Pauline Bloomfield is a freelance textile artist and part time tutor. Based in Derbyshire, she has exhibited widely in both group and solo exhibitions in various parts of the country. In 2010 Pauline stopped teaching in mainstream adult education to concentrate on her work in care homes in Nottinghamshire and Lancashire.
A: You describe your work as narrative, an illustrative form of textile art. Tell us more about the processes involved in the development.
PB:I have always enjoyed reading poetry and short stories, and developing images inspired by the texts which is basically what I began to do when I an illustration student in Leeds. From reading text I will develop ideas as a series of drawings in sketchbooks. I will then choose one or two of drawings to develop as a series collages using a variety of papers, felts, even threads. For me it is easier to see how layers of translucent paper may translate into fabric which is the next stage. I will select fabrics and do samples if necessary. My favourite fabrics include silks which I may paint or dye and fleecy cottons. Following this, I usually choose one of the samples to develop as a larger scale piece. Backgrounds are usually built up as layers of fleecy and translucent fabrics which are stitched and layered. Finally, the figure is stitched on using the fillerwork technique.
A:The images are created by using layering or collage techniques. Have you always worked with textiles?
PB:I began to use printmaking and collage techniques when I was on my foundation course at Chesterfield College. From there I trained as an illustrator at Leeds Metropolitan University, where I continued to develop print and collage, mainly in the second year. Between my second and third year I started to work with fabrics and I was able to develop my textile techniques by attending regular tutorials in the Department of Textile Industries at the neighbouring University of Leeds. From there I went on to study for a Master’s Degree in textiles at Manchester Metropolitan University, specialising in print and embroidery. I was able to use textile techniques to illustrate the work of African-Caribbean writers and poets on this course, learning in depth about fabrics, dyes and threads.
A:Who or what are the main sources of inspiration behind your work?
PB: Previous inspirational texts include the poetry of Jean Binta Breeze Grace Nichols. More recently I have been inspired by ancient African myths about creation and the Caribbean spiritual world.The experience of life drawing on my foundation course and my interest Southern African rock art the main sources of inspiration for the figurative nature of my work. The lush greens, golds and turquoise and the vegetation of the Jamaican environment has also impacted on my embroideries. I am also interested in the symbolism within the traditional art of Ghana.
A:Who or what influences your work?
PB:I have been aware of the work of textile artist Alice Kettle for over twenty years. Seeing how she added detail to the figures in her earlier work led me to experiment with ways of adding further detail to the figures in my own work which were, in the earlier years, mostly large black-brown silhouettes. The figures in my more recent embroideries now have finely stitched faces and hair. Following a visit to Jamaica, I began to use a more diverse range of threads to create skin tones than I had done previously. When I was a student in Leeds, I was encouraged to study the work of Mark Rothko. His paintings still give me ideas on how to create backgrounds. Other artists who influence my work include the potter Chris Bramble and textile artist Linda Miller.
A:You regularly work on textile projects in education and care settings. How did that develop and does it in turn influence your work?
PB: Exhibiting my textiles has enabled me to develop a creative professional network over a twenty-year period. As a result of this I have led community arts projects around the UK. I began working in care settings in 1999 when I returned to Chesterfield College to work as a lecturer, choosing to teach art courses in the community over working on site. The outreach work involved teaching crafts, including pottery in residential care homes in the Chesterfield area and the Derbyshire Dales. I do not work at the college now but I continue the freelance work in community, education and care settings. The main influence on my work is the use of clay. Whenever I can, I experiment with making items with clay which I put through the firing and glazing processes. I occasionally find ways of incorporating the items into my work.
A: In which direction do you see your work going in future?
PB: I have had a website for a little over a year now and as a result of this I am now building an international network and I have recently just started to exhibit again.
As for the embroideries themselves, I am currently doing more experimental work with felt and plant papers in sketchbooks. Always looking for sources of inspiration, I would like to learn how to make my own felts as a means of creating backgrounds upon which to stitch the figures. I will always use texts as one of my main sources of inspiration as it is a good way to create a series of embroideries. Having a mobile telephone with a camera is always useful; if I see anything that is of interest to me, I can always take photographs. I would also like to continue my experiments with pottery.
More of Pauline’s work can be see at www.paulinebloomfield.com
To see her listing in the Artists’ Directory in Aesthetica Magazine issue 61 pick up a copy at www.aestheticamagazine.com
1. Detail from sketchbook study. Courtesy of the artist.
2. Detail from Juok the Creator. Courtesy of the artist.