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Q&A with Grace Gatley, A Tea Inspired Textile Artist
Here's a lovely display of Grace's embroidered works to get us started...
Ok so, tell me about your work, what inspires you and where do you get your ideas? (love all the tea and coffee pieces!) "The British culture of tea and coffee-drinking fascinates me; the notion that is so resolutely instilled in most Brits that a delicious hot cuppa can cure almost everything... It’s true! Obviously, a lot of my work features tea and coffee and all the paraphernalia involved in tea and coffee-drinking! My faith is hugely important and central to my work, and is where a lot of my inspiration and direction comes from. I always say that I’m inspired by ‘lovely things that other people say’ too. It can be anything, a lovely old phrase that I read in a book, things that friends say, or snippets of conversation that you hear when walking by people in the street or sitting at the next table to them in a café. It’ll spark an idea in my head or a little drawing in my sketch book, then I’ll recreate it in fabric and stitch. I try to carry my sketchbook around everywhere with me and I also try to remember to be observant! We’ve recently moved to a really leafy area of Cheltenham, and I’m loving all the beautiful trees! I have some ideas brewing for a little leafy collection of brooches or badges... Watch this space. One of my favourite things to make are ‘HUG’ hoop art pieces. Those all-encompassing arms are inspired by my husband’s! When he was little in a science class, arm spans were being measured. He realised that his are a good few inches longer than most other peoples! It’s quite funny and we all tease him sometimes, but it’s also lovely because he gives the biggest and best hugs. And hugs cure almost as
much as tea..."
I see you trained at Falmouth what was your degree show like? Was it all about tea?
"Yes! Falmouth is so beautiful, and will always hold a little piece of my heart! I still have friends living there, and we try to get down to visit as much as possible. My degree show was a collection of fabrics for childrenswear. It was inspired by folky forest creatures and patterns. Lots of owls, birds, cats! No tea, although it was tea that helped me through! Many a lovely hour spent in The Stannary (our student bar) with a cuppa, some embroidery and likeminded friends. The lovely thing about my work is that it’s mostly transportable, I can go and embroiderer anywhere!"
How would you describe your job and is it fulltime?
"Grace Gatley Textiles is currently my fulltime venture. I was still working part time until last October, but realised that especially in the run up to Christmas the demand for my work could provide me a good enough wage, so I decided to brave it! I thought I’d have to take up some part time work again after New Year, but then I just kind of kept on going! I love it. There are of course ups and downs; it’s not an incredibly steady income yet, and sometimes the downs seem more prevalent that the ups which gets a bit scary... But I believe in what I’m doing, and I’ve learnt to manage my income so it lasts when things get a bit quiet. During those quieter times, I spend my time trying out and learning new things, experimenting with new pieces and stocking up my shelves for when it gets busy again. The really great thing about being self-employed is that you can set your own hours. It’s a lot of hard-work, and often when I’m having a good, busy and inspired day I’ll work through to late evening, and weekends too. But it’s quite nice sometimes being able to give yourself the morning or afternoon off when you need it. Have a wander somewhere, snuggle up and read a book, go to the park and do some hula-hooping (another love of mine!) Those times are just as important to my creative process."
What sorts of things do you make, and what's your most popular items?
"I make embroidered textile art, accessories and homewares. The most popular pieces are little teacup and teapot brooches, and my ‘Tea Makes Everything Better’ hoop art. Everyone loves tea! This year I’ve started making bigger wall hangings for exhibitions; inspired by Bible Scriptures. That’s been really enjoyable, there’s something so satisfying about working on such a big piece (they’re all over a metre long) but the difficult thing is that I get so attached to them! I’ll hopefully be selling prints of them online soon though."
"I LOVE to dunk! Dark chocolate digestives are my fave for dunking, I love chocolate fingers too but have to limit my buying of those because I could quite easily polish of a whole box in one go! My mother-in-law lives in North Devon, and has a lovely converted van (with a hob and kettle at the back-of course!) that we often all pile in to go down to the beach. We’ll sit in the back while the boys go surfing and drink tea and dunk biscuits- the van’s often fully stocked up with custard creams! So I love those because they remind me of lovely, happy family times (and are also delicious!)"
Earl Grey or English Breakfast or?
"Both! A good Yorkshire brew is my daily cuppa of choice, but when I go to cafes I always choose Earl Grey- I’m not sure why, it’s just become a habit! I never used to like Earl Grey much, but whenever I’d go to visit a lovely friend she only ever had Earl Grey. I always drank it, because you know, you can hardly go to visit a friend without having a cuppa can you?! One time, she actually had some English Breakfast in and offered me some, but it felt a bit wrong by then to be in that particular friend’s house and not drink Earl Grey... So I realised I must like it after all! I suppose since then it’s always been the ‘away from my house’ tea of choice."
Do you use a teapot?
"Saturdays and Sundays are for teapots. I have such a gorgeous collection, and tea really does taste the best from a pot, but on weekdays I tend to stick to a bag in a mug! I drink so much tea, and I’m always flitting around doing something or other that for ease and speed I make tea in my lovely purple thermos mug. That means that whenever I get immersed in something for longer than expected, my tea is always still hot when I reach for it again! I do love getting the teapots out at the weekend though, it feels special and lovely! I’ll have a lovely pot of loose-leaf with breakfast and my hubby has a nice pot of proper fresh coffee. (Never thought I’d be married to a non-tea-lover, but he’s very nice!)"
Do you use vintage at home, if so, favourite piece/design?
"I have so much! We collected lots of vintage teacups and saucers for our wedding and I still have them all in a cupboard! It’s my dream to have a lovely big dresser or china cabinet one day to display them all in. I’ve used them a few times since when we’ve had little tea parties, and on the odd occasion when I need a little pick me up, I’ll make myself a proper pretty pot of tea with a dainty pretty teacup and saucer! They’re quite delicate though, so I’m a little precious with them. I do have a couple J&G Meakin Studio poppy teacups that I adore though, and use quite often. I’d love more of a collection of that one day, the colours are so beautiful! I was born and bred in the Staffordshire Potteries, so love of beautiful old teaware is kind of in my bones! I still always get a buzz when I find a lovely teacup in a vintage shop or market stall and turn it over to see my hometown stamped proudly on the bottom."
"Can I say all of it?! A real favourite is the Beryl Ware. Strange because I usually go for highly patterned and brightly coloured things, but I just love the simplicity of the design, and that gorgeous seafoam green colour. I’d really love a set of the plates and bowls, and teacups of course, that goes without saying!"