Threading her way
Who would have thought the marriage of fine art and embroidery was a match made in heaven? By Mindy Cook
Meredith Woolnough is breathing life into threads, inspired by nature’s flora and fauna, more particularly coral and leaves, in her embroidered specimen creations. Her work is exhibited regularly across Sydney’s galleries and art spaces, and her current evolvement into freestanding sculptures means her profile will only magnify.
With a degree from the College of Fine Arts, Meredith’s training has definitely guided her art practice. And it was during these studies that she learnt and developed the creative embroidery technique she uses today in her artwork.
We spoke with Meredith about her technique, inspiration and how she deals with the fear of going public with her work, and impending audience critique.
Meredith, much of your inspiration comes from the natural flora and fauna environments as is evident in your works. Was this an evolutionary process or something that has captivated you from the start of your career?
I have always been inspired by natural beauty. Who isn’t? The incorporation of imagery from the natural world has always been strong in my work but it has really been in the last few years that it has grown to dominate my work. In the past I have explored more traditional lace based designs but as my work has progressed my focus has turned almost exclusively to nature for inspiration. I can’t seem to get away from coral and leaves … I just find them so captivating and want to just keep making more.
Can you tell us about your techniques?
In my work I use an innovative embroidery technique that uses the sewing machine like a freeform drawing tool. The machine is stripped back to it’s
basic function (the needle going up and down) and I draw with this needle onto a special water soluble fabric that is later washed away leaving only the skeleton of stitches. Some of my pieces are moulded around shapes to add extra sculptural dimension to the work. Most of my work is then
painstakingly pinned onto a backing paper or set into resin blocks like delicate embroidered specimens.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am working on some freestanding sculptures, which is a new direction for my work. I am creating moulded spheres of stitched patterns that will form installations of hanging artworks. I still continue to work with my embroidered specimens but I am excited to be moving into a more sculptural, installation based direction.
What do you enjoy most about exhibiting?
I find that exhibiting is often a very scary process, you are showing the world what you have spent the last few months creating, and you are laying yourself bare for criticism. However it is really energising to see people experience the work for the first time and to hear their initial reactions to a particular piece. Getting feedback from an audience is probably the scariest but also the most satisfying part of exhibiting. Luckily I have received
very positive feedback from all of my shows, which keeps me coming back for more. The feedback I received from the 2012 Art Expo was phenomenal. People seemed to be blown away when they discover that my work is embroidery and they all wanted to know more about my process – which I was more than happy to explain. I got a huge wave of positive feedback about the work and it has really encouraged me to throw myself into my art practice with greater vigour.
It can sometimes be challenging as an artist to justify yourself and your work, but when you get people telling you that your work is great, it gives you the motivation to keep going. It makes me feel like I must be onto something good here.
To view more of Meredith’s projects, visit her website www.meredithwoolnough.com.au