Updated: Jan 13, 2020
How I started making textile birds and my journey along the way.
When I first left Leeds College of Art, and made the move so many do: to London, I started working for a Florist. The big jobs included decorating The Queens Gallery with cascading garlands and last minute calls to decorate Emma Watson's London apartment for her Christmas party. The smaller ones, including sitting in the woman who owned the company's kitchen, hand making wreaths and bespoke bouquets. When I first started, she had recently been to India, and had brought back a wealth of the most beautiful materials I had ever seen. She was experimenting with using these materials to make children's initials for their bedrooms, and placing them in little glass frames.
Christmas was rolling in and we were brain storming ideas of things to sell at her annual Christmas fair, and I suggested I made a little white dove inside one of her glass frames. She let me have a go, and I played around with pulling apart these beautiful Indian textiles to form a little flying dove. It was snapped up straight away, and I was asked to make another, and then another. Until one day I asked if I could have a go at making a cockerel (See above at the back of the pile of pictures). She was so pleased with it that I was given the freedom to play around and start making pretty much anything I wanted to.
I really loved my time working there, however it was casual labour, and I was struggling to financially survive in one of the worlds most expensive cities. I made the decision to leave, and explore my passion for Interior Design.
I soon a found job in central London at an Interior Design company, but finding myself sat behind a computer screen all day, I soon became very unhappy. I knew I needed to use my hands, and so I started to gather my own collection of beautiful textiles and would work on my own little projects in the evening.
My cousin's wedding was coming up and I decided to make her and her husband to be, an African Crowned Crane (See picture above). These Cranes partner for life, and apart from the fact they are utterly beautiful, I liked the sentiment. I posted the picture above on my private Instagram and several people got in contact, asking if I sold my pieces regularly. I started flirting with the idea of one day actually being able to make a proper go at it all, but everyone just looks at you as if you are crazy when you tell them you want to quit your 'perfectly good' job and become an artist. Yet I kept receiving commission requests.
All day everyday I would sit in front of my computer screen, day dreaming about the endless possibilities of my textile bird creations (and yes by this point I already knew I wanted to make birds but I'll go into that another time). I would get home and set to work, experimenting with my materials and improving my technique. I started to pick up fairly regular commissions (picture above is of one of my earliest commissions), squeezing them in late at night, on top of my hectic social life. I soon grew so incredibly tired, and began having to take more and more days off work because I would simply be too ill to go in. After only two years of working in that Job, I felt like I was a 40 year old banker who had 'burned out', but something wasn't adding up.
In October last year I was diagnosed with something called Hyperparathyroidism, and spent the following month and a half in hospital. Turns out, I had been very ill for a long time. I might go into this in more detail at some point in the future, but being surrounded by terminally ill patients for that length of time, makes you question what is really important to you. It was time I quit with pretending to be a conformist and I handed in my resignation at the Interior Design company. I moved back to the countryside and started planning my next move (Read my blog post called: 'Prepping for launch day').
I guess the moral of this story is: never assume that I woke up one day, had a light bulb moment and thought- I know, I am going to make gigantic textile birds, encased in glass. Its taken years of experimentation, self doubt, and a health scare to get me to where I am today. I'm not saying I have 'made it'... no way! I've still got so much work ahead of me, but... I'm happy!
I really hope I'll be able to show people that feel the way I felt, that its only you stopping yourself from doing what you love. It takes some real courage and baby steps in the right direction, but you can do it I promise!