Welcome to the Cutting (& Stitching) Edge, where we showcase people whose embroidered creativity is fresh and new!
Alison Holt is a textile artist inspired by moments in time, the light and patterns in the natural world. Using a basic sewing machine to draw directly onto her silk paintings she creates richly detailed colourful studies of landscapes and seascapes.
When I first discovered Alison’s work, I had to spend time looking closer at her pieces to realise that they were not photographs, but instead beautiful pieces of machine embroidery! The level of tone and detail in her work creates dimension that transcends the fabric and transports us to new landscapes all around the world.
Alison studied Fine Art Embroidery at Goldsmith’s College, is an author of five books with Search Press and an international tutor. She exhibits widely in galleries in the UK, Australia, NZ and Europe. Based in Oswestry, Shropshire, she is drawn to record her surroundings while at home or on her travels.
How did your technique evolve?
After leaving Goldsmith’s College I continued experimenting with free-motion stitching, always viewing it as drawing with my machine. As a form of mark-making I was creating colour and texture but trying to increase the depth and perspective in each piece.
At the time I used dyed silk collage as a base and the desire for more detail made me start silk painting. So now all my work is a combination of painted and stitched areas which sit so well together for me.
It is interesting to read how Alison came to discover her artistic style and how a need for more detail brought her to combine both free motion embroidery and silk painting. What is inspiring is the idea of combining your skills to achieve the results you desire, there is no need to stay within the possibilities of the sewing machine when the work is so greatly uplifted by the addition of the silk painting.
Where do you think your creativity is taking you?
I am always excited about my new work and that the potential to keep developing my art is always there. I have new subject matter and more techniques to explore, I am currently working on pieces inspired by all aspects of water for an exhibition in May 2023. I continue to look for different viewpoints, with semi abstract aerial landscapes and some close up studies. I want to look at the movement and texture in water.
As Alison reminds us, it is a beautiful feeling to be constantly inspired and excited over your own work. So often, as artists, we are critical over what we create. When you have confidence in your work, new ideas soon flow.
You can certainly see this in the variety of Alison’s landscapes and the range of perspectives she uses when building her scenes.
What other artists inspire you?
I look to painters more than other textile artists for my inspiration. It has changed over the years, currently I am inspired by plein air landscape paintings. I love the energy and spontaneity they achieve. I love Arthur Streeton and John Russell, Australian Post-Impressionist artists. I discovered them both on my teaching trips to Australia.
It would be remiss of us not to mention the work of Carol Shinn, who displays similar artistry in free-machine embroidery.
What is your favourite tool to use in your practice?
It has to be my trusty old Bernina, I couldn’t create my work without it. It’s a semi industrial machine made in 1965. I bought it in 1985 and thought it was old then. It’s like an extension of me and on a good day, when I am in the zone we are as one!
Can you share one creative tip with our readers?
To assess the progress on my pieces I look at them upside down at various stages. It makes me see the colours, tones and balance to my composition without the distraction of a familiar image. I often see the way forward this way.
I absolutely love this piece of advice, one of the hardest things I find especially when creating hyper-realistic work is maintaining the right proportions. A common feeling is when you stare at your work for a little too long and you have to come back later to see it clearer! Perhaps the change in perspective by turning it upside down, is as good as a rest!
One more thing…
I am organising a major Fine Art Textiles Exhibition called Stitch by Stitch in July this year. We have 64 artists registered so far and some very well respected textile artists are included. We would love more people to exhibit!
Thank you so much to Alison for taking the time to interview with us. It would be great to see fellow Mr X Stitch fans and featured artists take part in Stitch by Stitch in the summer! For more of Alison’s work, you can find her website here and you can follow her on Instagram. You can also check out an amazing piece of hers from 2016 in our Gear Threads post here!