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Meet Surrey Hills designer Amanda Cobbett at her Peaslake studio

PUBLISHED: 17:27 20 May 2015 | UPDATED: 17:27 20 May 2015

Some of Amanda's creations

Some of Amanda's creations

Lillian Spibey Photography

From her studio in the Surrey Hills, designer Amanda Cobbett creates sculptures, embroideries and paintings based on life outside her back door. Janet Donin went to meet her

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2015

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How did you first get into design?

I work in all sorts of mediums, but my first love was print. I trained as a printed textile designer at UAL Chelsea. After graduating, I designed fashion prints, tableware, gift wraps and bedlinen, but since moving to the Surrey Hills, I decided it was time for a change. We are surrounded by nature and its various textures, which print alone could not fulfill, so I now incorporate my print skills into creating something quite different.

So tell us about your work now…

I always wanted to go back to sculpting, which I did at college. So using my sculpting knowledge, I started to make birds and flowers using paper and wire and then embellishing them with machine- embroidered fabrics, which creates a texture and richness. This tentative start on a new path was affirmed when I was runner-up for Surrey Artist of the Year 2012 at the New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham. I have since expanded from birds and flowers to fungi, beans, bark, moss, lichen, moths, dragonflies and butterflies.

Where do you find the inspiration for your pieces?

Inspiration is at my doorstep. Living in the heart of the Surrey Hills, I go out and walk the dog and I’m surrounded by all the things that I like to recreate. I often stop to pick up fallen lichen and twigs from the forest floor and always have my camera with me to photograph anything inspiring, particularly colour combinations

Are there any other craftspeople that you have been inspired by?

I was taught to sew by my mother when I was little and have been encouraged by my mother-in-law who is a keen embroiderer. She has a wealth of beautiful fabrics, cottons, lace and reference books, which are at my disposal here in Peaslake, the village where we live.

How do you like to present your artworks?

To allow my artwork to be accessible to all, I offer a variety of framing options. Many of the pieces, like the moths and butterflies, can be simply mounted in white frames, but the 3D pieces, such as the birds and fungi for example, are mounted in deep acrylic boxes, which protects each piece.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?

Because I am left-handed, some of the hand-embroidered finishes to the moss are a bit of a challenge as I have to work backwards, and sometimes fine fabrics need to be supported in an embroidery hoop whilst being machined or they will pucker. However, I have learnt perseverance and know my way around my Bernina sewing machine, which is like a workhorse to me.

Describe your workplace to us…

I have a little studio tucked away inside the house, which often looks very chaotic but it has everything I need, including a view of the front garden and a hedge where groups of blue tits, blackbirds and sparrows hang out.

Is there anything new on the horizon at all?

I am currently working on a new collection for The British Craft Trade Fair to be held in Harrogate. From this event, I hope to organise a full year’s worth of exhibiting in galleries and shops across the UK.

Do you run any workshops that our readers could experience?

I run a simple papier mâché bird workshop, either from my home or at a client’s place, and occasionally teach print workshops 
in schools.

How do you relax when you’re not working?

I love to get out with my dog and spend weekends at home with my family. We have a great network of friends right here in the village, so there is always something to do. However, work is never far from my mind – it’s like being on an adventure every day!

Finally, tell us your favourite thing about Surrey?

We are surrounded by beautiful countryside, pretty villages and deep country lanes. As such, it’s a haven for cyclists, dog walkers and horse riders. 
The Abinger Hatch Pub is also a favourite of ours for an evening out with friends. Surrey is home; it’s where my friends and family are…

• For more information on the work of Amanda Cobbett, visit her website at amandacobbett.com. To get in touch, call her on 01306 737075 or send an e-mail to amanda.cobbett@btinternet.com

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