CETG Online talk on Monday 13th March 2023
Kate Wells - Dip Your Mind in Gold
For our March talk we have Kate Wells to deliver very thoughtful talk about creativity and how she translates her thoughts into textile art.
Kate Wells has a background in art studies and teaching art. Most of her embroidery work involves the use of an almost 100-year industrial sewing machine “Industrial Irish”, which has a knee lever for adjusting the width of zig-zag stitches. This leaves both hands free for holding the work in the hoop. By adjusting the tension she can create interesting effects by bringing up the lower thread on the work surface. Since her studies, the Irish has been a vital tool for Kate.
Kate's initial embroidery work started by creating flower meadows and large landscapes using the Irish sewing machine. After a while the time and effort taken to make these painterly pieces became too onerous. This led Kate to start experimenting with simple black and white drawings, which she then transferred into embroideries. Her collection of moments of beauty recorded in her scrap books and photos, took her onto a journey of internal reflection and she started to compose what was in her heart rather than looking outside for ideas. Although not religious, Kate is very spiritual, drawing inspiration from a variety of texts, meditation and inner reflection.
Experimenting with mesh, veil and open work led her to start using gold threads in her embroideries. By layering stitching on dissolvable fabric, she began to create samples utilising different ideas and forms asking herself constantly "what would happen if …?" From the little fragments a larger collection grew and established Kate on a new path of stitching, where she lets the work guide her without worrying too much about the outcome from the start.
With the use of gold threads, the work of medieval goldsmiths has provided further inspiration. One idea leading to another, combining black with gold, introducing flowers into her samples, she continued to play with various ideas.
Pivotal influences for Kate were Susie Macmurray's work exhibited at Kedleston Hall where numerous gold threads created passage ways between columns in the building, and an Indian embroidered double-sided pashmina scarf called the Divine Garden exhibited at Art in Action. Seeing a roll of Italian antique lace made her combine the three encounters into one piece of work. A morning walk on dewy ground and grass became immortalised in a single embroidery. Pebbles, grass, gravel and leaves were embroidered on her trusty Irish machine in gold thread creating a memory of her walk. When the dissolvable fabric which was used to stabilise the work was removed, a lace-like structure remained showing the elements of inspiration. Other work followed, involving stitching onto very fine silk crepeline fabric. Circles, flowers, leaves, grass find their places on her embroidered pieces. More recently, she has started incorporating colour to her work by layering coloured transparent fabrics in the base fabric onto which the stitching is applied. By adjusting the machine tension, additional colour can appear on the surface of the embroidery too. A palette of rich burgundy and purple complements her array of gold threads.
Kate explained her approaches and techniques graciously, giving the audience an immersion into her thought processes as well as the practical techniques involved in creating her pieces. She uses a variety of shades of gold threads, providing opulence and depth into her work. An additional delight was seeing inside her sketch book, which was a object of art in its own right containing samples, drawings as well as collected bits of inspiration. It was also fascinating to see little films of her actual stitching and to see the embroidered images slowly emerging. A thoroughly enjoyable talk indeed!
Words © Pirkko Soundy/CETG 2023
Photos © Kate Wells
Kate's trusty Industrial Irish sewing machine