Artists Interview

During this time of self-isolation and social distancing, the desire to  share and connect through our creativity is arguably more important than before. It may help to maintain a calmer state of being amidst the ongoing uncertainty. Please enjoy our  conversation with Bobby Britnell  and stay safe.

Bobby Britnell

Are the ideas or themes for this project on going or are they new?
My ideas and themes for this new project for the Textile Study Group have been on-going and reflect my interest and desire to learn more about bark cloth from Southern Uganda. This fascination has been with me since first travelling to Uganda in 2011. After a couple of trips over there my husband and I, with the support of our two sons and a group of 5 trustees set up a charity to support a community towards a more sustainable future. As well as working intensely with the community of Kisaabwa, our visits over to Uganda had me looking at their crafts, and the process of making bark cloth, really capture my imagination in a big way. We used to go there twice a year and after each trip I would bring back bags full of bark cloth, either to sell or for my own work. Sadly we no longer go and my supply is diminishing!!!

The possibilities with the bark cloth are endless and as well as treating it like most other fabrics, with dyeing, printing and surface embellishment, it can also serve as a canvas for applying paint allowing the natural colour of the cloth to show through. I am exploring some of these ideas along with both hand and machine stitch, although compared to more conventional materials it requires a different approach to stitch and using raffia as traditionally used in Uganda is one such approach. I am always exploring new ways of working with the bark cloth and it certainly presents some new and exciting challenges, but for me the emphasis is always on drawing and design and how this can be incorporated onto or into the cloth.

There will be an article in ‘Embroidery’ magazine, coming out in March 2020, for anyone interested in learning more about this unusual material.

Bobby Britnell


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