Aimee Betts is a Mixed Media Embroidery Designer, with an admirable desire to bring the traditions of embroidery to the forefront of contemporary design practice. Selected by the Crafts Council to receive creative and business support as part of their 2011 Hothouse programme, Aimee Betts is on a roll. Here she pauses for 5 minutes to share with us her top five inspirations. You can’t helped but be inspired by her enthusiasm, her perspective and her passion for tools (hooray for fellow tool geeks!). Enjoy.
I am not as enthusiastic about vintage objects as I am about ancient objects. I either like things to be really old, or really new. My work takes inspiration from the Iron Age jewellery hoards on display at the British Museum. These ‘nests of torcs’ were ploughed to the surface in Snettisham during the 1950s. I like the idea of these vast weights of gold being dug out of the ground, and the relationship between the soil and the metal. The bold, uncompromising use of gold and the remarkable weight of the objects appealed endlessly to my tactile sensibilities.
I never try to compromise or cut corners with my work. I love objects that are intricate in their making; to me they are an endless puzzle as I try to unpick the complexities of their construction. The more laboured the object and the more suffering and agonising endured by the maker, the more satisfying it is for me to observe.
The Ashley Book of Knots
First published in 1944, The Ashley Book of knots is a male centric outlet for textile thinking. I enjoy making comparisons between the knots and netting techniques found in this book and that of the stitches found in the DMC Encyclopedia of Needlework. The main difference being that The Ashley Book of Knots is often intended for the user to create an object that has a practical purpose, whereas the Encyclopedia of Needlework focuses the attention on more decorative outcomes, but essentially the techniques all abide by the same mathematical laws of construction.
The Calico Museum
During a design residency in Ahmedabad, India I was fortunate enough to visit The Calico Museum. The museum houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Indian textiles in the world spanning across five centuries. The detail of the craftsmanship and the embroideries were out of this world! The hours of work, dedication, and the love of textiles were completely overwhelming. The appliqué quilt intended to be worn by a camel; hand stitched in painstaking detail with three dimensional trapunto eyes was a highlight for me! I was left thinking ‘what on earth can I bring to India, when India has achieved so much?”
Colour! I can’t get enough of colour! When I was 21 years old all I wore was black and my friend Ella Robinson nicknamed me ‘Baby Goth’. It was almost as though I was afraid of colour, but fortunately I grew out of this. During my MA we were really pushed to think about the concept of colour. Now I just can’t wait to get out those tubes of paint and start mixing.
One of my most recent and favorite colour experiences was at the exhibition Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, which was shown at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Tom Thomson’s colour palettes were so dreamy and melancholic that they radiated from the canvas. It was his understanding and appreciation of colour that separated his paintings from the rest of the Canadian artists.
Working part time as a stitch technician in a university I am constantly surrounded by tools and equipment. There’s nothing I love more than operating a piece of machinery and challenging it to see what it can do for me. I even enjoy repairing and maintaining the equipment too, especially if there’s a massive tangle of thread caught in the mechanism and I can reach for my tweezers. If you get really lucky there might be a small pile of compressed fluff trapped beneath the teeth of the Bernina that you can flick out with an old toothbrush.
I frequently go to my local haberdashers and workshop collaborators Stag & Bow to drool over their catalogues, ordering tools that I might not necessarily need but I just want to try them out. The Clover catalogues are particularly exciting and often cause a commotion, with items such as double eye needles and a variety of shaped attachments for appliqué irons waiting to be explored.
A little about Aimee Betts
I am currently working on a new collection of ‘Adornments’ that I hope to finish before the summer. I’m not 100% certain when and where I am going to show them yet, but that’s part of the excitement! I am also in the process of setting up a new Fashion Textiles Accessories short course at Chelsea College of Art and Design, which has been organised through London Artscom. I have helped to write the course description so it’s going to be very experimental and heavy on material exploration and techniques (dates tbc). Finally I am in the formative stage of setting up embroidery collaborations for one or two fashion houses, which is amazing as designers are beginning to use embroidery again. It’s going to be a very busy year but I am really looking forward to it!