Debbie lives in one of the High Weald's villages, Ticehurst on the Kent and Sussex border.
What art techniques/style do you use and why?
I am a rag rug maker, and use recycled textiles and traditional hand tools to make hooky and proddy rag rugs, banners and cushions. I am also a felt maker and work with fleece fibers from animals to create bags, hats, scarves, jewellery and slippers. I have always loved to collect old textiles, and these two techniques are old. Felt making predates weaving, and rag rugs were made in the war years by people who could not afford to buy floor coverings. They would have used their old worn out clothes to work into a hessian grain sack, as a backing, using an old tool such as a sharpened wooden clothes peg to make a ‘pegged’ mat. These textile techniques are still as relevant today as they were when they were first made, and I like that feeling of continuity.
How and what about the High Weald landscape and its features or materials inspires you?
We live near the Woodland Enterprise Centre in Flimwell, East Sussex in a village called Ticehurst, which is within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We love to walk the lanes and woodland around where we live, and of course the wild flowers that grow along the protected verges and hedgerow are an inspiration to me. I love using colour in my work, and am inspired by the endless possibilities that colour can bring about.
Is there a special place where you like to do your art?
I take a lot of digital photos on my travels of things that I find inspiring. I have lots of scrap books and photo files that I can refer back to when designing – I work from my studio in my home, that has lots of natural light and looks out onto my beautiful garden.
Where you good at art at school? What did your teachers say?
At school the only things I was interested in were English and Art. I often was allowed to work on my own art projects and was encouraged by our brilliant art teacher. My artwork was displayed in the school corridors which made me feel proud. I was awarded the school art prize,.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I think I was born an artist, it’s a very big part of who I am. When I was around 6 or 7, I used to spend a lot of time making collage by cutting out pictures and shapes from magazines and sticking them onto paper. I also loved to draw what I could see. Every year I made Christmas and birthday cards for my sister and brothers and Mum and Dad, each one for each personality. I was happiest when I was being creative, so I guess I knew at this early age that I loved the subject. I was a bit older when I became an artist as part of my living.
How did you become an artist?
I started to earn money as an artist when I was about 35 - I also did other work in offices as a secretary, and didn’t like this much. I have always made things and my early work was admired by friends and family, so I started making pieces for them. I was then offered the opportunity to teach in Adult Education, so became more involved in working creatively. I exhibited with other artists and also had one woman exhibitions of my work, which brought me commissions, more teaching and generally my profile as an artist began to grow. I kept going like this, and today I teach in schools and colleges, I work to commission, and have been on channel 4 telly with Kirstie Allsopp talking about my textiles. I have also been in The Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph newspapers, where my textiles were featured.
What do you like most about being an artist?
Being an artist you are completely free to work with your own sense of vision and creativity. Each piece I make is unique, and comes with its own sense of satisfaction. I work alone most of the time. I get engrossed in my work, and time flies by - I like the creative world I go into. Often when I am commissioned to make a wall hanging, big floor mat or piece of felt clothing, I get new ideas and go off on a tangent which s brings its own rewards, creating a richer palette for me to work from. I really like the idea that if you put a lot into your work, you get a lot back. Working as a freelance artist and teacher is quite precarious, but comes with a sense of freedom.
What is your artist tip for local children?
My tip as an artist for local children, is to spend time walking in nature, along streams, through woodland and along the hedgerow, and just look at all the shapes and colours that can be found. Make a ‘journey stick’ and tie collected feathers, leaves and other found objects to your stick, to remind you of your travels. You could also collect pebbles, shells, berries and twigs, to put into your own sand painting. Find a tray and pour on some soft sand. Place your found objects in the sand, and draw lines and swirls with your fingertips.
Another good idea is to take a disposable camera with you and just take pictures of things that you find amazing on your walks – keep these pictures in an album to go back to for inspiration. Collect wonderfully coloured Autumn leaves, and if you press a tiny daisy between the pages of your favorite book, you will have that magic for ever.
How the pictures you have supplied for the website come about?
The Ox Eye daisy rag rug image was because I love white daisies. You look up into them as they are quite tall, and the swirling blue sky behind makes this piece joyful. We have them growing in our garden and similar daisies are found along the lanes near where I live.
The geranium cushion image came about by my appreciation of this beautiful simple flower that also grows in our garden. I love its mauve colour and have used complimentary yellow to really set off the flower.
‘Flotsum’ and leaf wall panels were inspired by the plant fennel. The seed heads open out into this amazing quite complex shape. Umbellifer shapes occur like this all along the back lanes and the leaf shape is just my interpretation of aloe vera.
Warrior Green Man banner/mat. This was inspired by the Oak tree. Its very English and just so majestic. I was commissioned to do the Warrior Green Man by an Opera Singer, she wanted an ancient looking green man mat to go by her fireside, she particularly wanted acorns to appear alongside the green leaves, and a mysterious face.