Sunday, February 22, 2009
Many of you on Etsy, Dawanda and Flickr have seen pictures of Charlotte's creations. The tufts of silk, glistening beads, intricate stitches and fabulous textures immediately capture a person's eye. When I saw my first fancypicnic creation it took my breath away. Now I've gotten accustomed to that reaction whenever I see what's new in Charlotte's Etsy store, fancypicnic. I always envisioned a woman in a beautiful garden surrounded by beads and fanciful fabrics...quite the idyllic life. Imagine my surprise when I saw the photo below of Charlotte's lovely garden! She really does live in a magical part of England! (Please click on it to enlarge and admire.)
I asked Charlotte if she wouldn't mind answering some questions about her textile creations. I left the British spelling intact. Enjoy!
How old were you when you first learned to sew, and who taught you?
I seem to remember that I was quite young - as a child I was only ever interested in creating things, whether it be drawing people in wacky clothing, making shelves and 'televisions' in my bedroom out of paper and cardboard or squeezing aluminium foil into weird shapes to wear as jewellery. My aunt was incredibly talented with her hands, and embroidered and sewed throughout her life. I spent a lot of time with her, and I'm sure she was responsible for nurturing my interest in fabrics and threads! When I was about 4, she helped me to blanket stitch a tiny felt stuffed teddy bear. He was swiftly followed by a stuffed Christmas tree decoration, covered in tiny beads...yes, I still have them today, boxed up somewhere in the garage!
How long have you been making your textile jewellery?
This is quite a new departure for me, really. My degree is in graphic design, although I specialised in illustration: every brief I completed always resulted in something three-dimensional, and usually involved collage in some way.
Just over a year ago, my youngest daughter started school, and I had a little time to myself. I've never been able to resist the lure of a gorgeous piece of material, so I dived into my stash that I'd collected over the years, and started sewing. It felt so good!
When I started, I didn't really know where I would end up - I just let it happen. About nine months ago, I created a collar that was basically a collage of fabrics, built up piece by piece, and loaded with buttons, beads and sparkly things. I made a few different pieces, and decided to take the plunge to see if anyone would like them enough to want to own them, and set up a shop within Etsy in June last year.
How long does it take to create a piece - for example, Regalia Pendant?
This is quite a tricky question...I'm always thinking about whatever I'm going to make next whilst I'm working on a piece. I usually mull it over in my head for several days. Despite years of keeping sketchbooks, it is extremely rare that I sketch my ideas down, although I will put pencil to paper to solve a construction problem, or to draw out the basic shape of an item (which then becomes the pattern piece for it). I tend to work mainly instinctively; each piece is built up in layers, usually combining different techniques and materials. I run with an idea, and keep going until I'm happy with it. Knowing when to stop is something I've had to learn!
Do most of your pieces require you to sew by hand as well as with a sewing machine?
Each item has a basic structure which is stitched together on a sewing machine - I need to be assured that it is secure! Quite a few pieces involve freemotion machine embroidery to build up texture and detail. Once I'm happy with the overall design at this point, I gather together embroidery threads, buttons and beads and set to with adding more points of interest. I'll often add french knots, couching or freestitching to create little nubbles of texture, and then I'll embellish like mad with ribbons, beads and buttons which are sewn on by hand.
Do you ever wear your own creations?
Hmmn. I think generally, no! My mum, however, is a huge supporter of my work, and never leaves the house without a little something of mine attached to her person! That reminds me...I really must give her some business cards to hand out whenever she's asked about them!
What is your favorite item in your store and why?
I have to say that I probably have a soft spot for all of them - if I don't like a piece for whatever reason, I don't add it to my shops. That's probably a bit daft, because we all like different things...but I usually deconstruct them to reuse the materials in another piece. I like to be completely happy with what I'm selling.
If I was pushed, though, I guess I would pick the Collar of Delights. It's a new version of the original one that I opened my Etsy store with; I just love the abundance of embellishments, the playfulness of it and the bold shaping.
What other forms of art have you dabbled in?
I like a bit of photography; I'm a complete novice, but I really enjoy it. I love looking for the detail in something. I've always found it therapeutic to draw plants and flowers...again, it's all about the detail!
Collage work is a love of mine, along with papier mache - I just need more time!
I've also been tinkering with ideas for making dolls. I'm thinking art dolls, that maybe combine paper techniques as well as sewing...and of course, gorgeous textile elements!!
Do you have a favourite quote you'd like to share?
The one that springs to mind - I've mentioned it on my blog before now - is that line from a Crowded House song:
'Colour is its own reward'.
It says so much, don't you think?
I'd also like to add that Charlotte is amazing at doing commissioned work. I asked her to make a Christmas present for a very dear...and fussy friend of mine. I gave her a few colors and asked for some sort of heart on it. I didn't want to box in her creativity too much. The amazing results can be seen above. I cried when it arrived at my house. It was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. My friend absolutely adores it.
Please be sure to check out Charlotte's Etsy store, fancypicnic. You can also see more of her work on her website and read more about her on her delightful blog, filled with all sorts of fanciful pictures.