Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your transition from photography to embroidery?
I started my BA in photography in 2000. Initially I was disappointed as it seemed more commercial then art based. Before I started the course, I began to explore fusing photography and textiles and it was deemed unsuitable for me to continue this. I loved finding interesting subjects to photograph and enjoyed learning how to colour print in the traditional dark room. I left with a strong portfolio and continued to take photographs when I studied towards my MA in fine art.
When I completed my MA, I did a teaching qualification and was offered a job teaching A’ level photography and art. Teaching art was very challenging because, although I had a Masters in fine art, I had never learnt how to draw or paint. I overcame this by learning at the same time as the students. I was a quick learner and felt that I had just undertaken an A' level in art myself. Around this time I became very friendly with the artist in residence who did his degree in textiles. We soon moved in together and although we didn't have a fridge, hoover, washing machine or any home essentials, we did have a sewing machine. After a painful relationship break up – Lee taught me how to use a Bernina to create free machine embroidery and I have been sewing ever since.
What is the ethos behind your work?
FEELING NOT MEANING
What kind of formal education, training or experience do you have that applies to what you do?
Teaching (and learning) A’ level art and putting those skills to use in my embroidery has helped develop the work I do.
Are there any techniques/skills that you learnt through your photography that you are able to apply to your embroidery?
The two main things I see in common with my photography and embroidery are narrative and colour.
When I left college and could no longer use the dark room facilities and the world began to embrace digital photography, a little part of me died. Digital photography should have opened up a new world of possibilities – it’s cheaper, easier and quicker. However, I refrained from using it; I hated it and didn't and still don’t trust it. For me, it made photography lose its beauty.
I realised that I loved the process of taking, developing and printing the photographs. I like wandering around the dark room and using equipment and dials to ‘create’ a photograph rather than staring at a computer and clicking a mouse.
Around the same time, I was learning embroidery and it eventually took over. It fit into my life style, I no longer had to wait to find a dark room to print my photos, I could get the same buzz from creating at home and I no longer had to battle with the demon of digital photography which was a losing battle. I was surprised to discover that, with painting and embroidery, I could create anything I wanted, rather than being confined to what I could photograph.
What do you love most about what you do and what do you find the most frustrating?
I love what I do because I find it therapeutic. If I’m having clouds of self doubt I look at what I have created and it is like looking at a flattering reflection. I look at it and I feel good about myself.
The most frustrating part is if I’m not creating, or if I have created something I don’t like. Then, I feel the opposite of when things go well and it affects my self esteem and after a while I start feeling depressed and a bit worthless.
Is handmade a lifestyle choice for you and if so why?
Handmade is a life style choice as it is the only thing I know and I don’t have any other choice.
Can you tell us a bit about your studio/workshop/workspace?
I live in a cheap, big house and use the spare room as the studio. I have everything I need; a Bernina and a cupboard full of fabric and a tin full of crystals.
How do you balance your work and home life, what do you do to wind down?
My work feeds into my home life; it inspires the embroideries I produce (especially personal work). I work with people with mental health issues and they inspire me. They are able to delve into their unconscious on a more superior level to those that are deemed ‘mentally stable’.
To wind down, I embroider or work in my sketch book, or watch ‘Over the rainbow’ and listen to potential Dorothy's.
Do you ever experience periods of creative slump and if so what helps you through?
I had a creative slump for 4 years during the transition between photography and learning embroidery. I just kept creating work I was unhappy with until one day I had a break through.
Who or what inspires you most in your work?
I have always loved fairy tales and mythology. Recently, I have been reading the works of Carl Jung and his theories on dream analysis and the unconscious have fed well into my work. I don’t know many textile artists as I am new to the arena, however, my good friend Lee Mattocks who taught me embroidery inspires my work immensely. If you Google his name you can see some of his work, he is very special.
How do you get the word out about your work?
I did my first market stall last week in the town in which I live (Bristol). I am doing a weekend Art market in a couple of weeks and plan to try and get a more regular slot at the tobacco factory where they support local artists. I always make sure I have business cards at the stalls.
If you had the time to learn a new skill what would it be?
For more information on Kim Matias and her work visit her blog: http://kimclarkson.blogspot.com/