This is something that I've struggled with of late and I think that finally, after creating the works for my exhibtion, that I may have answered this question.
In answering this question, I've been thinking more about the 'type' of work that I do and that I'd like to put my name to, than 'how' I work. For me the question is more "'when people think of Sophie Lanham the textile artsist, what do they think?"
I don't want to put myself and my art into a 'pidgeon-hole' and leave it there. I know that I will continue to grow and develop and find new techniques and styles that I'm interested in, but I need a direction in which to start. As you will notice from reading my blog that I am interested in all things textile and want to try everything. I've had a go at a lot of things (felting, knitting, dyeing, quilting, and the list goes on), and have piles of books on other topics that I'd like to try too (journalling, natural dyeing, spinning and more). I don't want to stop trying new things, as I think that this can only help to further develop my style by allowing me to discover new skills or techniques and eliminating those that I don't enjoy.
So what is 'my style'?
- Natural environment: I tend to base a lot of my work on the natural environment. Trees, leaves, flowers, landscapes and seascapes all feature heavily in my work. Australian landscapes and flora and fauna have always been a focus but I don't restrict myself to this.
- Uniqueness: I want to spend my time and my creative energy on something that is not like what everyone else is doing.
- The viewer needs to take a second look: I like that when people look at my work they ask " how did she do that", "is that fabric or thread?"...
- Realism: I've always struggled to do abstract work. When I was doing art at school I had a teacher who liked abstract and I could never quite get my head around it. I think that I like the viewer to understand what it is that I'm trying to show or say. This is not to say that I don't enjoy some abstract work, but it is something that I think is best left to others (until such time as I work out "how")
My current work, which I think is the direction I am heading at the moment, is machine embroidered scenes, built up in layers to create a visual depth (or 3 dimensional image). With this work, I can use my sewing machine to create realistic landscapes or scenes that resembles a painting but that still has textile qualities. But most importantly viewers of my work wonder - how is that done? People recognise that it is a textile peice and can see that threads and fabrics have been used but are often not sure how it holds up (stands) like it does or how the stitches stay together as there doesn't appear to be any fabric. This is the style of work that I'm currently developing.