DarrenBall – Stitchcraft

I graduated with a degree in Fashion Textiles from Middlesex Polytechnic in 1990.  I had a wonderful time, loving the opportunity to be creative and make every day.  I specialised in hand-knit as I loved the potential for detail and also the quality of a handmade garment.  After graduating I returned to Devon, where I had grown up.  I sold samples through a London agent and was lucky enough to be a finalist in the ‘Clothes Show’ knitting competition.  This gained me a little publicity and the offer of teaching in my local college and also an introduction to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen.  I joined them, exhibiting hand knitted sweaters and cardigans.  At that time I often used intarsia, Fair-Isle and beaded knitting.  I was always aiming to exploit the complexity that was possible in hand knit.  After my initial experience of teaching I went on to train as an art teacher and got my first full time teaching job in Dorset 1993. Since then I have also taught in tertiary college and sixth form college full time.

Teaching full time left little opportunity to make my own work so in recent years I have moved to part-time teaching and this has enabled me to focus more on developing my own creative practice. I have always been creative to some extent, whether it was DIY at home, gardening, cooking or making resources for my teaching.

As an art teacher you are expected to expand the skills gained at degree level to include 3D work, ceramics, printmaking and mixed media work as well as a broad knowledge of art history.  I have always loved the breadth of this and have enjoyed teaching both Fine Art as well as Textiles A level and BTEC Art and Design.

Darren Ball - Textiles
Textiles - Darren Ball

After teaching for many years and fitting in an MA I began to want to spend more of my time making.  However I had decided that I wanted to make art, rather than design.  The key moment when I began to take this further was when I was given some vintage ‘Stitchcraft’ magazines from the 1940’s by a colleague.  I hadn’t seen this type of magazine before or the mix of embroidery and hand knit that they contained.  I was interested in the photography, the garments and the social history.  I felt that the stylized quality of the photos really captured the period, so began to explore this imagery.  I have been working from this starting point for a number of years, experimenting and developing my skills in free embroidery and applique.  My work has gradually become more technically complex but the constant has been my love of the surface qualities of the fabric and the thread that I use.

I began to work towards a first show with a friend who worked in ceramics and after this experience I started to look for other opportunities to exhibit.  I joined the Sussex Guild in 2015 as a maker from Surrey, a neighbouring county.  I have always really enjoyed showing with the Guild and have also been a shop member.  I was unfamiliar with Sussex so it has been a joy to discover so many beautiful areas, Lewes particularly.

I always aim to move forward in my work.  It has come a long way over the years and now I am beginning to think about presentation, particularly using box frames and anti-reflective glass.  This is an added expense but important in presenting the work professionally and emphasising the textile qualities that I explore.

My aim is always to produce the best work that I can, whether it is a card, an embroidery or a print but the starting points will vary.  Inspiration could come from a magazine photo, my love of film or more recently vintage seed-pack labels.  Whatever the starting point, the intention is always the same, to exploit the surface qualities of the fabrics and to explore the craft of stitch.

The Guild's Newsletter

Subscribe to receive email newsletters about our craft shows, events and Guild activities. Privacy Policy.

Thank you, please keep an eye open for our confirmation email.