Meet the Maker – Heidi Meier
Textile artist Heidi Meier started creating textile pictures when her daughter was a baby and she wanted a fun, original piece of art for her nursery walls. This grew into her first business, Textile Treasures, which specialised in artwork for children’s rooms. Over time, Heidi’s style developed and her work started to take her in a more “grown-up” direction, so she set up Heidi Meier Textiles to allow her to focus on making original embroidered artworks that capture a moment in time and the changing seasons. We caught up with Heidi to learn more about the different threads of her business and what craft means to her…
I specialise in raw-edge appliqué and also use some hand embroidery and some ribbon embroidery to give detail and texture to my work.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
I’m Heidi Meier and I create colourful artworks using fabric and threads, for childhood and beyond. I specialise in raw-edge appliqué and also use some hand embroidery and some ribbon embroidery to give detail and texture to my work. The fabric I use is often vintage or recycled and I also incorporate my own hand-dyed and over-dyed fabrics, which I prepare using cold water dyes.
I’m an absolute hoarder, but I have a streak of minimalist running through me, which makes for an interesting combination!
When did you first pick up a needle and thread?
I first picked up a needle when I was a young child; in common with many others I first learned how to sew at school. I was also lucky because my mother, who made a lot of our clothes when I was younger, also encouraged us to make and create. Over the years I’d made simple things such as skirts, curtains and cushions, and loved to browse all the gorgeous fabrics that were available for such purposes.
Mass production has its place in our modern society but the value of craft is being discovered and cherished
How has your style and technique developed since you started making textile pictures?
I made my first artwork when my daughter was just a few months old. I was looking for some artwork to decorate her nursery but couldn’t find anything suitable. I wanted colourful, fun and vibrant art, and was prepared to spend a little extra on something that was original. I’d also wanted a sewing machine as I thought I could make some soft furnishings but then I wondered whether I could create my own art. Alongside this, I was gradually coming to terms with the fact I no longer wanted to commute into work (I’d worked in finance, in the City and at Canary Wharf, for 20 years) and so was toying around with ideas for setting up a business. A chance mini windfall gift from my mother-in-law meant I could buy the machine of my dreams and so I decided to create some artwork myself.
I started off by making a seahorse and a jellyfish and realised I might be able to make a business from this. That’s how Textile Treasures was born.
I started off by making a seahorse and a jellyfish [see the picture above], and when friends saw the pictures and wanted me to make them something similar, I realised I might be able to make a business from this. That’s how Textile Treasures was born. When I did eventually resign from my job (after trying the part-time job share option first) I also realised I couldn’t and didn’t want to spend 24 hours a day building up a new business, as the whole point of me being at home was to spend time with my daughter. I’d best describe the next few years as bumbling along and experimenting with sewing techniques and learning more about the whole textile art business.
My style had changed over the years and it reached the stage where stylistically all my new work was very different to the earlier work.
How have things changed since then, and why did you start Heidi Meier Textiles?
Once my daughter reached school age, I’d learned enough to know this hobby had the potential to be something I could enjoy as a proper job. My style had also changed over the years and it reached the stage where stylistically all my new work was very different to the earlier work. This meant the promotion and marketing and also target audience had also all changed, so I took the decision to set up Heidi Meier Textiles. I’m running the two shops alongside each other at the moment but the intention is for me to wind down Textile Treasures and to focus all my energies on Heidi Meier Textiles.
There are many things that inspire me – I’ve never experienced an artistic block.
Who or what inspires you?
On a day-to-day basis, there are many things that inspire me – I’ve never experienced an artistic block. I take inspiration from the colours and shapes of the natural world, both flora and fauna, and the changing seasons. I also like to create pieces that capture a moment in time, and pictures that people can create their own stories around. I think that’s very important in art: the artist always has a story in mind for the piece they are creating, but I love to hear how others interpret what I’ve done, and to hear the stories it communicates to them.
There are many stages of stitching and sometimes repositioning and unpicking, until I’m happy with the composition.
How do you start a piece? Can you talk us through your creative process?
When creating a new design I typically have a subject in mind, which I sketch out (often quite roughly). Sometimes I work from photographs, sometimes I work purely from my imagination. I’ll then source the fabrics and cut them to the required shape and size, dyeing fabrics if I want to use a particular shade or hue. There are then many stages of stitching and sometimes repositioning and unpicking, until I’m happy with the composition. A tip I’ve learned is to set aside the piece when finished and leave it for a while while I work on something else. I can then return to it with a fresh eye for final adjustments. Sometimes this is a few days but there have been other times when I’ve returned to a piece after a year or so and reworked it, always with huge improvements.
To stretch yourself, you also have to try new styles and techniques that will develop your work.
What’s the best thing about working with textiles?
Textiles give a warmth and texture that cannot be replicated with other media. I love how subtle things such as how the light falls and how the fabric frays also adds unexpected charm to a piece.
I really loved working on ‘Tandem in the Country’ as this signalled a real change in my style, when I moved from making purely children’s pieces to a more grown-up style.
Is there a piece you’re particularly proud of?
In lots of ways, many of my artworks are special to me. I think when you spend so much time working on a piece, you form an attachment with it for various reasons. I really loved working on Tandem in the Country (the original of which has just sold) as this signalled a real change in my style, when I moved from making purely children’s pieces to a more grown-up style. I don’t aim for my artworks to be photographic representations but I do like an element of realism in my designs, so I paid particular attention to how the bicycle was constructed. Each bicycle wheel took the best part of an hour to sew but it was worth it. I held on to this picture for some time, until I placed it in an exhibition. It sold in the first week, which I was really pleased with but also slightly saddened as it meant I had to part with it.
The biggest barrier many people have to mastering free-style machine embroidery is confidence.
Tell us about your studio – where is it, what does it look like and what’s in it?
We have recently built an extension to our house, which has enabled me to have a much bigger work space. Work is still under way and if you follow my Facebook page I’ll share photos when the work is finished. I’m an absolute hoarder, but I have a streak of minimalist running through me, which makes for an interesting combination! I love to have materials ordered and organised by colour and texture, yet when I work on a piece it’s as though a whirlwind has swept through the room. In the midst of this outward chaos I keep a clear sense of order, and it’s a way of working that I do enjoy and will probably never change.
Textiles give a warmth and texture that cannot be replicated with other media.
You’ve also started running workshops. Tell us about those…
I began running workshops at home, teaching one or two students to create textile pictures from start to finish. I’ve also run larger sessions (I think the largest group I taught was about 20 people) and this gives me the chance to meet some very interesting people. I’ve really enjoyed this new part of my life. I keep the structure of my sessions very fluid, as I have learnt through the one-to-one sessions that the biggest barrier many people have to mastering free-style machine embroidery is confidence. It’s the panic of a machine needle running away and the thought of the fabric being chewed up that prevents many people from dabbling in this art form, but once they have the confidence to use the two basic stitches (straight stitch and zig-zag) the world is their oyster.
I don’t aim for my artworks to be photographic representations but I do like an element of realism in my designs.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
I don’t really have a typical day at the moment but the one thing I know is vital to any artist is to keep making new art. To stretch yourself, you also have to try new styles and techniques that will develop your work. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been working on a piece thinking this really isn’t my preferred subject or style but once I’ve finished, I’ve stepped back and thought, “Wow, I really like how this has turned out” and that inspires me to try new techniques all the time. Because of our building work, I haven’t had a chance to do much in the last six months, but now that’s finished, I’m ready to launch a whole series of beautiful new designs.
What does craft mean to you?
To me, craft means making something by hand, using tools that require skill and training to operate to assist you in creating something that’s original, unique and beautiful. Mass production has its place in our modern society but the value of craft is being discovered, cherished and a premium is being put upon it that can only increase over time. To surround yourself by the work of craftspeople is to support and share in their stories and their passion, in order to express your own world of stories and passions. It’s always money invested and well spent!
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