Maker in Focus - Louise Watson
Louise Watson specialises in meticulous hand and machine embroidery inspired by the natural world. She focuses on the micro world of a mossy stone or barnacled shell and keeps sketchbooks of her observances which are usually displayed with the finished work to give the visitor an understanding of the process, from sketches, photos and samples to final pictures.
What drew you to textile art?
I come from a long line of dressmakers and stitchers. My mother taught me to stitch and knit. I didn’t make clothes but loved the decorative side. When I was teaching at a primary school in Stroud in my early twenties, my friend Maggie Shaw was doing a City and Guilds Embroidery course. When I saw her homework, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I started the course in 1986.
What aspects of nature inspire your work?
All aspects of nature inspire my work. The textures are so perfect for embroidery. I live on the edge of a small Cotswolds village, it is very rural with fields all around. Very beautiful. We are lucky that our neighbours still keep hayfields full of wildflowers. I try to walk daily and there is always something of interest to draw or stitch. I love to see the differences each time I go out, to observe the cycle of the seasons.
How does your sketchbook work influence your finished designs?
I begin each new piece of embroidery with drawing in my journal or sketchbook and then translate those drawings into stitch. I scribble down ideas in a rough sketchbook, adding words or bits of poetry. The ideas develop slowly as I work. Not every idea is successful. I usually work on several things at a time and flit about a bit, waiting for ideas to settle. It’s a very long, slow process, each piece is unique although I do return to themes, like the cycle of the seasons. Instagram has been great to show others how work develops. It’s good to show that when a visitor sees a finished piece it hasn’t magically arrived like that! They are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Embroidery is slow but I like that, it gathers meaning.
Do you have any favourite embroidery techniques or stitches?
Nowadays I use very simple stitches. A running stitch or straight stitch. I like to paint on fabric and create textures with appliqué and thread. The simple repetitive stitches are relaxing and meditative.
You are doing a perpetual diary, how does this connect to your work?
A perpetual nature journal is a record of what is flowering in that week of the year. You label the pages with the date of that week and draw something and over the years the drawings build up. By drawing the plants in flower you learn all the names and characteristics. I include butterflies and other insects or animals. Whatever I have seen during that week. It makes my embroidery more detailed and gives me a closer link to the natural world.
What is your newest make, what do you like about it and why is it special?
I am always most excited about the embroidery I am working on at the present. There is so much hope and enthusiasm in each one. If there isn’t then it’s time to discard it. There is always a story to each embroidery. Something I have witnessed, loved and want to record. I usually have several pieces on the go at once. Right now there are shells from our holiday, a tiny wildflower book and a wren to finish.
What does being part of The Guild mean to you?
I joined The Guild in 1999. It is wonderful to be part of that history. The other members bring inspiration, support and friendship. There is a lot of respect for The Guild and I was so pleased to be accepted. One of the best things I have ever done!
Do you have any events or workshops coming up?
I am taking part in The Guild’s exhibition at Rodmarton in September. It is an amazing day out and I am hoping to be there each morning and meet lots of visitors.
What is on your wish list from The Guild shop?
I love buying things from The Guild shop and exhibitions. I always use Ursula Jeakins sketchbooks and always want more! I am hoping to buy a piece of Elaine Day’s jewellery in the future because we share a love of nature. Beryl Morgan’s colourful glass vessels also call out to me!
You can follow Louise on Instagram here - @louisemaywatson - to see work in progress and her journal.