Conversations with the Makers

An array of questions to fibre/textile artists and their answers.

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Conversation with Ann Small, UK

There are two parts to Ann’s art.  One is the textile creation of large bold statement pieces and the other is her love of creating smaller mixed media pieces.  In the last few years she has been able to combine the two by way of creating themed scenes for National Exhibitions.

She has exhibited widely and achieved many awards including the National Embroidery Championship in the UK. Although teaching has played a large part in her development she now devoted her time to mentoring and making, developing her work for exhibitions and galleries.

Ann Small's website...

 CONVERSATION WITH THE MAKER (CWTM) Did you always envision a life as an artist?

ANN SMALL(AS)As a small child I thought everyone grew up to be an artist.  It was somewhat a surprise that I later learned that many others were not on the same wave-length as me at all. It has been a joy, in my adult life, discovering many super people who did understand the artistic side of my personality.

 CWTM What was your first experience with making art?

 AS Copying cartoons from comics.

 CWTM Do you have a dedicated studio?

 AS I am very lucky to have a purpose built studio space which spans the roof of three garages in my garden. I have plenty of room to teach there too.  In the past year I have begun to drop the classes and just concentrate on my work. I fill every available work surface until I am expecting one of the groups that I mentor.  This is the time when I clear the decks.


CWTM Can you describe a typical day?

 AS On a day after when I have cleared my studio for a group mentoring, I am itching to get into the Studio and fill up all those worktops again with my work.

I write on the family calendar that I will be working in the studio.  This is to prevent my husband filling it up with time grabbing things that all retired grandparents do.

Basic chores in the house done, I scoot up to the Studio as early as I can.  This is usually about 10.30.  I still suffer terrible guilt if I walk out on washing up and unmade beds.

I am usually working to a deadline for an exhibition so I get stuck in and don’t surface until about when guilt creeps in again and I feel I should be preparing dinner.  What a useless emotion guilt is

I try to bring some hand sewing in or art work to do whilst watching the TV.


CWTM Would you consider your art making to be more about the process than the outcome?

 AS Deadlines make it an outcome but the process is the best part and has to be followed to get there.


CWTM Do you agree that a small element of uncertainty about the finished look is what makes the process of creating so enticing?

AS Oh yes I am never quite sure how things will turn out although when working for exhibition tableau, as I have been doing in the past few years, I have to keep a close eye on the scale of things.


CWTM Any indispensable tools or equipment?

AS My sketchbook and wire cutters.



CWTM Do your pieces start with a planned course of action or are they more spontaneous?

AS As mentioned above I do need to have a plan when organisers of huge events have generously given me a space for free, I need to fill the space to the best of my ability set to my own brief which has been placed in their catalogue some months earlier.  However the content of the “set” is often more spontaneous. I make a card model of my space to fill before embarking on the larger hangings.


CWTM How do you know when to “stop” – when do you consider a piece actually finished?

AS If I am not entirely happy with what I have made then it’s probably because it is not finished. When I feel happy with a piece I leave it for a few days, perhaps take a photo of it then when I come back to it, if I like it then it’s finished.


CWTM Your greatest source of inspiration is….

AS My best inspiration comes from little ideas that creep into my mind over several months. Things I have seen, things I have heard and how I feel.    I am hardly aware of them until the work evolves.  Its only when I look back on finished work that  I realise what it was that inspired me and it all seems so obvious.


CWTM Favourite quote?

AS “Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other see nothing”.

Camille Pissarro


CWTM When do you do your best creative thinking?

AS After my second glass of wine.


CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

AS I love the way time stands still when I am in the creative zone.

 CWTM Best advice you’ve ever received?

AS Don’t do what others do.  Make from the heart and let others follow if they want to.


CWTM Worst advice you’ve ever received?

AS I really struggle to think of any.  Perhaps I wasn’t listening. 

 CWTM Best part of your day?

AS Ending my days work at 4 or 5 O’clock on a high note when everything worked out well.


CWTM Who would be 6 people that you would invite to dinner?

AS Russell Brand and one of my daughters Anita.  Both have very interesting minds.  I don’t think I could cope with 4 more unless they were quite “nice” people who would offer to do the washing up after the dinner.


CWTM What inspires your creativity?

AS Bring creative inspires more creativity.

 CWTM What are you excited about right now in the world of textile art?

AS I love the introduction of mixed media to textile pieces.  However I am still drawn to work that is truly “textile”.


CWTM You’d be lost without…

AS Pinterest on my ipad.  I am lost without my cat who passed away a few years ago.  Every artist needs a cat.

 CWTM What would you do with a few extra hours each day? 

AS Have another glass of wine.

 CWTM Your favourite luxury in life? 

AS A pedicure.


CWTM Has the advancement of computers and technology impacted your work?

AS I love to purchase materials and notions from any part of the world but computer design leaves me cold.  It looks a bit mechanical.


CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

AS Sometimes I am not sure if enjoy is the right word.  Being creative is something I just have to do. Like breathing.


CWTM Is it important for us to be recognized by the art world and if so, how can we help affect that change?

AS Personally I try to price my work on the high side.  It is odd how it seems to be valued more when viewers see the price I have valued it at.


CWTM What is next for you?

AS My journey with tableau in collaboration with my colleague Sue Walton has only just begun. I am bursting to produce more dramatic, mind blowing sets introducing light effects and movement, using textile and mixed media.

A book is always lurking in my mind.