Textile nature: textile techniques and inspiration from the natural world

Kelly, Anne
London, Batsford, 2016, 128 pages ISBN: 978 1 849943437 If you enjoy the challenge of making mixed media embroideries, you will enjoy this book. And if you don’t, I challenge you to get it out of the library anyway. It is a beautifully produced book, full of eye candy for the casual reader and full of inspiration if you are up to having a go at designing your own work. Can you tell that I really enjoyed it? 

Anne is a gifted textile artist whose work is exhibited widely - not, unfortunately, down under. Like many embroiderers, she is generous in sharing her knowledge and techniques. As the title suggests, Anne draws (literally and figuratively) from nature. She suggests that drawing will bring us closer to the natural world and has tips for achieving this. The second chapter has ideas for using drawings to create textile art, using mainly recycled fabrics, with a focus on plants as subjects. We all appreciate the endless possibilities plants have to inspire embroidery, whether machine or hand worked. Anne demonstrates how making a simple printing block can enable one design to be used in multiple ways. The third chapter uses similar techniques but this time the focus is on birds and insects. 

The fourth chapter delves into ways of connecting with and using the resources provided by our local environment. The book is set in the UK, but some, if not all, of Anne’s ideas, with some imagination could be transferred to Auckland or other areas in New Zealand. The last chapter has several ideas about using subjects in our natural world as a jumping off point for getting started with our own creative textile art. 

Anne has, throughout this beautifully written and illustrated book, used her own exciting, original work to illustrate and inspire. She has also used the work of many other embroiderers. Jane Nicholas features, as does one of my favourites, Cas Holmes; so does Nicola Jarvis and Alice Fox, whose works have recently been featured in Stitch magazine.  

 I have two minor niggles. I have noticed that recent books published by Batsford feature the work not just of the author, but of the other textile artists they publish. If this trend continues, it could get tiresome, with the same works appearing in several books. The other niggle - while I really do love Anne’s creative, exciting art, I noticed that several pieces have the same machine embroidered pattern on the surface. The first time I noticed it, I thought, ‘what a great idea’, but I felt it was over done after seeing that same pattern appearing on many (not all, thankfully) of the works illustrated. These are minor criticisms though, of what is a truly lovely book. 

 The book is just over $31.00 at Book Depository and also available through our wonderful public library system. 

Erica Marsden