Q So who is Jilly Edwards?
I was born in Essex, but almost immediately moved to live in Newport, Monmouthshire. Another move to Bristol at 6 years of age, where I went to school and art school, the West of England College of Art. I loved drawing and painting but opted for the textile course, and was fortunate to have a painter for my weaving tutor, Anne Barron, who understood my desire to develop as a fine art weaver rather than a cloth weaver.
After Bristol I moved to Bath, Somerset and after several jobs to ‘earn a living’ I started teaching at Sydney Place, the foundation and adult education department of Corsham School of Art and Newton Park College (now both Bath Spa University).
Another move to Yorkshire in 1978 brought me nearer to Edinburgh College of Art and the renowned Tapestry Department, and after a visit to talk with the tutors Fiona Mathison and Maureen Hodge I opted to do a year long course in the Tapestry Department. This was the most life enforcing time, confirming that this was the area I wanted to be in. The department challenged and encouraged you to find what it was you wanted to do and how to do it with a strong underpinning with drawing and research, something that never leaves you.
From 1981 I have worked in my own studio, where ever that has been, sometimes in a room my home or a studio with other artists, or recently in a castle! But now in my own studio, an eco build with a sedum roof and wall pockets of herbs, tomatoes and alpine strawberries.
Barley, 1973. Photo: Jilly Edwards
Q Where in the world are you based?
I now live in the heart of Exeter, surrounded by Georgian and Victorian townhouses. The home and studio are in what was the office/garden of a disused print workshop.
It is an eco house and studio, built of light weight blocks and painted timber cladding, the studio has a sedum roof, the main house has solar and pv panels to provide hot water for the under floor heating and water, insulation and double glazed doors and windows also provide reduced bills and we have a wood burner for the very cold days!
Matthew’s Summer Garden, 1980. Photo: Wayne Baillie
Q When did you decide to become a maker?
Having left WECA in 1969 I took an assortment of jobs to ‘earn a living’, but making my own work in every spare moment. I was offered a studio space in Bath in exchange for helping in an Architects practice. A great way to learn about building!
This really encouraged me to strive for what I wanted to do, and not just a ‘job’. Not an easy life, but fulfilling.
Sense of Summer 2000. Photo: Wayne Baillie
Q What made you choose the materials that you work with?
I believe it’s to do with the ‘hand’ and the ‘feel’, when you have got to the point of the research and drawing that you can say, ‘this is what I want to work on’ you begin to know what materials are right for the interpretation.
The natural fibres, like wool, linen, cotton, etc. are really ‘delicious’ to work with, they answer all questions when in the hand making it so easy to create what you want, I would never say I won’t work with a particular material, but it has to be ‘right’!
A Splash of Blue – Detail, 1993. Photo: Wayne Baillie
Q What other materials would you like to work in?
I have been experimenting with a Japanese nylon filament, that has a memory! So when you take it off the loom you can shape it and it holds its own shape, its not easy to work on, rather hard on your fingers, but the results are exciting. I have also been learning to film and edit, so interpreting my ideas and thoughts into layered short films. I am returning to ideas about having tapestries ‘Off the Wall’, ideas that I tried at Bristol, more sculptural shapes.
Shadows and shapes, 2010 Photo: Mei Lim
Q Where do you get your inspiration from?
There is an underlying inspiration from the landscape, but more about the colours and shapes than a traditional interpretation of landscapes. I have been inspired by my itinerant life, journeying and travel and how I record these stories as I travel; recently it has been about more local journeys and life around me. Exeter is well placed, with the sea 20 minutes in one direction and Dartmoor or Exmoor 20 minutes in other directions and both are accessible with public transport.
A Splash Of Blue, Full Work - 1993. Photo: Wayne Baillie
Q What motivates you?
To be happy
Ma, 2001. Photo: Wayne Baillie
Q Do you create your work in a studio base or a home base?
Studio and Home are three strides apart, but I go to work in the studio every day.
Textures of Memory. 2005. Photo: David Westwood
Q Crafts in the 21st Century – what does this mean to you?
This is a challenge, but not insurmountable, it’s a question of seeing what is relevant. What Crafts offer is the opportunity for people to see and buy work that is individual and perhaps one off. If finances are tight then people are going to be selective about what they choose to buy, but this looks like being of an advantage to us that ‘make’, so people want something that is special and they can treasure.
The Arts Council ‘Own Art’ should be promoted and made simpler to enable patrons to purchase from the artists on the interest free purchase scheme, where you pay over the year in equal amounts on Direct Debit, up to £2000.
Traveller's Samples #7, 2009 Photo: Mei Lim
Q How do you sell and promote your work?
I have a website – www.jillyedwards.co.uk , but primarily it’s through exhibitions. I have exhibited in Europe, USA, Australia and Japan and with many exhibitions in groups and solo in the UK.
Through these exhibitions and Open Studios I have established a wide list of people that like to be kept informed and who have bought small pieces and then come back and commissioned work, both private and commercial/public clients. People love to meet the artist and see where and how you work, so I have found that Open Studios lead to many different opportunities.
Traveller's Samples, 2009 Photo: Mei Lim
Q What is your typical working day look like?
Into the kitchen for breakfast and then into the studio by 09.00. I do the paper work/emails/ letters and banking first so it’s out of the way! Then the days are divided between drawing, painting, photography, filming and working at the warp face! So no day is the same, unless you have to finish a piece of work. It’s a real privilege to work for yourself, but you quickly learn that you have to be disciplined.
Bundu Stones 1998. Photo: Wayne Baillie
Q What is your working style?
I don’t know that I have a working style? I love looking and seeing other artists, but mainly in other mediums.
Ma – Detail, 2001. Photo: Wayne Baillie
Q 3 words of advice for an aspiring Craft artist/maker...
Go for it!
Follow the Path of the Heart 2005. Photo: David Westwood
Q Who is/are your favourite artist(s)/maker(s)?
I love a variety of other artist/makers. But from many areas, but my favourite painters are Agnes Martin and Howard Hodgkin, Sculptors, Anne Truitt and Richard Deacon, Ceramicists Edmund de Waal, Laurel Keeley, Gillian Lowndes and Lucie Rie.
In my own medium, I love Susan Mowatt for the sheer quality of content through to the finished item and Naomi Kobayashi.
Q What music do you listen to?
My music listening is very eclectic, depending on my mood. I can listen to Bach Cello Concertos, played by YoYo Ma to the Wildbeasts. I can listen to anything played on a cello and I became enthralled by Japanese Flute music
Work in Progress, Around the Red Hills, 2011 Photo: Mei Lim
Q 3 likes and dislikes?
Likes: Sea, Space and Chocolait
Dislikes: Cold, Caves and Politics!
Around the Red Hills, 2011 Photo: Mei Lim
Q What do you do to relax?
Being with my family and friends. Going to see our son in Manchester and seeing his life and friends is a real joy and means I can go back to my work knowing that he is very capable, and creating his own art, he is a graphic designer. www.dr.me.com
Going off to the seaside or up onto Dartmoor to make a sandcastle or climb to the top of a Tor it blows away any cobwebs and puts everything into perspective.
Taking a homemade picnic and a flask of hot peppermint tea, to just enjoy the simple things of life.
Jilly Edwards working on Around the Red Hills, 2011 Photo: Mei Lim
Check out the What's On section to find out details of Jilly’s current Solo Show at the Ruthin Craft Centre in Wales, UK.