Cotswold Life – 5-Minute Interview

Material needs

Artist Barbara Shaw ‘paints’ with textiles,creating collage pictures by hand-stitching or bonding small pieces of fabric together in layers. As a Licentiate Member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen and also a member of Oxfordshire Craft Guild, she exhibits regularly with the Guild at venues throughout Oxfordshire. This year she is Artist in Residence at 17th-century Chastleton House, near Moreton-in-Marsh, and she will be joined this month by other members of the Guild for a rather special exhibition…

How was the experience of being Artist in Residence at Chastleton this summer?

I was extremely nervous before my week of exhibiting and demonstrating at Chastleton, but the response from staff and visitors to my work was amazing! All my pictures were hung in the beautiful Long Gallery at the top of the house, which is a spectacular setting. I had a space by a window alcove to demonstrate and spread out. There was a lot of genuine interest in the techniques I use to construct the pictures and many ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ over the finished work on display. I was delighted!

How long have you been a member of Oxfordshire Craft Guild?

I have been a Member of the Guild for eight years. I exhibit and sell original work, limited edition prints and cards. I am also very happy to discuss commissions. Clients are particularly pleased when I offer to incorporate pieces of their own fabric to make a unique picture.

What drew you to using textiles to create your art?

I started patchwork and had so many scraps left over I made cards with these remnants. I became hooked on using textiles to express myself and hand-stitched pictures gradually evolved. As I am completely self-taught, I have no preconceived ideas on how other artists work with textiles and I am passionate about conveying to people that everyone can have a go!

How do you source the beautiful textiles you use?

I am a complete magpie, always looking out for fabric! I have a few favourite shops in London where I buy very small quantities of extremely expensive, luxurious fabrics such as lace and beady bits and I also frequent local shops for different coloured chiffon ribbons, which I use for shading. Patchwork fabric stockists have a magnetic appeal for me and I have a wonderful basic stash of off-cuts from a friend who was a couturier.

What process do you use to create your pieces?

I do not draw or sketch beforehand but may use photos for reference if I need to be very specific about the details I am interpreting. I use an easel and a board and hang a background piece of fabric over this then dive straight into the picture, cutting a rough shape in textiles of the subject I want to depict. I pin many layers of fabric on this before hand-stitching and repeating the process of pin/stitch until I am happy with the end result.

Where do you find inspiration?

I have great imagination and love interpreting a huge range of subjects in textiles from flora and fauna to still life and landscapes. I have particularly enjoyed the Chastleton House project as it has stretched me to create a body of work on one theme. The pictures I have produced of the house and grounds range from a 17th-century chair, a section of a wall, a 16th-century Spanish chest, a view through a window of the Topiary Garden and a section of a very old mulberry tree as well as a picture of the grand façade of the entrance to the House.

How many artists will be exhibiting in September, and what kind of crafts will be represented?

Here is a list of the exhibitors and their crafts – there are eleven of us: stone by Giles Macdonald; wood by Alex Griffin and Richard Shock; textiles by Barbara Shaw (Artist in Residence) and Mary Lowry; glass by Wendy Newhofer and Anne Arlidge; and ceramics by Marc Fraser, Andrew Hazelden, Jane Hanson and Georgie Beadman