Updated: Dec 9, 2020
This weeks we will be talking to artist and teacher Josephine Sams about her approach to art making and how she creates her artwork through using fabric, found objects and natural dyes.
Image description: a circular piece of fabric with a torn map, a banner with text reading "HOW LONG IS NOW" with a black and white image of a face underneath. The background depicts The Berliner Fernsehturm telecom tower with orange, yellow and red bunting behind.
Can you briefly describe yourself and the artwork you make? I am an Artist originally from Suffolk, currently living in Northamptonshire on my narrowboat and teach art to Secondary and A level students. After completing my BA Hon’s degree in Fine art at the University of Lincoln I travelled and had various occupations before deciding to train to become a teacher. I would describe myself as a mixed media artist working with photography, painting and stitch.
What is your process for creating a new piece of artwork? Generally I use fabric as a background to my work which I dye by hand using coffee, leaves, berries, spices, beetroot and bleach. Alternatively I will work on top of found objects such as maps or postcards as they tend to inspire me as to where the artwork is going. Working from my photography I either paint or use the cyanotype process to capture a moment and a place. I use stitch and threads to expand the work outside of the normal constraints of the frame and bring movement to the subject.
Many of your artworks make use of embroidery. What interests you about this process?
Using free motion embroidery within my work is a creative aspect I really enjoy; you can move your fabric freely in any direction, resulting in another way of drawing using a sewing machine. I love the lines you can create and the tone you can build up by layering stitches. I leave my threads hanging beyond the hoop or frame to expand the work and add a sense of movement, sometimes these threads connect with each other and other times they will reflect what is happening within the work, like the movement in the sea.
Josephine Sams, Finland, embroidery.
Image description: a circular embroidered piece of fabric depicting a house on a hill next to a thin tree. A beige pathway leads up to the house with silhouetted figures at the top.
Could you name any artists that have inspired your art practice?
There are to many to mention! My inspiration has come from so many different artists but in particular I love Mark Rothko for his use of colour, David Batchelor for his use of found objects, Valerie Hegarty’s paintings that expand out of the frame and Frida Kahlo for her honesty.
Many of your pieces are titled after major cities, why do you choose to depict landmarks within your work?
All the pieces I create are centred on my own experiences and memories. My work is of the countries and cities I've visited and all start from the photographs I have taken whilst there. I love exploring and seeing different ways of life and I use my art to capture a moment I spent in that place.
Josephine Sams, Hong Kong Memories, embroidery.
Image description: a circular embroidered piece of fabric depicting buildings in Hong Kong, with sections of maps and red signs. Five red lanterns hang at the top of the image.
What projects have you recently been working on?
Currently I am working on a cyanotype of Whitby abbey on an old map of Whitby. I also have a stash of old postcards and envelopes waiting to be stitched on, I love collecting them from charity and vintage shops and reading the messages written on the back. What inspired you to make this kind of artwork?
I wanted to document my memories and experiences and as I am always taking photographs on my travels this is a way for me to achieve this. When I look at a certain piece of work I have created it takes me back to where and when I took the photograph, a Jade market on a hot day in Hong Kong with my parents, jumping into an ice lake and finding abandoned buildings with my college friends in Finland, taking my rescue dog on the beach for the first time in Cornwall and how she was so nervous she ran away. I hope they stir some memories for others looking at them.
Josephine Sams, Norway, embroidery.
Image description: a rectangular painting depicting a four children in a wooden cabin, two are sitting down and another two are dancing. Thread hangs from the dress of the young girl.
Your work often includes a combination of different media. How did you develop this way of working?
I have always wanted to explore many different types of media; I have never been able to stick to just one. At university my work ranged from printing, installation, photography, light projection, drawing, painting and textiles, I wanted to learn it all. I love experimenting and combining techniques. I teach photography, art and textiles and as I have learnt different techniques to teach my students the disciplines started to cross over into my own work.
Can you give us an insight into the experiences you've had during the pandemic and how you've adapted to still create art?
During the first lockdown I decided to come to my family home in Suffolk and spend it there. Whilst I continued to teach through online classes I found that by creating art it was a way for me to switch off and as I usually am creating every day at work it allowed me to find some normality in life. My piece ‘Communication lines’ was inspired by lockdown and the importance of being able to contact those you love but were unable to see. These were created from photographs I took of telephone wires around a village in Suffolk.
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