Get to know Stacey Chapman

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I trained as an illustrator and fell into the craft world after teaching myself how to draw and paint with thread. My passion is to create portraits from up-cycled fabrics/objects/thread and I also design and teach workshops in freehand machine embroidery, which is a wonderful gift of a job.

What inspired you to start sewing?

I was lucky enough to learn the soul sating art of sewing at school. There was always a sewing machine being used at home because both of my parents used to make my dance costumes throughout my childhood. I remember sitting at the machine and wanting to do something, but I found sewing straight lines or joining fabric together frustrating and uninspiring.

I started my current practise because I had my very own lightbulb moment whilst watching Kirstie Allsopp learning freehand machine embroidery on her programme. I was attending Adult Education College for dressmaking, and therefore I had a sewing machine. I had also collected fabric for years. Add these to my lifelong obsession with drawing, it seemed I had found the perfect craft. I parked the idea in my head until my Mum got a rescue dog and I wanted to make her a Christmas gift. The portrait turned out really well. Life spun on its head and I spent the next three years solidly creating portraits of pets from thread, and the rest of my business has grown from there.

Can you tell us about a typical day?

My creative inspiration always hits first thing. If I get to the sewing machine or drawing board early, I know I will have a good creative day. If I attempt to do anything else, I will find it very difficult to get back into my creative zone. If I am working tightly to a deadline, I have to be very focused and put everything else on hold until that project is completed.

There probably is no such thing as a typical day for me, which is one of the things I love about what I do, it is so varied. I can do anything from working on a design, sketching, sewing a freehand machine embroidery portrait or workshop sample, designing marketing leaflets, answering queries, wrapping and posting items to clients, giving interviews, visiting art galleries for inspiration, delivering work to shops, invigilating my art exhibitions, purchasing supplies, producing invoices or quotes, writing course notes, creating content for the website, travelling to teach workshops, photographing, videoing, editing for social media, conceiving future collections of work in my mind, meeting clients to discuss commissions and lots more besides. It is stimulating, exciting, sometimes overwhelming and always pretty wonderful.

What are your plans for the future?

I am thrilled to now be writing a regular column for the wonderful Love Sewing magazine! I have only been running my own workshops at Margate for a year, so I am looking forward to developing more exciting projects for that. Thus far, I have attracted participants from different parts of the UK as well as the USA and Australia, which is pretty much head spinning! Recently, I have been lucky enough to have been asked to tutor at the W.I. headquarters at Denman and Embroiderers Guilds. The Handmade Fair is evolving into a Festival this year and I very much hope to be invited back there to run workshops. I continue to enjoy my monthly teaching at John Lewis, Oxford Street with The Makery as well as providing workshops for private sewing groups across the UK.

This year, I am developing two collections of art work, that will see me returning to more of a fine art base which will be my main focus. Short term, I am delighted to have been shortlisted for the National Needlcraft Awards and I will look forward very much to attending the prize giving at Olympia soon, with my fingers tightly crossed!

 

What inspires you/what would you describe as your design aesthetic?

I have life long inspiration from two main subjects, the first being Hollywood 1950s style glamour. My whole childhood was spent dancing. This installed in me a deep love of musicals, extravagant costumes with excessive trims, gaudy and eye catching enough to be visible from the back of the theatre plus the glamour of the golden age of old Hollywood.

The second is portraiture. I have always been obsessed with realism. The first artists I fell in love with were the Pre Raphellites, Degas and John Singer Sargent. I remember the thrill of revelation examining Degas pastel masterpieces, that the colour of flesh was actually created from a whole plethora of colours combined! I loved fashion illustration, as this was the perfect mix of combining my love of drawing people along with the elaborate clothes that the subjects were draped in.

My design style is most certainly kitsch. I grew up with limited exposure to fine art. My dancing fuelled my personal style of more is more! When I got to art school, I envied the cool kids whom had been schooled in art history and good taste, but now I am thankful for my aesthetic slant as it has given me different reference points from which to build my own individual visual language.

“To my mind, freehand machine embroidery is the ultimate mindfulness practise”

What is your favourite thing about sewing?

Loosing myself in the stitch. To my mind, freehand machine embroidery is the ultimate mindfulness practise and I think it should be available on prescription! Hand stitching is the same for me too. I love having a pre drawn, printed or coloured surface pattern as a background for me to respond to with immediacy with no strict plan of how to proceed. My creative blocks only kick in when I question that immediacy of intuition, overthink and let fear show its face. As soon as I get out of my own way and get into the flow of sewing, it is like a magic that pours from within me where I loose hours in a blissful calm bubble, forgetting to eat or to let the dog out!

What is your least favourite thing about sewing or your biggest challenge?

I attended my dressmaking course for nearly three years and even after that, I think I left a below average dressmaker as it just didn’t suit my skill-set sadly.

With hand sewing, I have only been seriously playing with for a year, I have found it to be the best travel companion. However, I do feel like an imposter as I have never learnt how to sew embroidery stitches ‘properly’. I just see it as using my needle to paint with. I have got a stitch dictionary that I was recommended, but try as I might, I cannot work any of them out. I have an overwhelming need to freestyle my design and to apply my drawing techniques, fudging stitches and adding colour or texture until it looks right. I just say to any Embroiderers Guild members, please don’t ever look at the back of my work, as I don’t want to be responsible for any heart attacks!

Who do you look up to in the sewing community?

Anyone who can tailor clothes beautifully! Karen Nicol and Lou Gardiner. Karen inspires me no end. She is a true genius. Lou Gardiner inspires me by her beautiful artwork, energy and excellent skills of marketing. I love the work of contemporary textile artist Nick Cave with his playful yet powerful way of utilising garments as soft sculpture, providing beauty alongside political and social commentary. Both inspiring and moving.

 

Do you have any other hobbies/passions?

Visiting exhibitions and art galleries, dancing, musical theatre, in depth conversations with friends, immersing myself in nature, swimming – in the sea when it is warm, books of any kind, traveling to interesting places as and when I can, I love fine dining and of course, my dog.

How can people keep in touch with you?

The best way is on Instagram/Art_Sea_Craft_Sea and I am also on Facebook. For a good introduction to my work, visit www.artseacraftsea.com and for information about my workshops or artwork, please email me at stacey@artseacraftsea.com

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