Conversation with Aileen Clarke

I came across Aileen’s work on Flickr and was quickly sucked into her luscious coloured Scottish Landscapes. Her Croft scenes reminded me of staying in bothy’s in wild and beautiful landscapes and of camping by the shore under moonlit skies. Enjoy some musings with Aileen over virtual coffee.

I was really drawn to your needle felted landscapes, especially your use of colour. Why would you say nature features so predominately in your work?

Having spent most of my life living in the countryside and visiting the west coast of Scotland on holidays, I found that when I went to college for four years and lived in a city, I just couldn’t function properly. I found the city so uninspiring and when I took off to do a bit of back packing I subconsciously headed west. I found myself on the outer Islands of Scotland and the west coast of Ireland and that’s where I felt most at peace, most inspired and rejuvenated. The colours I use in my work probably reflect my affinity for the sea, the sky, the beauty of a sunset etc. And my use of vibrant colour in other pieces might reflect my sense of fun and my sociable nature.

What inspires you, that you couldn’t you live without?

Being surrounded by trees and greenery and our visits to the west coast.

Is the source of the materials you use important? Environmental factors such as dyes used, the source of the wool?

As I become more interested in felt, fibres and yarns I find myself wanting to know more about natural dyes and sources of wool. I’d love to experiment with dyes myself and make them from what I can find in the garden and in the woods. I get given a lot of bits and pieces from friends and family that know I can reuse a lot of old garments etc so there is an element of recycling going on in my work.

Being a wonderfully creative person can you explain what creativity is in terms of what it means to you?

Creativity to me is the inbuilt intuition to do something artistc and make things beautiful. To express oneself in a way that appeals to other peoples sensitive sides. It may be that people express themselves creatively through music and song, through theatre and dance, through writing, gardening, decorating, whatever. When people get in touch with their creative side they experience joy and self satisfaction. I feel very blessed to be so naturally creative though it took me years to understand that it is more than just a hobby or a pass time to be making and creating. Having some sort of creative outlet is a need. Trying to stop that flow of creativity would be like piling up stones in the path of a stream. The stream would still find a way to flow.

When you consider the issues that western society faces do you feel creativity has anything to offer as an antidote?

There are many great projects going on that help people overcome difficulties and problems through creativity but the only antidote for society today is to stop and think and see the blatant greed and corruption going on all around them. I’ve never been one to make big statements through my work though.


Do you think craft has anything to offer in a spiritual connection? (for eg a connection to the spirit of a place or entering a meditative zone in repetitive work?)

I know that some people do feel a sense of fulfillment spiritually when they get right into whatever they are creating. I don’t feel that.

Who is inspiring you right now (eg blogs/flickr)

I find the whole online crafting community a great inspiration. Living in a rural area I could be quite cut off from the creative world but following craft blogs and flickr groups keeps me fired up with new techniques and materials to try and of course the feedback is tremendous.

‘Disasters or experiments? What’s your attitude when it all goes wrong?

I love getting time to experiment. Just go with the flow and see what happens. I don’t like wasting time though. I have two children and a house to keep (as do most!) and as my business grows I need to be making the best use of my time. Some disasters can be chopped up and used in another way and sometimes a thing doesn’t turn out the way I want but something useful may be learned. I just don’t like waste though. I’d hate to be using lots of nice materials and the piece turn out to be no good.

I’m nosey – would you share a picture of your workspace or something you’re working on?

My work space is a cubbie hole behind the stairs which is full to bursting point and I more often than not end up working at the kitchen table.
At the moment I am working on some textile seascapes for a new gallery opening in Johnshaven in May and some felt jewellery for a craft fair in St Andrews town hall on May 16th.

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2 thoughts on “Conversation with Aileen Clarke

  1. Thanks for posting this Jude : )
    I finally bought the paints yesterday for painting that little drawer set in my work space. The blankness of if really stands out in that photo!

  2. What a lovely interview 🙂

    The colours in your work are so evocative Aileen (I particularly like the purples and reds) – beautiful!

    Kate x

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