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The Naughty Pirates’ Heidi Rhodes produces sewing machine art from Farnham

PUBLISHED: 05:09 10 March 2015 | UPDATED: 05:23 10 March 2015

A little trip to Brighton

A little trip to Brighton


Looking at the fun and fascinating designs of textile artist Heidi Rhodes, pictured right, it’s hard to believe they are created on a sewing machine. Janet Donin pays a visit to her Farnham studio

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2015


How did you first get into working with textiles?

I studied textiles at Chelsea College of Arts, where I specialised in weave, but it wasn’t until later that I discovered machine embroidery, which is the perfect medium for me. I love its diversity and how creative you can be. It’s also a really good way to work if you like drawing, which I do.


Your textile pictures are really unusual; what gave you the idea?

I have always loved children’s books and illustrations, so I think stories and narratives became the natural subject matter for my work. Textiles were just my chosen medium to express this. It works well because I can use lots of different fabrics to introduce colour and texture and the stitch introduces the detail.


So tell us a bit more about the design process…

The sewing machine is my tool, so I use it to create the whole image. The process is quite intuitive – a response to the subject matter. Every time I make a new picture, it pushes me to develop my style or a new way of working. I work very quickly and use the loose threads to create a feeling of movement and energy; they are very much a part of my signature style. Sometimes, I’ll embellish the work with buttons and beads as well. When each piece is finished, I mount it in card but without a frame – customers usually like to choose their own.


Where do you find the inspiration for your work?

My work is really a reflection of the children’s stories and characters from my own childhood. These often appear in my work, mixed in with different places and locations such as A Fairy Tale in London, A Little Trip to Brighton and The Little Daleks go on a City Break. I also practise what I call textile journalism, which is capturing current events in stitch, like the River Pageant, the Olympics and the poppies at the Tower of London.


What is your favourite subject?

It changes as life changes, but I do particularly like pictures that make me laugh, such as Godzilla Goes to Brighton and The Little Daleks pictures. I like to use a lot of humour in my work.


What’s new on the horizon?

I would like to find the time to finish some little stories I have been working on and maybe try and get them published. I have lots more ideas for the Naughty Fairies and fairy tale characters I depict in my work. I would also like to add to my repertoire of London architecture, so I hope to have a little stay in London, in order to go sketching and take photographs. Then there are my cards, which are printed locally from my art pieces. I have been doing them for about 18 months now and they are going very well.


Describe your workplace to us…

I work in two spaces: in my studio at the Maltings in Farnham and in my gallery in Brighton. My studio at the Maltings is small, light and covered in fabric, my story books and threads – all things that inspire me. I go there to really get my head down. It is my most productive space. My space in Brighton is tiny, at the back of my seafront gallery, The Naughty Pirates, which I recently opened with my partner Stephen. I am often working and serving customers at the same time, which I have adapted to surprisingly well! In fact, I welcome the interaction and all the interesting people I meet there.


How do you relax when you’re not working?

I love spending time with Stephen and my family and I really enjoy walking – anywhere. I also like to go to London with friends, to an exhibition or to Spitalfields Market and have lots of tea and cake!


Tell us your favourite thing about Surrey...

It’s a perfect place to grow up as a child - safe and magical.


• Find out more about Heidi’s work by contacting her on 07979 960807 or checking out her website at Alternatively, you can visit Heidi in the studio at Farnham Maltings, Bridge Square, Farnham GU9 7QR or at her gallery, The Naughty Pirates, Arch 237, Kings Road, Brighton BN1 1NB.


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