Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
1. How did you start making dresses?

About 10 years ago I became interested in finding my own images so started to experiment in making large wire and paper figurative constructions called 'Wrapped Figures'. Gradually the 'wrappings' became the focus of the work and I started to explore conceptual clothing as a subject to put over my ideas.

2. Did you train as a textile artist or has your work developed along that route?
I trained in fine art and do not think of myself as a textile artist as I do not use textile techniques but I do think these labels are very fluid these days. I describe myself as a sculptor using mixed media, which covers a wide range of materials and construction methods.
3. Which artists inspired you?

I think that the Surrealists as a group of artists have had a huge influence on conceptual work. I am interested in many artists work particularly female artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Tracy Emin and Sophie Calle, who make using our own life experiences so acceptable. I love the poignancy of Laura Ford's work and the inventive sideways look at the world of Corneilia Parker.

4. How long do the dresses take to make on average?
Difficult question! as I am unlikely to work full time on one piece, though one dress can take between one to six months as often the direction of the piece develops slowly and the making can be repetitive.

5. Can you describe the process that you go through when developing a piece of work?

I find the process of making an artwork very exciting. I love the way that a story unfolds as the piece develops and connections seem to materialise that may influence the direction or the emphasis of the journey. My thoughts meander, sometimes allowing associations to dictate the next decision, or an idea is rejected which makes the path to the final outcome clearer.
6. How do you make the shape?
Usually I make a cast from an existing form like a mannequin or shoe which is then reformed. I use paper mache or plaster to make the moulds.
7. Is your work reflective of yourself or does it reflect how you think people see you?

The earlier dresses are often autobiographical but the personal is becoming more universal in recent work. I think the mosaic pieces are a sneaky way of exploring my alter ego!

8. What type of materials do you use to cover the dresses? How do you select them?

I use fabrics particularly fine dress netting, old lace and discarded materials, papers, my old diaries, photographs and maps. They are chosen for their history and their textual and visual qualities. Often they may be burnt or bleached, ripped and then rebuilt. I will also use animal materials and man made objects, detritus to embellish and suggest another layer of meaning.
9. How do you attach the hair to the pieces, I just make a mess?
This is very tricky, it needs to be done in a very organised way, layering in one direction. It is combed and trimmed before being stuck down using PVA waiting till each layer is dry before working on top. If your hands get sticky the whole thing begins to resemble the grey grot that you pull out of the plug hole.
10. Where does your inspiration for the narrative pieces come from and what is their purpose, are they stories that you know or stories that you have created?
Sometimes I start a piece and realise that it has links to a story like the shoe made for the Queen of Sheba, or the idea is suggested by a viewer as a work is in progress. I am very interested in fairy stories telling of the transformative powers of clothes and the way that some of the characters acquire power through the use of animal skins or feathers. Many myths and legends have a universal appeal.
11. Have you ever wanted to go into fashion? Is your work influenced by fashion?
No, although I am influenced by some of the exciting experimental ways that some designers present their collections and the way that clothes maybe deconstructed. The fashionable idealised female form does interest me and I am sure that I do take images I have seen and make use of them in some way.
12. Do you think that textiles are an effective way to tell a story?
Textiles and specifically embroidery is traditionally women's work (see The Subversive Stitch' by Rozsika Parker) and I feel that this tradition and the story telling element is being carried on in the work of Tracy Emin and Ghada Amer and others. The pioneer women who hand crafted the beautiful patchwork quilts along the journeys across America were unwittingly recording their families lives.
13. Do you believe that Textile narratives have a valid place in history today?
We have such a personal, intimate contact with textile fabrics as coverings, protection, the symbolism is so pertinent to our lives as human beings, it is only one step away to use textiles as a vehicle for the story of our lives.