Gwen Hedley is an embroiderer, teacher and author from the UK. She has written two books on stitch and embroidery. In her first book: Surfaces for Stitch: Plastics, Films and Fabrics, Gwen used unconventional materials such as plastics and foam, in combination with textiles to create new surfaces. These new surfaces were then used as a basis to embroider and embellish with stitches.
With Gwen’s second book: Drawn to Stitch: Line, Drawing and Mark-Making in Textile Art, she focused on one of the elements of design – line. By observing lines in the world around her and drawing from theses observations, Gwen begins making her artwork. Her first step is sketching, and recording notes on her thoughts and observations before she begins her pieces. “For me, stitching is drawing with thread – my mantra being ‘stitch is mark’.“
Gwen’s pieces were primarily machine stitched but there has slowly been a transition to hand work. She uses basic stitches, using them to make marks in her work. Roumanian/Bokhara couching is the stitch she uses most frequently. It allows her to her to blend colours and create texture as seen in the detail of Enfolded above.
“The enjoyment of my somewhat speedy and energetic free machining, with its relentless noise and repetitive sounds, began to wane, as did the comfort limitations of constantly sitting at a table. In contrast, I relished the relaxing rhythmic processes of hand stitching, sitting comfortably, and able to listen to radio or TV, and to have conversations – so much more sociable. It is also very portable, and can easily travel unobtrusively with me!”Gwen Hedley
Gwen uses different mediums such as paint, charcoal and dye on paper and textiles. Since each material absorbs the medium differently, there are subtle differences in the finished pieces. Ripping and weaving back together different materials also gives unique textures to the work. In her piece Restoring, she references antique Swedish braids that were traditionally cross stitched. By using the familiar blue and white colour combination on paper and cloth, using satin stitch and a change in scale she gives the piece a contemporary spin.
Contained Sticks and Stones uses the basic technique of wrapping found items. Gwen finds small items like rocks, shells, and sticks on her walks that she wraps with threads and fabrics. This piece is her most recent in this series and the smallest one.
Gwen doesn’t consider herself a full time artist, tending to work in spurts of activity rather than daily. She uses her sketchbook to draw, write down ideas, observations, and drawings. Her sketchbook is a place where she writes critiques of her work, has samples she has made and ideas she has tried. It’s important for her to analyze what has gone wrong in a piece as well as what was successful to avoid repeating mistakes. She lectures on her working processes and teaches a variety of workshops. She also enjoys her roles as Wife, Mother and Granny!
Gwen is a member of the Textile Study Group: artists and tutors sharing ideas imagination and skills. They are are “group of nationally and internationally recognized textile artists and tutors, well known for innovative and challenging approaches to art practice and contemporary teaching.” (website) Gwen is an active member and is involved in an exciting project with the group. Over the next year the members of the Textile Study Group are participating in a new book called Insights. It is aptly named as this book will give insights into the way each individual member works.
There is always something to improve in each piece and taking the time to analyze is invaluable when planning a new piece. Some things that give Gwen great personal satisfaction are:
- developing pleasing designs using observational drawings
- abstracting visual ideas
- creating stitch trials
Creating stitch trials in particular, are spontaneous and freeing, giving Gwen immense joy!
- Website: Gwen Hedley via Textile Study Group
- Website: Textile Study Group
- Tutorial: Couching techniques: basic, trailing, Roumanian & Bokhara
Joyfully creating – One stitch at a time!
Photographs of Gwen’s art courtesy of the artist – thank you!