Crimson Flowers (2015)
73 x 62 cms
Found textiles, lace, paper, bonded and layered print, paint and stitch
Cas Holmes is based in Kent and has been creating textile art for over thirty years. While studying fine art she became more interested in what she was painting on rather than the subject matter. An interest in paper making followed including nine months studying it in Japan, this gradually led to a passion for textiles. “Textiles crept up on me and has been with me ever since,” she says. She currently divides her time between her art, writing books, teaching and working on community textile projects.
How do you describe your work?
I like to use stuff around me, both physically, the materials gathered, the inspiration to be found in the environment we inhabit, and emotionally, by connecting to place and people. Intuitive in its response to the linear, textural and light qualities to be found in the landscape compositions evolve from the creation of marks stained, scratched, painted, drawn and stitched into the surfaces as part of the process of making.With ‘stitch sketching’, I seek to capture a moment or thing before it is gone: the intimate views from our windows, and the seasonal changes in our gardens, to the broader interest of wild flower habitat on the verges of our roadsides and field edges and the low lying land of my birthplace, Norfolk.
How do you create a piece from start to finish?
It’s a very cyclical process and I’m often working on several pieces at once. My inspiration can come from both the materials and the memories of how they came to me via donation and gathering things as I travel and work. This also applies to commissioned pieces which incorporate pieces and responds to the ‘story’ of a place/person. Sometimes just sitting and taking in what is around me (often with a sketchbook to hand) gives me time to ‘just be’ and take time to absorb things and think.I go forwards and backwards with a piece like an artist goes back to their canvas.
Do you draw every day?
I try to, it may not always be in a sketchbook, it could be drawing onto fabric. It is also important sometimes to just sit and look, which we don’t often do in the hectic work we live in. I run workshops and often say to people at times you may, at times, feel overwhelmed, if so just take yourself out for a walk to breathe and let ‘some space in’.
How has your work evolved since you started in the eighties?
It continually moves rather than changes, especially the work I do in the community. I did a lot of community work in the 80s and 90s, and I still do, I feel the community work has changed it’s focus since my early involvement (or I have). It felt more energised by the sense of ‘community having a go’ evolving from a process of interaction what people and communities wanted from a project, With more funding coming through matched business sponsorship it sometimes gives the impression a ‘project outcome’ dictating the process rather than the other way round.
I also teach at Adult Education which is incredibly egalitarian in its access and I’ve taught a wide range of students over the years including those with mental heath problems and people in prisons. Teaching and doing community work raises challenges within me and informs my practice.
Has the rise in technology altered your textiles?
Technology and the use of current media has a relevance, and I use it where appropriate. I am not led by it and always like to turn things back into the handmade. If I use a photographic image I transfer it onto cloth or paper with a basic hands on technique using emulsion paints and acrylic mediums. This approach brings out the beautiful imperfections.
I’m not led by the seduction of the latest new material,medium or piece of equipment and use basic processes with found materials and mediums you are just as likely to find in the DIY shop as in an art suppliers. I often return to things. In the late 80s and early 90s I did weaving and crochet, and I may use it again.
Has the textile scene changed since you started?
Textile art is constantly evolving both in creative application and in the commercial sphere. Contemporary fine art is conceptually orientated. Textiles, by nature, is equally process driven and has a strong link with a domestic/female heritage. This can present a challenge to its acceptance as an art form, and at times it feels the same arguments about its validity beyond ‘craft’ continue. All forms of art regardless of their medium should have equal placing on a gallery wall.
Do you have any advice for aspiring textile artists?
Don’t give up and it will be hard work. Also my mantra is, ‘say yes to opportunities and challenges (rather than no because you feel you can’t do it.) If someone has asked you to do something they see value in you.’ No matter how busy you are draw and keep a sketchbook. See things through. Oh, and sometimes say ‘no’ to the things you really do not ‘want’ to do.
Any words you would like to leave us with?
What we do with other people is valid and helps create meaning in your work.
‘Stitch Stories’ Cas Holmes most recent publication for Batsford, looks at seizing ideas for inspiration from the world around you. It is also the title of her current exhibit at the Visions Art Museum in San Diego (until July 3rd. )
Cas is also part of the textile group Art Textiles Made in Britain who will be exhibiting at the Festival of Quilts at the NEC Birmingham, August 11 – 14th.