Louise Hancox – Textile artist

Can you tell us about yourself and your background as an artist/maker?

I was born and raised in Worcestershire, in a lovely riverside village called Fladbury, between Pershore and Evesham, and not far from where I live now in The Lenches, with my husband and two sons. I love my home and have always had an interest in home furnishings and interiors. I started working with textiles after I gave up my role as teaching assistant in a local primary school a few years ago. I started making cushions, aprons, and bunting etc and taking them to craft fairs. I had often used embroidery and appliqué in my sewing projects and it has really developed from there. I love art but I could never really capture anything successfully with pencil or paint and I've never had any formal artistic training, but when I was asked to go along to a local needle felt workshop, I discovered a whole new way to release my creative energy. From there, I taught myself wet felting techniques and it is this medium that I really enjoy. Here I can employ those other skills, hand and free motion embroidery, drawing with thread, building layers and textures.

Summer Haze wet felt painting

Tell us a bit about your creative process.

I love the hands on approach to wet felting in particular, and although you can have an idea in your mind's eye and lay out the fibres carefully, you can never really tell quite how the fibres will behave or how much they will shrink. I am always excited to peel off the netting I use during the process, to reveal the initial felt underneath. Wet felting can be quite a lengthy process and there's lots of rolling and rubbing involved...it's very good for exercise for your upper arms! Once you have your piece of felt, the decision to enhance it with embroidery or needle felt can determine how much more time you spend on it. Very often the piece evolves as I add different details to it, and it's knowing when to stop that can be the hardest part! I am particularly enjoying exploring 3D vessels in felt and have been experimenting with different resists. I'm very much learning as I go along , but I like that process because I can experiment with ideas and there's no right or wrong way of doing things, it's just what works for you and that way you develop your own style.

Where you do usually work from?

I have a small sewing studio upstairs at home, where I keep all my two sewing machines and all of my fabrics, threads and embellishments. The walls are covered in all sorts of postcards and images, often from museums, galleries and exhibitions that have inspired me. I also have some of my earliest work up there too. Underneath my desk and cutting bench, there are lots of recycled boxes and packaging materials, as I try to reuse where I can. From the window, I overlook the corner of the garden and up to the end of the lane where the fields and the footpath begin. We are right on the edge of the Wychavon Way, so the walks all around us are beautiful. If I am wet felting, I will go down to the garden room at the other end of the house. In here there is a tiny kitchen and a tiled floor, perfect for coping with warm soapy water! It's a really restful space with lots of light and, as you would expect, it overlooks the garden.

Tell us about a favourite piece of work and what it means to you.

I've recently made a piece during lockdown which we've hung in the hallway at home. Every Sunday, we have been going for a walk as a family, and the inspiration for this piece came from the most beautiful walk we went on at the height of the pandemic. There is a wood on the edge of the village and on this particular morning the floor was covered in a carpet of the most stunning bluebells. We are extremely lucky living where we do, having a garden and being able to go out for a walk with the dog is a huge bonus at times like these. I love to get out into nature and I love to be creative. One informs and inspires the other and both help to balance my wellbeing. I felt so much calmer and my head was so much clearer after the walk and I wanted to capture that peace and tranquility. I am really pleased with the finished piece and it is a fond reminder of a precious family Sunday, and it has a lovely local connection too.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

I love art, so I like to visit museums, galleries, potteries and antique shops, where I see lots of textures, colours and shapes that excite me. However, without doubt, I take much of my inspiration from nature. Getting out every day with the dog, I have access to so much wonderful countryside on our doorstep. I always have my camera with me to capture the view or the wildlife.

What advice would you have for artists who are just starting out?

I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer that one, I feel like I am just starting out myself. I'm learning every day and it takes time to start to feel confident about your work, especially if, like me, you have no formal artistic training. Sharing your work and putting yourself out there with it feels very personal, especially when so much of you is invested in each individual piece. Having a support network is key to gaining knowledge and confidence. Artists often work alone and this can be very isolating. I think being in touch with other like minded individuals has definitely helped me. I have had a lot of support from fellow makers and artists, particularly online support from creative groups I belong to. There is a wealth of experience out there, and people are very generous with their advice and support on everything from how to use social media, to a few kind words if you are having a bad day.

If you sell your work, can you tell us more about how you do this?

I still take some of my work to craft fairs, it takes a while to find the ones that work best for you but I enjoy the social nature of them and meeting customers face to face. Since I've developed my range of textile art, I have also listed my work at The British Craft House. This is a relatively new online selling platform which operates by application only, each member is hand picked for the quality of their handmade work. The exposure has been beneficial as their social media reach is far greater than mine alone and the advertising works well. I have received both magazine and radio press coverage as a result. The other sellers are a key part of my support network and we regularly promote each others work.

A selection of handmade textile artworks

How has lockdown changed your creative process?

I have recently created some new pieces to adapt to the current climate of online selling. Smaller, more post friendly, 'letterbox' gift ideas, for example, my textile bookmarks and needle felting kits, which have sold well. I have also developed a range of greetings cards, some of which have images of my textile art printed on them, whilst others have small textile brooches attached, so become a gift and a card in one. I also offer a simple gift wrapping service and I am happy to post direct to a recipient on a customer's behalf. I like to offer a service that feels a little bit more personal to my customers, I think it's particularly appreciated at this difficult time.

Tell us about any future projects you have planned.

Prior to lockdown, I had a number of projects planned to encourage others to explore their creativity and I hope to be able to resurrect these and to offer some beginners workshops at the earliest opportunity.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am a member of the International Feltmakers Association and a supporter of The Campaign for Wool.

See more of Louise’s work on her Worcestershire Artists page.

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