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Ruth Markwell textile artist

Meet the Maker: Ruth Markwell

by Folksy

Meet Ruth Markwell

Textile artist Ruth Markwell makes pictures with fabric, print, thread and paint. Born in Yorkshire and now living in a village on the edge of the Peak District, Ruth took redundancy from her career in graphics after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2008. She started looking at how she could create a business from her hobby and exploring ways to turn the textile designs she had been making into affordable framed fabric artworks. Here Ruth explains more, telling fellow Folksy artist Beatrice Ajayi how her idea for art in a tin developed and why craft is good for her health…

To celebrate being our featured maker Ruth is offering a 12% discount on all her work this month. Use the code APRIL23 at the checkout.

Shop Ruth Markwell on Folksy – folksy.com/shops/RuthMarkwell

Embroidered art by Ruth Markwell

Hi Ruth, please could you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
Hi, I make pictures, with fabric, paint, print and thread. Some are made from scratch, others are prints, which I sew, stuff, embroider and frame in little tins. Usually my images are of birds or animals and sometimes colourful cottages in the countryside. I was born in Yorkshire but moved to Derbyshire and now live on the edge of the Peak District with my family, cats and a dog.

Embroidered art by Ruth Markwell

Being able to work at my own pace is really helpful for my health condition and I can forget about it when I’m concentrating on what I’m making or carefully stitching while listening to an audio book. 

Ruth Markwell

Tell us a bit about your journey? How did it all start? 
I come from an arty family and have a degree in art and design. I’ve illustrated for BBC Children’s magazines, been a graphic designer and worked in the design team at Nottingham museums – this job gave me the opportunity to diversify away from graphics, to working with fabrics, making costumes and interactives for children. As a hobby I was making and selling decorative fabric bags.

After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2008, I worked part time, then took redundancy in 2018. I wanted to create a job from my bag-making hobby and took some advice to use the designs I was creating to make more cost-effective framed fabric ‘artworks’. Being able to work at my own pace is really helpful for my health condition and I can forget about it when I’m concentrating on what I’m making or carefully stitching while listening to an audio book. 

Embroidered art by Ruth Markwell

Where did the idea for textile art in a tin come from?
I wanted to make small affordable gifts and tried to find an inexpensive way to frame my work. The tins are perfect because they fit into ‘large letter’ boxes for posting, which is cheaper than sending parcels. It worked out well during Covid as I could print the postage labels and pop the tins straight into the post box. Recently, after a few requests, I have started framing some of the little pictures again, as some people prefer a frame.

Embroidered robin by Ruth Markwell


What inspires you? 
I love working with fabric. I’ve got loads of material that I’ve bought, been given or cut-up from old clothes and tablecloths. At first I started with the fabric, inspired to make little countryside scenes and colourful houses, but recently I’ve started to work on top of fabric prints, inspired by animals, birds and nature.  

Ruth Markwell textile artist

Tell us about your process. How do the prints and embellishments come together, and how do you choose your composition, materials and subject matter?
To create a new picture, I will work with a number of photographs – drawing, painting and often tweaking the final image on a computer. Although sometimes it’s just simple – drawing, cutting-up material, fabric painting and stitching. I sew around the images with a machine, add free-motion embroidery, pad out the pictures to give them a three-dimensional effect, then hand stitch, possibly adding more fabric and embellishments on top. Often the images I make are requests, which I then repeat, although no two pictures will ever be exactly the same. 

I create an image by drawing, painting and often tweaking on a computer. I then sew around the images with a machine, add free-motion embroidery, pad out the pictures to give them a three-dimensional effect, then hand stitch, possibly adding more fabric and embellishments on top.

Ruth Markwell

What is your proudest moment so far? 
Not an actual moment, but I love getting reviews from people who have received my work or when someone sends a request or commission. It’s great when, occasionally, gift shops ask me for work to sell.

tools in Ruth Markwell's studio

I’d love to hear if you have any dreams for your creative business. Where do you see yourself in five years? 
I love being a maker/crafter. In five years I would like to have more items in my Folksy shop and to be regularly supplying a few gift shops and galleries.

Embroidered art by Ruth Markwell

Do you have any advice for other people starting out on a similar path?
I’d say it helps if you can make your work a little bit unique, as that will help you to be noticed and remembered. Also have patience, it takes a while to grow a little business. I remember reading about people who spent months working for little reward and thinking, I wouldn’t to do that, but yes I have. 

Embroidered art by Ruth Markwell

I wouldn’t have thought about making a pigeon, but my daughter wanted one to give to a friend. I was unsure if anyone would want to buy one, but they are surprisingly popular.

Ruth Markwell

Finally, what do you most enjoy portraying in your work?
I enjoy sewing the houses, which is where I started, sewing them on bags. But for a favourite I will choose the little pigeon. I wouldn’t have thought about making a pigeon, but my daughter wanted one to give to a friend. After making that original pigeon I decided to try putting them online, unsure if anyone would want to buy one, but they are surprisingly popular. I think people either like or strongly dislike pigeons, so when I’m making one, I know it will be going to someone who will love it!

Embroidery art by Ruth Markwell on Folksy

Enjoy 12% off in Ruth Markwell’s Folksy shop during April 2023 with the code APRIL23

Shop Ruth Markwell on Folksy – folksy.com/shops/RuthMarkwell


Meet the interviewer

The maker asking the questions this month is Beatrice Ajayi, an artist based in Scotland who tells stories from her imagination with her brush. Visit Beatrice’s shop here folksy.com/shops/BeatriceAjayi and read her Meet the Maker interview here – Meet the Maker: Beatrice Ajayi

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