I really enjoy working with other designers. Collaborating on projects feels like such a positive experience. It helps to keep ideas fresh and creates an energy that the team and I thrive on here at Helen Round.
Our latest collaboration is with the talented Rebekah Johnston. We are so excited to be working with her to produce two new craft kits which use our lovely tactile linen and her expertise, to allow you to create something beautiful.
I'm going to leave it to Rebekah to introduce herself, her inspiring work and our new initiative, working with her to create lovely meditative craft kits.
Rebekah Johnston in her own words
Hello! My name is Rebekah, I make quilts and textile arts from my home in Nottingham. I am also a mum to my 5 year old daughter Ava, and a very grumpy cat called Jim.
Can you tell us about your backstory and how did you get to where you are now?
I have always been creative and my passion for making led me to study arts subjects at school and then a degree in contemporary textile practice. After graduating, I felt unprepared to make it as an artist in the world so after a few years of temp jobs, I trained to be a teacher.
I taught Art and Design in secondary schools for 13 years. After having my daughter, and then the pandemic, it was time for me to revaluate my life. I picked up sewing again during a period of difficult mental health. I had an urge to create, working through my emotions, by keeping my hands busy with something repetitive.
It was an intense few months of making and I found my way back to textiles. I shared my work via Instagram and quickly grew a supportive following. I found the confidence to quit my job and launch my own business and I have never looked back! It has now been just over a year of being a self employed artist and though it has not been without it’s ups and downs, I am very proud of what I have achieved so far.
How do you approach each art/design project - where you do find inspiration?
My work stems from a deep need to create and inspiration can come from the strangest of places. Visually I am interested in the balance of opposing forces, light and dark, positive and negative space, all softened with stitched textures.
The pandemic has changed the way we live and as a result I find I’m more in tune with my immediate surroundings; the way light falls at different times on the day, my daughters drawings or toys, observations on a local walk like the variety of texture on the pavement to the dappled light through trees.
Very little planning goes into a design; I have a palette that I like to work with and a pile of off-cut fabrics. The work grows intuitively depending on how I feel in the moment; my day to day feelings, the repetition of cycles in my life, the ups and downs of my mental health and how all of this is part of my journey in identifying as an artist. Directly or indirectly my work can be about all of those things, as I stitch my way through overcoming obstacles. I like the idea that a quilt is an object of comfort and protection just as the act of making it comforts and protects me.
Sustainability is very important to us all. Can you describe your sustainable practices?
I try to operate a zero waste practice as much as possible.
First of all I choose to work mainly with linen - a natural fabric with high eco credentials. It can grow without the use of pesticides, takes much less water to grow than cotton and the entire flax plant can be used. It is very difficult to trace the full production chain with fabric but I know that when I purchase linen, I am making a kinder choice for people and planet.
I also buy offcuts from small scale garment makers which could otherwise go to waste. In fact, this has unexpectedly changed my design process as I have found myself inspired by the odd shapes that the fabric arrives in and I incorporate these shapes into my designs. Any tiny scrap of fabric or thread also gets saved and used as stuffing for pincushions or fabric vessels so nothing gets wasted.
Aside from your portfolio work, you also offer workshops. Can you tell us more about them?
Workshops have been an unexpected side of my business which I really enjoy. It is nice to use my teaching skills in a different environment.
I have run small private workshops in Nottingham on slow stitch, appliqué and quilting as well as larger workshops in schools and universities, tailored to whatever theme the students are studying. I ran an online workshop with Selvedge Magazine in October as part of their Wardrobe Revolution Weekend and I am looking forward to working with them again with them in the new year.
Tell us a bit more about your collaboration with Helen Round
I’m very excited about the Slow Stitched Kits collaboration with Helen Round. It has felt like a very natural step from teaching and my own creative practice to work with Helen in this way. We both share an interest in sustainability and use linen in our work. Like me, Helen comes from a teaching background, so it is lovely to be able to share our knowledge and expertise with others.
The kits offer all the materials that you need to make either a lovely mini quilt or a pair of coasters at your own pace.
You can choose to follow the design that I made, which I explain in a really through video that you can stop, start and repeat as often as you need to! Or you can use the techniques that I share to develop your own individual design, playing around with textures, space and different stitching. Each kit comes in a reusable cardboard box that contains easy to follow instructions, with links to the video, fabric, wadding, two reels of contrasting thread, and a Milliner's needle.
My hope is that these kits will introduce lots of people to slow stitching and the positive benefits that it can bring to each of us.
I'd love to see your work, so please do share in with us on Instagram using the hashtag #linenandstitch!
What are you planning for during 2023?
In the new year, I plan to take a little time out from working on commissions to develop a new body of work painting and printing with natural dyes. It's something I have been wanting to explore for a long while now. I’m excited to see how these different processes will look when combined with slow stitching.
Thanks Rebekah! For more information about our craft kits, click here.
Here at Helen Round we are doing more and more work with other businesses, and we love the interest that this brings to our work. If you are running a business and think that we can add some value to a project that you are working on we’d love to hear from you!
For more information on Rebekah Johnston and her beautiful work, follow the link here.
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