Anne Kelly:  ‘Folk Tales’

Deena Digs Deeper - textile tales from Deena Beverley

Anne Kelly:  ‘Folk Tales’ show at the National Needlework Archive

A sense of place, story and a certain warmth runs through all Anne Kelly‘s work. She lays down a stitchy, albeit vertically mounted, welcome mat inviting vistitors into her latest show ‘Folk Tales’ at the NNA, Newbury.

Anne Kelly's Folk Tales (detail)

Like all Anne’s work, it invites closer inspection, drawing you in to her richly textural, multi-layered mixed media world.

Anne Kelly's Folk Tales (detail)

Readers who enjoyed Anne’s last show, complete with full size garden shed installation, will note a symmetry, albeit on a much smaller scale here, with the inclusion centre stage of a charity shop sourced doll’s house, clothed in found textiles.

Anne Kelly's Folk Tales (detail)

Found textiles are at the heart of Anne’s work; driven not by a sense of ecological warriorship or thrift, but by a more emotional and creative drive to save, incorporate and honour these fragile survivors of times past; whether vintage or more recent.

Anne Kelly's Folk Tales (detail)

Oriental fabrics of all kinds, from finely embroidered silks to scrolling shapes Anne cut from free shopping bags, largely comprise one piece; many of the fabrics having been sent by one of Anne’s relatives.

Anne Kelly's Folk Tales (detail)

Birds are a favourite motif;  “symbols of the soul and of the imagination and at a deep level they seem to call to me,” and often form Anne’s personal stitched addition to a piece.

Anne Kelly's Folk Tales (detail)

Nature of all kinds is a constant source of inspiration; celebrated in Anne’s last major show; launching her book; Textile Nature.

Anne Kelly's Folk Tales (detail)

How nature is represented in folk art has also long been influential in Anne’s work. Flowers are reduced to their simplest forms, free of artifice. Petals are described emphatically in repeated machine stitched black outlines as if drawn by a child, albeit an especially artistically gifted one, keen to ensure every petal is accurately counted, included and visible.

Anne Kelly's Folk Tales (detail)

Anne’s beloved bird motifs too are simply drawn; although anyone who has tried to embroider freehand with a sewing machine will instantly appreciate the true artistry behind Anne’s apparently simplistic, largely linear renderings.

Anne Kelly's Folk Tales (detail)

On a pocketed hanging, each found pocket bearing the image of a bird, Anne’s fine art training is apparent in the stitch sketched accuracy of the creature’s anatomy, however free the style. Feet are strong and widely spaced as if gripping the ground; while beaks, even drawn in a couple of stitches, look sharp and ready to peck. “Observing birds from life can be challenging but makes for a much more realistic impression.”

Anne Kelly's Folk Tales (detail)

A handsome horse portrait, lovingly handstitched in repeated, thick, charcoal-like lines on coarse white cloth, grabs the attention on another work. It has been worked with infinite care and patience, by another hand. Anne’s role is as the portrait’s saviour; “I just had to include him. Isn’t he wonderful?” Here, she places it within a new background, bringing it out of a stranger’s attic and back where it belongs; centre stage and ready to cheer visitors to this warm, life affirming show.


Folk Art Tales by Anne Kelly is at the Old Chapel Textile Centre Newbury until 31st August 2017. Check opening times via

The Old Chapel Textile Centre, Main Street, Greenham Business Park, Newbury, Berkshire. RG19 6HW. 01635 38740


Recommended Reading:

Textile Nature, by Anne Kelly, (Batsford)

Connected Cloth, by Anne Kelly and Cas Holmes (Batsford)

2 thoughts on “Anne Kelly:  ‘Folk Tales’

  • Thanks to Deena for a lovely review! Just a little correction that most readers will know – my co-written book with Cas Holmes is ‘Connected Cloth’. 🙂

  • Really enjoyed reading your write up Deena love the dolls house idea Anne .. great follow on . Displays your work beautifully. Hope to see it on its travels somewhere! Norah

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