Agnis Smallwood designs and makes stunning hand woven textiles on a lovely big wooden loom. Here she talks us through her work, her love of yarn and how the long hours are worth it in the end.
Tell us about your work?
My work is all hand woven textiles, using my natural surroundings to inspire my ‘Forgotten Collection’. I produce products to wear like scarves as well as products for the home interior like rugs and cushions. I use natural yarns within my work as well as traditional techniques to produce lovingly hand woven textiles.
What’s your favourite piece of work?
At the moment I am really enjoying making and developing my range of rugs (main picture above). I have been enjoying using a traditional technique integrating two colours from each edge of the rug and then blending them at the centre. I have begun designing some new rugs which I hope to begin making soon.
When did it all begin for you?
I have always had a love of making and constructing from a very young age. I used to ask for cereal and egg boxes when I was little in order to create a project I had been designing in my mind. It was only during my Art Foundation Course when I had the opportunity to explore constructed textiles and ceramics that I realised these were the areas for me. I then developed my skills while studying for my degree in Contemporary Applied Arts.
Tell us about your work space?
I work from home in Leeds where I have created a studio filled with the beautiful yarns which are used in my work. This little homemade studio is where all my creations take form from designing to making. Sometimes however I can be found weaving in the conservatory to make use of the lovely natural light and be able to see into the garden, observing the natural world that inspires my work.
How do you know when a piece is done?
When I am happy with a piece of work then I know it is ok, I am my harshest critic so I don’t let anything be displayed that isn’t perfect. Whenever an item is finished I am always thinking what if I changed that thread to a different yarn etc. As a designer I think you continue to see developments that could be made within a piece and could incorporate them next time to create something new and exciting.
How do you keep your work unique?
I am constantly changing and developing my work, allowing my ideas and interest to flourish. I often look over previous work/drawings/samples and see what new ideas I can see in the work, new colours/themes and then explore them further either through sketching ideas or by creating samples on my loom. I think the way everyone views the world will be slightly different so therefore I hope that if I keep developing my ideas they will always remain new and unique to me.
Describe your day as a maker? Are you organised/disciplined?
No two weeks are ever the same which is what I love. I am naturally very organised and I can always be found with a carefully made list not too far away. Whether I am teaching/running a workshop/at a craft fair or weaving at home I always feel I don’t quite have enough time for all I would like to fit in!
What three tools could you not live without?
Well my loom is obviously central to all my work alongside would be my shuttles to help actually create my work. And the third most important tool I would say would be my iron, the finishing touch to my work, as the fabric always comes to life after it has had a good steam.
What gets the creative juices flowing ?
I often think about new ideas and how to develop my work for a long time. I often find that it is whilst I am weaving something else that I have time to think about future work. I always take lots of clippings from magazines, alongside a lot of my own photos so I can look through and use the visual information to help spark off new ideas.
Are you inspired by any artists from the past or present?
At the moment as I am designing some new rugs I am most influenced by Peter Collingwood and am fascinated in learning the many different techniques he developed in his work.
What’s do you love most about being a maker?
Being a designer maker is fantastic I feel extremely lucky to be able to pursue my passion for textiles and create my own work and be able to sell it to earn a living. I have the constant support of my Husband who has more confidence in what I am doing then I do myself most days! The fact I get to choose what I will do each day and what I will be working on is very exciting. I get a real sense of satisfaction being able to look at the work I have created just from various cones of yarn.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time?
In 5 years I would love to have expanded my business to be selling in more shops and fairs, though I would still always want to allow some time for teaching as it is really rewarding.
What would you say to any makers starting out?
I think it is really important to remember why you’ve become a maker and not to lose sight of your inspiration and creativity. If you know its what you want to do as a living keep going and working even through the long hours, the boring admin and paper work and ultimately the rewards through making will be there.
You can browse and buy from Agnis’ collection in her Folksy shop Agnis Smallwood.
If this got your creative juices flowing you might fancy entering our “Textile Love” competition for a chance to win a signed copy of Margo Selbys new book “Contemporary Weaving Patterns”. Go to our Facebook page to enter.