Fleur Woods: A Stitch in Time
Fleur Woods made the impressive leap from commercial art to making art for her own soul. Fibre Arts Take Two was lucky to chat with Fleur about her career.
Fleur’s Friday Feature Art Interview can be found at the bottom of this page.
Art is always a balance between being commercial by creating work you should make and creating artwork that nourishes your soul. But when the two align, the results are magical. Based in the beautiful rural village near Nelson, New Zealand, surrounded by vineyards, hop farms, orchards and country gardens, Fleur Woods’ work is largely inspired by nature. It is here Fleur spends hours of quiet reflection, creating her unique artwork that has caught the eye of large publications and art lovers around the globe. Her self-taught process starts with abstract dyeing and painting linen before applying botanical outlines and details with wash and ink.
When Fleur is not in her studio, she will often be travelling and teaching workshops, sharing her self-taught process and meeting like-minded floral lovers, which makes her heart sing.
Fleur also made our hearts sing by finding the time to sit down with Fibre Arts Take Two for a chat about her career.
“It’s always been a part of who I am, at least a little bit. I’ve always had kind of heirlooms from my great-grandmother, and both of my grandmothers were really creative and used fibre to make things,” says Fleur.
“I also spent some time in Asia as a child, and textiles and embroidery are quite well used and celebrated there. So I guess I feel like it was always part of my life, but I didn’t recognise why I was so attached to it.”
As Fleur started to find her way in the art world, her love of stitching began to take shape, “I started collecting a lot of stuff from op shops, and I was always really drawn to beautiful little bits of cloth that had a hole and a stain in it… I could never quite let it just stay at the op-shop! So not actually physically stitching initially, but collaging a lot with fabrics and fibres. And I just loved them. Then I started to want to create a lot more of my own imagery. I realised that if I wanted all of the work to be my own imagery, I probably needed to give stitching a go. When I started doing it, it was like the heavens came, and all of the women of my past just held me and said, ‘Yep, this was major’. I found my purpose.”
Making herself legit
For Fleur, the ‘path to professional’ has been a winding one, “I’ve done a little bit of all sorts of things, but I didn’t quite complete any one degree. I worked in the corporate world, but I was always having little exhibitions at cafes on the side and trying to find a place creatively. I guess I knew that I really wanted to practice as an artist.”
Corporate art was never going to be enough for Fleur’s artistic soul, “I paused corporate life to have children but also with the knowledge that I wasn’t going to return to it. And when my children were little, I had a market stall with some friends at the Nelson Saturday market, and I realised that if I wanted to earn a living, maybe I wasn’t the right person to make the same thing over and over again, that I maybe did want to go back to kind of more my art roots. I thought, ‘Well if I have my own gallery, people will think that I’m legit’. And so I just kind of dived into it.”
“Initially, I called them stitch paintings because I was coming to the stitching as a painter, and I needed to find a way to describe my work. I wanted it to be really clear that it’s set in the art space. And that I was using stitch as a form of mark-making.”
It took time for Fleur to perfect her technique: “When I started stitching into my work, I was stitching onto paper. And then finally the penny drops that, you know, painters paint on linen, embroiderers stitch on linen, and that I could maybe marry the two. It took a bit of trial and error to paint the linen, so I just started playing around with how to paint it. And eventually, getting the consistency of mixing enough water so that the colour is not too thick to stitch through.”
Facilitating not teaching
Despite never completing formal art training, Fleur enjoys her teacher role. “Sometimes I feel compelled to share the joy I get from stitching, the therapy I get from it. That drove me towards teaching. Then I found I loved teaching so much because I don’t see it as teaching so much as I feel like it’s my job to create a safe space for people to be their creative selves. I don’t believe that any of us really know any more than the other. We all have most of the tools that we need. The rest is just practice. But some of us have had more practice.”
Fleur even feels her lack of formal education benefits her students, “A bonus for me not having had formal education is I didn’t know how to do things properly. I just did it the way that worked for me. It’s allowed me to not be restricted by that knowledge of a set of rules; I could just do whatever I wanted. And I’m passing that freedom on to my students. I feel like I’m a facilitator more than a teacher.”
Along with knowing that you have the skill inside you, Fleur’s advice to aspiring artists is to love what you do and keep on doing it, “It’s not up to us whether someone else likes it or not; you certainly can’t force them to. So just keep making, and you’ll eventually make something really good.”
About the artist
Based in the beautiful rural village of Upper Moutere (near Nelson, New Zealand) & surrounded by vineyards, hop farms, orchards and country gardens, Fleur Woods’ work is largely inspired by nature.
Fleur does take a limited number of commissions each year; for more information and any other enquiries, please email: email@example.com and check out her website.