How did you get into textiles?
In 2007 I got into textiles through a large embroidery project I did with photography and painting. I became fascinated with the possibilities of textiles. I’ve been a photographer since the 80s and have been making oil paintings for several years too.
What was the first thing you embroidered?
My family and I lived in Sierra Leone and on a really hot summer’s day my mother and I spent a lot of time together in the shade under trees in our garden. When I was 5 years old I embroidered a small rose. In that environment through innocent eyes everything was beautiful. I try to express that in my embroidery pieces now especially within my collages. I like to emphasise the beauty of nature.
Did you learn to embroider anywhere else?
I used to sit next to family members while they embroidered and looked at their hands but as a child I lacked patience; I was too busy swimming in the sea or climbing up trees. I learned in school; everyone including guys got craft lessons. Unfortunately these lessons are no longer taught in schools.
Can you tell us about your process in starting a new piece of work?
My process is an organic one. I work every day and get my inspiration from nature mainly flora and fauna. I take photos and look for the right colours. I spend a lot of time researching as I can’t work in a hurry. It can take months for me to find the right composition.
Do you plan beforehand what type of stitches you’ll use?
I love to work with simple lines. In embroidery you only need a few threads to be able to tell a story. A simple flat stitch does wonders and the French knot is a beautiful stitch. I focus on the outlines and silhouettes.
What’s the longest time you’ve spent on a piece?
It depends on the material. I work an average of 2 years on a big piece. I don’t have TV, which saves me a lot of time!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a commissioned piece, I take existing fabrics and make new designs. A customer asked me to make a garment from pieces of fabric worn by her deceased mother. I created a kimono jacket that is now hanging on her wall in the living room.
Where do you buy your materials from?
I buy little material; I get a lot of material from people. Almost everything I use is recycled fabrics. I buy thread and gold embroidery in local haberdasheries.
What other types of textiles would you like to explore?
I want to learn more about eco dying methods. I think it gives beautiful results. I have a lot of interest in the Japanese lifestyle and their textile techniques. I would like to work with these techniques in the future and combine them with my work.
What other ways would you like to use your embroidery?
I think embroidery is suitable for many purposes. It is very expressive and I can use it for anything and everything I want.
What do you love about textiles?
It’s real, warm, soft and gives a lot of love. It is beautiful and makes me happy. I can really express myself through it.
Can you recommend any books for lovers of textiles?
My work is published in the book by Ellen Bakker Textile is Alive! (page 133).
Fong Leng is very nice, I love her creations made in the 70s. Mathilde Willink was her muse and the clothes she wore have maintained their originality throughout the years.
You can see more of Alexandra’s work here.