04th May 2015

Artist Profile: Mandy Pattullo

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Oekaki World is all about celebrating the clever and creative of the sewing world – we’re always looking for others who love beautiful sewing as much as we do. Our Artist Profiles show off the best and brightest of British textiles artists, from all kinds of backgrounds, methods and styles. 

This month we spoke to the wonderful Mandy Pattullo, a Newcastle upon Tyne based artist working with textile and print.

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Creating primarily from a studio in an Arts Centre at Horsley, in the Tyne Valley of Northumberland, Mandy Pattullo crafts beautiful hand-worked textile art pieces. She also works an Arts Project in a psychiatric hospital, and teaches creative workshops! Her work displays a stunning use of print, pattern and colour. We were captivated by her incredible skill with collage, and drawn to her found and thrifted style.

Textile artist Mandy Pattullo in her workspace

You must have a lot of creative energy to keep up an arts project, workshops, and your own works for sales and exhibition – how do you do it!

I work very hard – this year I will be teaching as far afield as Scotland and Cornwall. I love what I do and enjoy being on the road, meeting new people and sharing skills with them. I am lucky to be supported by equally creative family. My husband is an architect and my daughter, Alice Pattullo is rapidly becoming a well known illustrator. I have a son too, but he is pouring his imagination into his wedding plans for September.

Where does your love of textiles come from – have you always been a crafter?

I started making patchwork in my teens, the days of Laura Ashley scraps bags which could easily be pieced together to make quilts.  My mother and grandmother had sewed, (practical things like clothes and curtains), but I was interested in being a bit more creative in my textiles. For several years I made large bed quilts which were exhibited not just in this country but the USA and Japan. I went on to get a degree in International Textiles and Surface Decoration. I trained to design wallpaper, furnishing and fashion fabrics – an interest in patterns and the decorative is still evident in my work.  For some years I ran the HND and then Foundation Degree Textiles course at Newcastle College, but left to go back to my own practice. I loved facilitating the students’ creativity but I wanted to do it myself!

There’s a real reuse and recycle feel to your work, what about that idea drives you to create things?

I love using old fabrics, recycling the worn and using what is given to me. I am driven to create new pieces out of old things, mingling the story of the fabric and the hand of the previous maker with my own ideas and compositions.  I want to get people to look again at perhaps old and tattered textiles, which have integrity and a story tell. That’s just not present in newer fabrics.  I particularly want people to be aware of old quilts, the ‘make do and mend’, thrifty context in which they were made. Just because something is old and worn it doesn’t need to be thrown away. It can be injected with new life.

Textile art dress by Mandy Pattullo

Do you draw inspiration from other artists when you work?

When I left teaching I deliberately closed the studio door and spent a year trying to develop a visual language and identity of my own. I think this is very important. I don’t look to others for techniques and ideas. I try and work within a limited amount of techniques and do them well rather than collecting tricks of the trade. I am always happy to learn new stitches though, I often look at old embroidery books for new ways of developing stitch.

How much planning and preparation goes into one of your creations?

Research is the key to creating a new body of work. By research, I mean reading, visiting museums, taking photos, drawing and writing notes. Not whiling away many an hour on Pinterest! I then decide on a colour palette and collect together a basket of fabrics in different textures and patterns, that I think I can collage together. Sometimes I alter a fabric by overdyeing it or tea staining to create a more vintage look. I rarely buy any fabric but use what I have hoarded for years and am lucky to be given lots by friends. I only really buy calico and ticking fabric, and thread.

The most intense part of my work is making the collage. I will often pin something together then leave it overnight and relook the next morning. I am now brave enough to throw away things that aren’t working and move on. The most relaxed part of my time is the sewing together and then the embellishment with embroidery which is sheer joy.

Textile art piece by Mandy Pattullo

We love how varied your work is, but do you have a project that’s particularly dear to you?

I love making quilts into skirts. This started by seeing a red quilted petticoat which is held by the Quilters Guild Historic Collection. I researched quilted skirts and found they were often worn by fishing industry women along the north east coast so there seemed a local connection. There is something exciting about changing the function of a textile from a bed cover into a piece that can be worn. The trouble is they are too warm!

You’ve had a lot of different experiences already, but where do you see yourself taking your work in the future?

I would like more time to pursue conceptual and exhibition work but have to sell things to pay the studio rent and justify my rather lovely life in the studio. It is easy to get on a bit of a treadmill with continually making things that have to be packaged and marketed. Saying this though, I do love that so many people can have a little piece of what I am doing.

Textile art is reviving in the UK, do you think we’re headed in a good direction?

I am not sure where textiles is going in the UK – there seems to be too much cute, home sweet home type of embroidery around for my taste. It ties in with the whole domestic goddess thing, and I think women should rise above that!

Textile art jacket by Mandy Pattullo

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We’d like to thank Mandy for talking to us about her work, life and art, and sharing her story. You can find out more about Mandy’s work on her website, or purchase one of her pieces from her etsy page.

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Comments 3

  1. over 40 years ago my Aunt took me along to a textile art exhibition in Edinburgh. I loved it but over the years have been a very conventional fabric crafter generally following patterns. in recent years my early interest in the quirky use of fabrics and other media has sprung to life spurred on by Pintrest. I’ve seen so many inspirational pieces by Mandy Pattullo with no idea where you are based so its great to read about you and hear your thoughts. Well done and thanks for inspiring me.

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