts. Throughout college I worked with textiles and I developed an interest in embellishment and surface design. When I first went to university to study fashion I felt that my work was missing something. I missed the tactile nature of playing with fabrics and experimenting with materials.
As a result, I found myself looking for a new creative outlet and I found embroidery.
I use embroidery as an artistic and visual form of language, one that allows me to express a sense of whimsy and wonder. With so many different techniques, stitches and materials that can be used I would find it impossible to ever get bored.
What influences my work?
From a young age I have always loved stories. I immersed myself in other worlds full of far off places, magic spells and princes in disguise. My designs aim to capture the art of storytelling, intertwining craft with traditional narratives. Each subject is a new character waiting to be introduced.
Another continual source of inspiration I use is the natural world. There are so many wonders to be found and explored. My favourite art movements make use of both of these themes. As a result, I am a big fan of Art Nouveau and Pre-Raphaelitism.
What journey has led me to where I am now?
I always dreamed of designing and teaching hand embroidery after graduating from the Royal School of Needlework. I took opportunities that I hoped would help me to understand the industry and develop my business skills. They were experiences I am very grateful for; I learnt a lot and have worked alongside some wonderful and talented people.
Starting my own business has been a huge leap of faith and there have been many times where I have doubted myself. I had just relocated to another area of the country to be nearer to my father who was undergoing cancer treatment when I decided to take the plunge. It was a risk but, through a lot of self-doubt and hard work, Artisan Needlework came to life.
What are my favourite techniques?
I find it hard to pin down a favourite technique because there is a seemingly endless variety and each one is so versatile. My favourite technique, as a general rule, is the one that best conveys what I’m trying to express. I do however, have a few preferences. Silk Shading, sometimes known as Thread or Needle Painting, is a beautiful technique that I love for its ability to blend colours. I also love certain Goldwork techniques, particularly chipping.
Anything that can add a little extra sparkle to a project is a good thing!
How would I describe my work?
I describe my work as a fusion between modern design and traditional craft. It is important for me to create work that is inclusive and really celebrates the subject and the method in which it has been made. I also love experimenting with different textures and materials because they give a sense of playfulness to a design.
What environment do I like to work in?
You can often find me sitting by the window in my studio stitching, making the most of the natural light.
One thing I cannot work easily in is silence. I have a whole range of playlists to stitch along to as well as podcasts, TED talks and Ambient Mixer. I imagine that I am stitching in the Gryffindor Common Room or designing in the Library of Rivendell.
Around the walls are inspirational pictures and designs from the latest collection. I display all my beads in glass jars on an old oak dresser where my silk paints are lined up in colour order like alchemical brews.
What tool or piece of equipment could I not live without?
One thing I love about embroidery is that you need very few materials to get started. You can create something wonderful with little more than a needle, thread and some fabric.
One piece of equipment I do use frequently is my seat or table frame. I find it so much easier to stitch with both hands free, particularly when doing something fiddly like French Knots or Goldwork. (I’m also quite partial to a cup of tea!)