Today I am interviewing Textile Artist Jessica Kinnersley who’s work is structured by ‘FOUND OBJECTS’, ”forgotten things … weathered by age … repurposed and reworked” to produce ”nostalgic, slow stitched textile creations…unique, personal and precious”. Let us explore how she creates her unique textile pieces.
What is your favourite textile and why?
I think embroidered vintage linen is my favourite (even better if it has been darned!) It feels like finding treasure when I spot some in a charity shop basket or at a flea market. I love working with this sort of fabric because it’s softened and worn with time. As I work with it I wonder how many hands it has passed through. Who embroidered it and when? It’s nice to breathe life back into forgotten things.
Where do you source your FOUND OBJECTS?
I love a good rummage around Tynemouth market, a local flea and craft market, held on Tynemouth metro station every weekend. I find that Saturdays are the best day for treasure hunting, as there are plenty of sellers there with old papers, tins, tea cards, fabrics…the list goes on! The market recently opened again after lockdown and I’m overdue a visit! I’m often given fabrics and paper bits and pieces from friends who are sorting out and I also scour our local charity shops. Sometimes the things I find are the starting point for new work. I try not to go looking for something specific; instead I just enjoy imagining where my “finds” can lead. An old teacup might become a pincushion or a little tin may frame a miniature composition. I once found old clock faces from wristwatches and they were used on tiny miniature hoop pendants.
Are your fabrics recycled, and if so, where do you source them?
Mostly yes! When I was teaching A-level textiles, I would take students to the Knitting and Stitching show at Harrogate every year and one year they had a big expose on the amount of textiles that ended up in landfill. It was a bit of a wake up call and those images have always stuck with me. I also, admittedly, didn’t have much spare cash when I left teaching and started to develop my own work, so often the charity shop was the first stop for fabrics. I would (and still do) cut up old, laundered clothes to use in appliqué. If my daughter outgrew something with an interesting pattern on it, it would end up in my basket, not the charity bag. I do work with some printed cottons for my occasion cards but even these are small leftovers or donated scrap bundles from friends. I shop at First For Fabrics for my linen, interfacing and bondaweb staples and I’m always very tempted by the printed cottons. I think this is because my background is in surface pattern design and I just love seeing all of the colourful repeats!
Do you work from a body of themed poetry?
I don’t, but I am a bit of a romantic at heart and am definitely drawn to sentimental statements. I make a note of quotes I see. Sometimes they end up in work but most of the time I add words to my work by scanning pages of old books and lifting small statements out of them. If I take a few words from a page, out of context, I can create mini stories or statements to accompany the artwork.
Do you have a planned format or is each piece spontaneous?
It’s probably a bit of both. I suppose I have a familiar method of working or arranging a composition and I tend to build collages up in a similar way, whether they are on paper or fabric. I follow more of a format if I’m working on landscape for example, where I will nearly always draw or do colour studies before working with fabric and stitch. I think a degree of spontaneity comes from using found objects. The things I find often spark an idea so each piece is quite unique. Every now and then I’ll stop what I’m doing in order to try an idea using something I’ve found. I enjoy that element of “playing” creatively.
Do you work from sketchbooks?
I love working in sketchbooks but I don’t use them nearly as often as I would like! I tend to use them when I’m playing with landscape ideas or planning stock for shops (i.e. designs that will be reproduced again and again). I keep small books for playing with collage and composition, using found papers. Some are teeny. I have one particular book which I use for all of my small landscape scraps and in it are little compositions and colour studies, which won’t necessarily be developed, but are created for pure pleasure. I ran a sketchbook prompt challenge on Instagram during the first lockdown and it was a great way to maintain a little time for myself and for creativity each day. It’s a resolution of mine to put more time aside for sketchbook work as I think it’s such a great way of developing as an artist. I can lose hours once I get started.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I love the Paul Smith quote, “You can find inspiration in everything and if you can’t, look again”. Looking is important; noticing small details like textures or compositions when I’m out and about. And of course, a lot of inspiration comes from the things I find and read. I think there’s a real beauty in the worn, fragility and softness of vintage papers and fabrics. I’m really interested in local history too and have explored memory, which was inspired by my Mam. She is working on our family history and regularly comes across fantastic insights into local, social history. I’m also out in all weathers with my dog and wonder if subconsciously, I take a lot of inspiration from the landscape, from the subtleties of seasonal changes to sweeping views and interesting horizons. I never set out to do landscape pieces and certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a landscape artist but it’s definitely something I’ve enjoyed exploring in textiles and will continue with.
Which artists do you admire?
I’m really drawn to interesting collage, composition and textured abstract work. I love the work of Sabrina Ward-Harrison, Line Juhl Hansen, Tina Jensen and Kurt Jackson. Their work is so textured and layered, it’s like you see something new every time you look at their work. Kurt Jackson’s landscape sketchbooks are so alive and vibrant. Looking at them makes me want to open up a sketchbook and paint. Look them up; it’s a visual feast!
Do you enjoy working to brief for bespoke textiles?
I don’t work to a brief as much these days although I do enjoy the challenge and wouldn’t say no to future work like this. I used to work as a freelance embroidery designer and I’ve also worked with Quarto books on a few projects. Both had varying degrees of creative freedom and constraints but I welcomed the challenge. I’ve entered a couple of exhibitions which have a set theme or concept. I really like this as it gets my brain in gear; research and ideas development is a fun process when there’s a creative outcome at the end. I am dipping my toe into bespoke commissions a little and have done a few stitched pet portraits (they’re kind of quirky, stitched illustrations…on vintage linen of course!) Occasionally I get asked to do bespoke workshops which I really enjoy, as I can draw on my teaching experience. I don’t always teach stitch! I think one of the things I love about what I do is that every working week can be quite different. Today I am doing admin tasks, yesterday I was restocking my space at The Chantry, Morpeth and the day before that, I was sewing.
What advantages are there in working from an artistic hub?
Being at The Hearth has really helped me grow a fledgling business, as it’s a place people associate with art and go to, to seek out art. I’ve met more like-minded people, many who aren’t on social media, who then become mailing list subscribers or customers. It’s great to have a base where people can pop in for a chat and I have space to spread out a little. Aside from that, I simply enjoy being in that sort of creative environment. I’d previously spent years working from home in the loft (which I quickly outgrew) and it could get a bit lonely. Prior to redundancy, my day job was in a vibrant art department so I’ve always loved being in the hustle and bustle of a creative space. Even though we all run our own businesses at The Hearth, we are a community and it is nice to be part of that.
You can find Jessica at her studio in The Hearth Arts Centre and contact her via her website at Jessica Kinnerlsey Textiles, Contemporary Craft,Workshops,Textile Art (jessicakinnersleytextiles.com)