Embroidery in Styal with Louise Gardiner (with audio)

Embroidery artist Louise Gardiner's plans to open a studio on the Cheshire farm where she grew up are all stitched up<br/>WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY RUPERT MORLEY

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Louise Gardiner doesn’t need to go to the gym. Embroidery gives her a more than demanding workout. Don’t be fooled into the thinking the craft is reserved for quiet afternoons by the fire. Louise spends hours every day on her feet wrestling large pieces of material through her sewing machine to create vividly colourful pieces of art.

‘People don’t imagine it but my work requires a huge amount of dedication,’ said the 38-year-old. ‘It is a very intricate medium but it is also very physical and this traditional art form is demanding of your thought. It’s exhausting.

‘I want to do away with this image of it being a stuffy old pastime. This is a medium that is fast, exciting and fashionable. I want to give the craft a massive boost on a national scale.’

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Louise, who grew up on her parents’ dairy farm in Styal, near Wilmslow, has spent the past 15 years perfecting her illustrations and textile art. The former Manchester Metropolitan University student, who also graduated from the prestigious Goldsmiths’ College, spent years travelling between London and the North-West to gain recognition. She has received numerous awards including the Best Northern Maker award at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair.

She has done illustrations and embroidery for everyone from a children’s hospital and for an NHS book on breastfeeding to a huge mural that took pride of place in the window of London store, Liberty that recently sold for �4,995. She has recently been commissioned by a shipping company to create an art work of an internal navigation system.

She does workshops for the V & A Museum in London, has given talks and staged exhibitions all over the world, including one recently in New Delhi, and later this year she will appear with Kirstie Allsopp on Kirstie’s Homemade Home, due to appear on Channel 4. She also illustrated the book accompanying the series.

Louise, who will spend six weeks in New Zealand teaching at the Embroiderers Guild Bi-Annual conference, said: ‘It’s very exciting. Textiles is something I’ve always loved and I’ve always been very fascinated by drawing. It is a very intricate way of drawing but using thread.

I’ve been doing it for 15 years now and I feel like I am really getting somewhere. I can’t stop the ideas I’m having. They come thick and fast all the time.’

Louise, currently based in Bristol, is now planning her own studio back in Cheshire. She wants to convert one of the barns on her parents’ farm to use as a creative centre.

She said: ‘My family have farmed on the same farm for five generations. It was a dairy farm but we sold the herd about five years ago. I want to carry on my family’s legacy of it being a working farm and to use it as a place to encourage creativity.

‘It is in the early stage yet but I hope to have something set up by the end of this year. I hope other local artists and talented people will also be able to use it.’

Louise, who is also in talks with a gallery in New York, wants to encourage creativity in as many people as she can.

She said: ‘It’s important to get people trying new things. It is a big decision for me to move back but I’m really looking forward to it. I want to get other artists, local traditional craftspeople and textile artists here.

‘I want more people to be excited by embroidery and textile art. It is fascinating and the more people who are aware of that, the better.’

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