Meet the Maker: Linda Bee
In our new ‘meet the maker’ series, we catch up with Hampshire-based artist and designer, Linda Bee, whose handmade felt purses, currently on sale in the gallery shop, have been made bespoke to complement the colours and themes in our current David Milne exhibition.
Find out more about Linda’s work and the art classes she runs at www.lindabee.co.uk
How did your interest in art and design begin?
I have a very early memory of being at the beach and wanting to draw the things I saw washed up by the sea. I grew up in Seaford in Sussex and spent a lot of time by the water’s edge, observing the patterns and the various designs the stones made. The random nature of objects has continued to interest and influence me, from the patterns of a group of people in a market to laundry blowing on a line. This early interest led me to explore art and design professionally, which I first studied at Eastbourne in the ‘60s – a great time to be an artist as you can imagine!
Can you tell us about the influence of the natural world on your work?
The natural world is a constant inspiration in my work, and many of my paintings and felt purses are abstract responses to what I see around me. I am particularly drawn to the light through trees, negative space, and the colours of the changing seasons. I often take my camera out with me on walks and take pictures from unusual angles, which later inspire my painting and designs.
Can you tell us more about the process behind making the felt purses?
For me felt is no different to paint as a medium to express my love of colour and abstract pattern - but of course the process is different. Each purse starts life as an oddly shaped piece of felt which is made up of three layers of wool fibres using a wet felting process of hot water, soap and a lot of rolling (which causes friction) – at least 300 times, so it’s a good work out!
The sides are trimmed and the top edge left in its quirky shape, before I line and hand-stitch the piece into the final purse. Of course the lengthiest (and most creative) process is creating the felt, and building up an abstract picture which makes each purse unique.
Your purses were created bespoke for the David Milne exhibition. What are your thoughts on his work, what stood out when you saw it?
When I was first introduced to Milne’s artworks, I was immediately struck by the strong use of dark – both as line and block colour with striking accents in autumnal colours and cool white light. Wool is available in amazing tones and colours, and seems to work perfectly as a medium to create a range to complement this exhibition. I was extremely taken with Milne’s use of line and form.
Can you tell us more about your use of colour?
I came to love colour when I studied art and design in the ‘70s, eventually specialising in knitwear design. My first design job was in the Scottish borders where I designed cashmere knitwear. My studio overlooked a stream, with wonderful wildlife and birds and I was surrounded by a beautiful and rugged landscape, much like David Milne was when he was working out in the wilderness of Canada. I can see many similarities between the landscapes of both countries - which particularly struck me when I visited the exhibition. My job in Scotland entailed visiting the dye houses and colour became the essence of my work as a designer. I came to felt-making quite recently and was fascinated by the process and the possibility of using wool in a similar way to paint. The palette of available colours seemed endless and I was smitten!
Can you tell us a bit more about your work as an abstract artist?
I started thinking abstractly when I studied fashion design and we were encouraged to look at work by other artists for inspiration for textiles. I particularly liked the work of the Cubist painter, Georges Braque. It wasn’t until I started painting that I realised the potential of abstraction to express what I was seeing in the world, and enabled me to portray my love for the random in nature.
Whilst my paintings are abstract, there is often a landscape element in my work which comes from my time in the Scottish borders. I remember getting immense enjoyment from the changing colours of the landscape and seasons.
Are there any artists who inspire you work?
The collages of Kurt Schwitters, and the compositions of Kandinsky, Marc and Diebenkorn, to name but a few!
Do you plan to do anything else with felt in the future?
I am currently enjoying making pieces of felt artwork to be framed and enjoyed as art in their own right and I am now incorporating abstract figures into my designs. I am still exploring the potential working with felt offers, but in the meantime I enjoy knowing that people can take a little portion of my artwork with them in the form of a purse!