Kent Artist Profile: Frances Pickering
How would you describe your art?
I am an artist who makes books using textiles and stitch as an integral part of the whole. Making books and journals, filling them with illustration and stitch is the main focus of my work. I love experimenting and use many unorthodox methods to construct and decorate the books I make. I recycle as many things as possible and use very cheap and unpromising materials and strive to turn them into something of worth.
What is your background?
I have always stitched, drawn and painted right from when I was very young. I have always made clothes, firstly for my dolls when I was little, and then for my children. I also made soft furnishings and toys for my family and I even got press-ganged into making costumes for my children’s school plays.
I started to make books when I was teaching in Gloucestershire and didn’t have much time for myself and my own work. Over time the artwork has become more important to the whole look of my work, so stitch and illustration go hand in hand. I taught City & Guilds Embroidery Parts 1 and 2, Machine Embroidery, Machine Embroidery Distance Learning and Stitched Textile masterclasses in colleges for many years.
Since moving to Kent fifteen years ago, I have concentrated solely on making books and teaching.
What is the most difficult piece you’ve ever undertaken?
In 2014 my husband Jim, a graphic designer, and I worked on producing a major exhibition on the First World War and its effects on the communities of Charing and Charing Heath in Kent. We worked with the Charing and District Local History Society and had sponsorship from many organisations. Using copy, photographs and other ephemera supplied by the Society, we designed, illustrated and stitched 61 exhibition panels. We also researched the correct images to be illustrated and managed the production of the printing of the panels and the framing and hanging of the exhibition in 14 different venues. In addition we produced artwork for posters, press releases, the Society’s logo and information leaflets. The exhibition took place in June and July 2014 and showed the profound effects that the war had on the community and what life was like at the time.
To compliment the exhibition I produced some books containing my own thoughts about the war, mainly about its influence on the lives of women.
What inspires you?
My principal inspiration is nature, but so many things inspire me to make a book. Sometimes it can be a simple image I like or a line from a poem that ignites the flame. I love poets like John Clare, Wilfred Owen, Edward Thomas and Dylan Thomas and their words appear regularly in my books.
Since 2014 I have visited the Western Front a number of times and have visited some of the lost poets graves and memorials. I have found these experiences both moving and inspiring.
What has been your proudest artistic achievement to date?
My main joy is teaching and encouraging people to make their own books and journals. But I am also proud that I published two books about my work: Page After Page and Under The Cover. In these books I try to inspire people to make their own books and journals.
Where can we see your work?
Mainly on my website at www.francespickering.com. I also appear at a number of textile shows at the NEC, Harrogate, etc. I have books for sale and I produce books to commission. They generally start at £450 for a small book.
What does the future hold?
I hope to carry on teaching and making books for many years to come. My aim is to get more and more knowledgeable about the subjects I illustrate and keep spreading the joy of making books and journals.