Meet embroidery artist Marna Lunt
Marna Lunt is a world-renowned embroidery artist, star of the BBC show MAKE: Craft Britain, Craftsy teacher￼ and now Weekend of the Maker tutor. Marna is known for using embroidery to bring to life illustrated scenes of cities and moorland landscapes and portraits. We caught up with Marna to find out more about her work, and discovered that it was actually the Folksy Summer School back in 2013 that set her on her current path – that and a lot of hard work…
Can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Marna Lunt and I am an artist, designer, writer and teacher. I trained in fine art at the Manchester School of Art, where I did a BA (hons) specialising in oil painting. Painting, drawing and creating pictures has always been my life. But as my family grew and my focus changed, I found that oil painting didn’t fit in as easily as it used to, so I started turning to textiles as a creative outlet.
When I first started working with textiles, I found that my work wasn’t satisfying me. I had an extremely successful business but I was a bit embarrassed about what I was making.
For a few years, I just made simple products using the only stitch I knew: back stitch. I saw this as very much my training in a new life with very different materials. Quite quickly though, I found that my work wasn’t satisfying me. I had an extremely successful business but I was a bit embarrassed about what I was making and it was at this point I knew I had to go back to my roots and think about what I actually wanted to be remembered for. So I taught myself embroidery stitches and concentrated on making artwork again, but using fabric as my paint and thread and needle as my brush.
I taught myself embroidery stitches and concentrated on making artwork again, using fabric as my paint and thread and needle as my brush.
What’s the secret to drawing with thread?
Successful embroidery artists very often have a deep grounding in the foundations of drawing – they have those fundamental building blocks. To be able to draw with thread you essentially need to be able to draw with a pencil, to understand colour, form, space. You also need to know your materials and their capabilities inside out. Anyone can trace and colour block, but to breathe life into something is a bit different.
The key is to find confidence in your style – to accept that you make what you make and not to compare yourself to others.
How did you find your style?
I think I’ve always had the style I have now, although I’ve honed my skills with experience. I would say my style is quirky and colourful, and I have a very clear sense of colour, form and texture. Although I may not always like it and sometimes wish I was better, or someone else, the thing is, I am who I am and essentially my style is deep inside and I just can’t be anything else. The key is to find confidence in that – to accept that you make what you make and not to compare yourself to others.
The turning point for my journey and where I am now was the Folksy Summer School.
How did you get to where you are now?
From the age of six I only had one dream and that’s to make pictures forever. Thirty-four years later and that’s still my main aim. I’ve been embroidering artwork for three years now. Before that, there were years and years of art training, of learning business by working in my family’s company, of networking, reading, watching and listening. The turning point for my journey and where I am now was the Folksy Summer School. It was then that I realised how embarrassed I was of what I produced and so I changed everything. Every single thing: branding, confidence, what I produced.
I feel like that was the start of the real me. The exciting stuff came after that, but if all those prior years of training hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have been able to produce the level of what I hope I make now. In the three years after that lovely inspiring weekend, I’ve been in huge pile of magazines, written for Mollie Makes, worked with Liberty’s of London, become a Craftsy embroidery expert, been featured on the BBC, won various awards, started an online teaching website, taught in some of the best venues across the country, and found a huge creative network of amazing new friends.
We don’t sit around drinking tea and making pretty things all day. Some weeks I don’t get to pick up a piece of artwork at all!
What’s your top tip for anyone running their own creative business?
You need to understand that it’s 70% business and 30% making stuff. We don’t sit around drinking tea and making pretty things all day. Some weeks I don’t get to pick up a piece of art work at all – it’s marketing, accountancy, sourcing, legal stuff, packing, selling, teaching, planning… really boring stuff. But, of course, if you aren’t a total control freak, then you can get other people to do that stuff. The most important thing is to be PASSIONATE .
My workshop will be a fun day of making, with stories and chat and lots of shared inspiration that will fill you with confidence to go home and get stitching on everything!
￼Can you tell us bit more about the workshop you’ll be running at the Weekend of the Maker? What will you be doing and what will people come away with?
We’ll be making pin cushions (or starting a larger panel for a cushion) using a screen print created from one of my drawings of my extensive snow globe collection. We’re going to be learning and practising lots of embroidery stitches, celebrating colour and letting rip with our imagination! Everyone who comes will go home with a little piece of original embroidery that can be made into a pin cushion to treasure and use. It’s going to be a fun day of making, with stories and chat and lots of shared inspiration that will fill you with confidence to go home and get stitching on everything!
The therapy and happiness that making creates is the most incredible medicine, and I’m a living testament to that.
How important is it for you to be passing on your craft skills…
I really want to inspire people to create for themselves and gain well-being from making things with their hands. The therapy and happiness that making creates is the most incredible medicine, and I’m a living testament to that. So when not creating my own artwork I teach and have a online learning website called Illuminating Embroidery that teaches people across the world to stitch – it gives you all the basics you need to create your own artwork, from beginners to experts. We’ve got lots of exciting things planned for 2017!
Marna is running a Snow Globe Embroidery Workshop at the Weekend of the Maker on 26 November. Click here to book