Home Interviews Meet Victoria Matthewson – the award-winning embroidery artist painting with a needle
embroidery art, embroidery, embroidery artist, Victoria Matthewson,

Meet Victoria Matthewson – the award-winning embroidery artist painting with a needle

by Camilla

Meet the Maker: Victoria Matthewson

Embroidery artist Victoria Matthewson has been painting pictures with needles and thread since she was a child, and her years of experience are clear in the exquisite pieces she creates. Each one is embroidered meticulously in luminous silk thread, and each takes weeks or even months to stitch. Victoria talks to fellow Folksy maker Rose Agar about her craft, her embroidery techniques and why she feels it’s vital to always work on things that inspire you and bring you joy…

Shop Victoria Matthewson on Folksy – folksy.com/shops/victoriamatthewson

embroidery art, embroidery, embroidery artist, Victoria Matthewson,

Hand embroidery has many different names… my personal favourite is needle painting, literally painting with the needle.

Hello Victoria, your work is so beautiful. Can you tell us more about it and how you started?
Hi Rose. Thank you. I use a hand embroidery technique that has many different names: long and short stitch, silk shading, thread painting. My personal favourite is needle painting, literally painting with the needle. Since I was a child I have always enjoyed different types of embroidery, starting with cross stitch and going on to experiment with different styles. I aspired to be an actress when I was younger and ended up training at Guildford School of Acting for three years. During the last year I spent a lot of time sitting around in rehearsals, so I started to embroider my graduation dress to pass the time. I think this was when the embroidery flames were well and truly fanned.

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After the birth of my second daughter I really started to focus on improving my embroidery techniques and developing my own style. I’ve never been formally trained – it’s been a journey of trial and error. There are some amazing books out there by artists such as Trish Burr and Margaret Dier than can teach you the basics of needle painting. Then once you’ve learned that, you can really just experiment and see what works for you.

embroidery art, embroidery, embroidery artist, Victoria Matthewson,

Needle painting definitely needs patience, it is not a quick art. Many of my embroideries take weeks to months to complete.

How long does it take you to finish a piece of embroidery?
Needle painting definitely needs patience, it is not a quick art. Many of my embroideries take weeks to months to complete. It can be very straining on your eyes and back so that can limit the hours you can put in. My piece ‘Frog and Woodlouse’ is my most time-consuming work to date, taking nearly six months from initial sketch to completion. I’m currently working on a piece that I don’t see being completed until 2020.

embroidery art, embroidery, embroidery artist, Victoria Matthewson,

‘Frog and Woodlouse’ is my most time-consuming work to date, taking nearly six months from initial sketch to completion.

Is there a place that you like to sit and work?
I tend to work in my ‘She Shed’, a small 7’ x 5’ summerhouse that I have insulated and turned into a tiny, cosy work space. My garden is only small but my shed allows me to focus and surround myself with inspirational photos, books and other treasures I have collected from random places.

embroidery art, embroidery, embroidery artist, Victoria Matthewson,

I work in my ‘She Shed’, a small 7’ x 5’ summerhouse that I have insulated and turned into a tiny, cosy work space.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I take inspiration from the flora and fauna in my surrounding area. I started wild flowers but have gradually become more fascinated by insects. Insects are the unsung heroes of the planet and our indifference and dislike of them could be catastrophic. There is such beauty in all things if you take the time study and understand them.

embroidery art, embroidery, embroidery artist, Victoria Matthewson,

Insects are the unsung heroes of the planet and our indifference and dislike of them could be catastrophic. There is such beauty in all things if you take the time study and understand them.

What type of thread do you use to make your wonderful designs?
I like to use a very fine silk floss thread. I started embroidering using six strand cotton thread but as my designs became smaller and more intricate, I found that the silk was more versatile. It can be tricky to work with at first but once you get used to it, you can achieve the most beautiful shine and depth of colour.

embroidery art, embroidery, embroidery artist, Victoria Matthewson,

I embroider with a very fine silk floss thread. It can be tricky to work with at first but once you get used to it, you can achieve the most beautiful shine and depth of colour.

Can you tell us about your design and embroidery process?
I will often try to work from my own photos, either taken in the wild or some have been taken at Cardiff museum of insects that are now under threat of extinction. I like to try and be as accurate as possible with the insect I am working on, so will sometimes use reference books and internet research to clarify details. I will then draw my design bearing in mind stitch direction, light and colour as I go. I transfer the design on to the fabric using a normal pencil and I then stretch it over bar frames. Then the hours of stitching begin.

Hand-embroidered columbine flower by Victoria Matthewson

I mostly work using split stitch to fill all areas of embroidery although I have recently become a little obsessed with French knots. I have to use a magnifying lamp to create the tiny stitches as my eyes aren’t what they were, it can be done if you have a sunny window to work at but the lamp takes some of the strain away.

Do you work on one piece of embroidery at a time or do you have several on the go at once?
I try to only work on one piece at a time as I find that I get into the swing of a piece and changing can sometimes throw my focus. Saying that I do have a basket of unfinished pieces that I always intend to go back to (whether I will or not is another matter).

embroidery art, embroidery, embroidery artist, Victoria Matthewson,

I have to use a magnifying lamp to create the tiny stitches as my eyes aren’t what they were.

What’s your favourite thing to embroider?
I love to embroider anything shiny, beetles and berries are my favourite but anything that can show highlights where the sun is hitting it. I love the way that a piece can look a little dull and uninspiring, then you add the highlights and it just comes to life.

embroidery art, embroidery, embroidery artist, Victoria Matthewson,

I love the way a piece comes to life when you add highlights.

Any tips for anyone wanting to try to get into embroidery?
Learn the basics and the general rules that are there to help you. Starting out doesn’t have to cost a lot – I borrowed books from the library at first and stitched on calico using cheap floss and thread I had inherited from my grandma.

embroidery art, embroidery, embroidery artist, Victoria Matthewson,

Once you’ve got the hang of the basics, then start to experiment. Find your own style, find what brings you joy and play with it. If a piece doesn’t inspire you, you’ll quickly loose interest. I would also recommend keeping a book of basic embroidery stitches with easy-to-follow instructions for those moments when you want to experiment or have just forgotten how to create a certain stitch.

Shop Victoria Matthewson on Folksy – folksy.com/shops/victoriamatthewson


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Meet the interviewer

The maker asking this questions this time is Rose Agar. Shop Rose Agar on Folksy here – https://folksy.com/shops/RoseAgarDesigns

Read our interview with Rose here – https://blog.folksy.com/2019/03/19/rose-agar

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