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Following my graduation from Glasgow School of Art in 2004 the focus of my work explored the integration of printmaking, sewing and embroidery. I made use of found printed textiles, subverting them through my own additions and interventions, combining techniques of collage, printmaking, embroidery and textile printing. These found designs are a starting point to which other hand printed or embroidered images are added and interwoven with the original patterns. Whilst found fabrics and embroidery remain the foundation of my current work I have expanded these ideas into the mediums of sculpture and tentative experiments with video.

I am attracted to working with discarded and unwanted materials. Found items, from scraps of wallpaper to crocheted tablemats, old photographs and obsolete objects have been gathered into an ever expanding visual archive that I draw upon for inspiration and as source material for my work.

Out of fashion and out of date, these artefacts from another age, cultural residue from our recent past, contain all kinds of information and signifiers about people’s attitudes, beliefs and lifestyles. Working with this kind of material allows me to reflect upon my personal memories and experiences that intuitively feed into the work. It also allows me to explore the past more broadly as regards our way of life, unearthing resonant memories that are common to us all.

In some of these pieces I carefully unpick embroidered textiles stitch by stitch leaving just the traces of the labour that went into producing the original piece. Unpicked threads, the by-products of the process, are either re-used to embroider new designs, cannibalising the material, or else presented in small sculptural mounds. In the act of undoing and re-working these decorative fabrics they are brought into the present.

Common themes for embroidery are stereotypical, idealised rustic scenes or religious imagery. They are highly stylised and simplistic in their rendering. Full of clich├ęs, many of them contain highly sentimental messages, phrases or sayings. Adding or removing elements of the original embroidery alters their meaning as decorative items and they begin to convey a different message. Some of these interventions are deliberately subtle or highly ambiguous. The intention is that they are re-examined and re-interpreted as artworks.

More recent work draws specifically on my collection of found embroidery pictures gathered from charity shops and jumble sales.

The process I’ve developed involves tracing the original designs, picking out suitable elements to re-use and then re-combining elements from different images in a pencil collage by transferring them onto a single sheet of paper. Often, parts of the image are re-scaled, erased or altered to fit. Through this method I can produce highly complex arrangements and duplicate or re-use individual elements as recurring themes. In combination the abstracted, simplified images of the tapestry are knitted into a more sophisticated new form complicating both the image and its meaning.

There is an uncomfortable ambiguity in utilising these traditional craft or hobbyist skills to produce strange juxtapositions or bizarre human-animal hybrids that are completely at odds with the comfort and familiarity of the materials. These human-animal forms portrayed in my pieces also allude to more contemporary advances in the fields of science and medicine from genetic engineering and body modification to cloning.

Some of the figures depicted in several works also have the appearance of characters in a stage play. These constructed scenarios encourage narrative readings that cover topics as varied as human relations between the sexes such as dominance, weakness and playfulness. They also explore the less than harmonious relationship between man and nature and intrusion into the natural environment through pollution and deforestation.

Much of the arrangement of these collages is intuitive and not pre-planned. It is only by laying elements side by side or over each other that a sense of direction begins to emerge. I am led by the images themselves and how they fit together. The once inevitable result of the embroidery is reclaimed and given freedom, the individual elements are set in play together and from this new forms are born.