Heather Collins – My Journey with Fabric and Threads

I revisited embroidery at the age of 35 by way of a one-day strip patchwork workshop. This course was followed by a 1 year part-time Art A level course.

Having been told at 15 by a teacher I could not draw ( I still find it difficult with a pencil and pen ) I experimented with different ways of mark making, using collage, wire and paper mache to create 3D pieces.

Being a member of the Brighton Branch of the Embroiders Guild opened up new horizons. I was inspired by the work of Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn and enrolled on Part 1 City and Guilds Creative Embroidery course at East Berkshire College driving from East Sussex one day a week. Due to a disability with my left hand/neck ( I am left handed ) I could not continue but with the knowledge I had acquired went on to develop my own unique style creating one-off pieces.

My inspiration comes from the seascape and landscape near my home in Sussex on my daily walk with my dog.

I am drawn to the colours and textures of decay in nature and the surrounding environment.

Machine embroidery is my main medium, using a knee lift, tilt table and chair with armrests helps rest my left side as I work. Without these I would not be able to create and achieve my ambitions in stitch. I also work in short bursts, resting in between, sometimes for days depending on the pain threshold.

I use free machine embroidery mainly straight stitch or zigzag, my needle is my paint brush the threads and snippets of fabric are my paint. I intensely machine them together to create a new piece of cloth. I am not too precious about my work, often cutting it up and reworking it. I use a heat gun or soldering iron to distress the work to achieve the desired effect. I will embellish it with hand stitch as required.

I have now been creating one off pieces for 20 years.

Over the years I have attended many Sussex Guild shows and was impressed by the high standard of work:

  • In 2005 I had my work selected to exhibit in Jardins Reduits Exhibition in Musee Jean Lucat Anger France. The piece ‘Compost Heap’ miniature was created using free machine embroidery and hand stitch. The exhibition toured Canada and Switzerland. On it’s return the Musee purchased it for their permanent collection.
  • 2006 Miniart Textile, Lake Como Italy selected my work ‘Winter Bramble’ for the La Tessitura Mantero prize from a selection of textile artist worldwide.
  • 2009 ‘Avec ou sans eau’Musee Jean Lucat Anger France. 2010 Arte & Arte Miniart Textile Lake Como Italy.
  • 2016 Scythia 11th International biennial of Contemporary Textile Art Ukraine.
  • 2017 Scythia 8th International biennal of Mini Textile Art Ukraine. 2019 ‘Libres comme L’Art!’ Musee Jean Lucat Anger France.
  • 2021 ‘mesure Demesure’ Musee Jean Lucat Anger France.

In 2017 I decided to apply to the Sussex Guild. My application was successful and I have been showing my work at Pashley Manor and the De La Warr Pavilion in their shows.

I continue to be inspired by the world around me, recording my ideas and elements of interest with my camera. Often using found objects and revisiting an area of interest sometimes on a daily basis to see how the light picks up areas of interest often missed.

Around my home there are many pieces of work in progress often awaiting embellishment with hand stitch, or pinned in situ on a wire sculpture base to be revisited at a later stage.

See more of Heather’s work

Textiles Heather Collins in her Workshop

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