192 x 192 cms
Photo: Phil Dickson, PSD Photography
Pauline Burbidge has been a textile artist for over forty years. Taking the natural world as her source of inspiration, her quilts and wall hangings have a wonderful fluidity and sparing use of colour.
What is your background in textiles?
I studied Fashion and Textiles at St. Martin’s Art College in London, graduating in 1972. In the three years that followed my college days I designed garments, but quickly realized that this was not the world for me.
What is it about quilting as a medium that appeals to you?
At the time (1975) when I began patchwork and quilting, I was very pleased to find something that uniquely connected to me, it was nothing at all to do with my college degree – I felt as though I could work with this in exactly my own way. I could work with colour and form, in a very pure way. I loved the use of repeated patterns and piecing fabric, and immediately saw potential to design my own things yet happily link, in a very loose way, to the tradition of patchwork and quilting.
How do you describe your work?
I make fabric collages, with many layers of cloth and stitch. I link with contemporary quiltmaking, yet I also call myself a textile artist and designer/maker. My work falls into two categories, one, pieces that are deliberately made as wall hangings, I call these Quiltscapes. And two, functional and usable quilts, that can be used as bedcoverings, I call these Quiltline pieces. All my works are completely one-off, unique works. The inspiration for the imagery, links to my love of the natural world, landscape, plant forms etc.
What techniques to you use?
In my early work, I was wedded to the idea of always piecing the fabric together, this meant that the nature of the design was very geometric. Today, I collage fabric in a very free and fluid way, beginning with a variety of fine cotton and silk cloths, I stitch, paint, print and draw (on the cloth and in stitch), to make up my imagery.
If not answered above, how do you obtain your wonderful intense blues?
These blues are obtained by using an old printing method called Cyanotype, it was an early photographic printing method, invented in 1842. The fabric is coated with light sensitive chemicals, you place objects onto the fabric, then expose it to bright sunlight. The fabric that is exposed to the sunlight, turns bright blue, the other areas remain white, this appears after you have rinsed the fabric in clear water and allowed it to dry. Although the blue colour has a quality similar to indigo, it is not the same at all.
Where do you work?
I live in the rural surroundings of The Scottish Borders. I live in converted farm steading buildings, that I share with my husband who is also an artist, we have converted these building to suit our needs. We have lived here for 22 years, and slowly made the place ‘ours’. I have three studio spaces, the main one is in our house, then another area for painting or drawing on cloth, and a third space where I do machine quilting.
How do you design a quilt?
These days, I draw and make samples to begin a work. Something grows out of this, which often then turns into a large work. I allow it to evolve rather than plan it all at the outset, which is how I used to work.
Do you work on more than one quilt at a time?
I often work on two pieces at a time. One can have the craft work side on the go, and the second I might be ‘composing’ a piece. In other words, deciding what moves to make next, or asking myself, what do I want to say with it? Which are the important shapes / lines/ spaces, colours, transparency or texture? Does it connect well with my original inspiration?
You’ve been making quilts for over 40 years, how would you say quilts have changed over that time?
The interest in quilts has grown hugely over the 40 years. When I started, I knew no-one else who worked with patchwork and quilting, any information to be found was through history and books from the past. Today, there are many networks of practitioners.
Do you think Textiles is Art, Craft or both?
Textiles can be either, or both, it depends on expression of your subject, or your making. It is a completely hard question to answer. I think of myself as sometimes an artist and sometimes a craftsperson – this can all be in the one piece of work – and sometimes a designer/maker.
My husband, Charlie, has a good line on the artist label, he says I don’t call myself an artist, it is up to others to call me that if they think fit.
I agree with his statement really, but I do sometimes call myself a textile artist, I think it feels necessary to communicate an understanding of where I fit into the textile world, as it is so vast.
Do you have any advice for aspiring textile artists?
Don’t compromise your work, in terms of earning money or pleasing others, listen to your own voice of expression! Keep re-assessing what you are trying to say and where you want to be heading.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Please get to see some of my actual work, screen viewing is one thing, and seeing the real thing is another. Keep an eye on my website for exhibition dates and venues.
Quiltscapes by Pauline Burbidge, will be on exhibition at the IQSCM, in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. www.quiltstudy.org From the 18th October 2016 through to 25th March 2017.