We caught up with British artist Louise Gardiner after she got creative in our window display last week.
Louise Gardiner with her birthday quilt for Liberty. Photo: Emma Williams
Louise Gardiner is bringing embroidery firmly into the 2010s thanks to a unique combination of spontaneity, crafstmanship and creative vision. After a whirlwind career – including an exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery, multiple industry awards and a feature in The Guardian – Louise continues to produce work to inspire the next generation of crafstpeople. Last week, Louise staged some guerilla embroidery live in our Great Marlborough Street windows to coincide with her exclusive quilt being on display. We caught up with her to talk needlework, inspiration and creating a commemorative quilt for Liberty’s 140th birthday. . .
Louise Gardiner in the Great Marlborough Street window. Photo: Sophie Broadbridge
Did you enjoy getting creative in our windows?
I love new opportunities, so getting in the window to embellish my quilt was a great opportunity to flag up the wonderful medium of embroidery in such an iconic store.
What kind of response did you receive from passers-by?
A mixture! Being a Northerner it didn’t faze me at all to smile, wave and blow occasional kisses in-between stitching on PVC stars. Besides promoting my career, it was a great opportunity to bring vitality to the window, connect with my work and make people giggle. The biggest challenge was to encourage stern commuters to engage; the quilt is cheeky so I did win over a few smiles. It was a refreshing change to my cow-surrounded studio in Cheshire!
What was the best part of collaborating with Liberty for the 140th birthday quilt?
Liberty gives me projects that are exciting; the challenges allow me to show off my sense of humour and finest stitchery witchery! I am passionate about inspiring people with creativity, colour, texture and thought-provoking imagery. It is my mission to push the boundaries of contemporary British embroidered art to new exciting places. The two quilt projects I worked on with Liberty have enabled me to produce textile art with the wow factor.
What inspired your quilt design for Liberty?
I was asked to produce the quilt in 20 days on the theme of Maritime tattoos. As soon as I got the email I just started researching as it’s such a specific subject.
Stitching is perceived to be such a dry old pastime so I was looking for an excuse to bring an edge and show that it is still a beautiful, rich and timeless medium. Tattooing is an ideal theme for the needle, as punching elaborate threads into canvas is so closely related to transferring ink onto skin.
Louise Gardiner embroiders live in the Liberty windows. Photo: Sophie Broadbridge
What made you take the leap of faith from cards and wrapping paper to canvas and quilt embroideries?
Since graduating from Goldsmith’s, I have always created art by drawing with a needle. It is a spontaneous technique that fits my style of working. I have completed many different projects from figurative book illustration, hospital art works, advertising campaigns, greetings cards, velvet poufs, pillows and scarves. The Liberty projects are up there in my favourite challenges though, as they require lightning decision-making and ambitious large-scale planning.
You mention on your website that you create work that will enhance our environment; can you explain what you mean by that?
Life is full of beauty, wonder and kindness and I hope that my work celebrates this. My aim is to create artwork and garments that are inspiring, thought-provoking and uplifting. There is nothing better than to see people smile when they see my work – it makes the many hours spent making it worth it.
Do you have any advice that might help aspiring artists?
Do what makes you happy and people around you will be happy too. Seek help and advice when you need it. Be brave. Be game. Have fun. Music and sherry are marvellous at releasing the creative beast too!
Finally, can you share any plans for the future?
I am developing a beautiful British-made collection of silks that derive from my original embroideries which is very exciting. I’m also working on a superstitcher book based on my teaching philosophy which will showcase a variety of my past colourful projects – maybe even a few sherry cocktails here and there too!
Louise’s quilt is now on display in the Haberdashery department on the 3rd floor.
Even the smallest of beginner sewers will love making this kitsch cushion.
Liberty print connoisseur, expert sewer and owner of Alice Caroline, Alice Caroline Garrett gives us a sneak peek at her new book, Little Lady Liberty with this quirky hand-crafted cushion cover. Having spent her own childhood rummaging through her Grandmother’s Liberty fabric stash, Alice has designed this book with children in mind, with the hope of bringing enjoyment and creativity through step-by-step sewing projects.
We caught up with Alice to find out exactly why she decided to create this book and to hear about her passion for encouraging the next generation to get sewing:
Why did you decide to create a book for children?
The book is based around a young girl’s bedroom and the projects are all things I would like to make for my daughter; the kinds of things I loved as a child. Each project is named after girls I know – my daughter’s friends and cousins – and I chose projects I thought they would each enjoy. For example, Lilly loves ponies, so I named the duvet set after her.
How did you develop your own skills as a beginner?
My mum taught me to sew when I was younger; we made sleeping bags for teddies and a few patchwork cushions. I developed my skills later by trial and error, through making dresses as a student; I would buy a pattern and work through it, just learning as I went.
Do you think it’s important to pass on crafting to the next generation?
Yes, it’s something I’m passionate about, as making something with your own hands is so satisfying. When you can make something to wear or for your home you know it’s unique! It’s a skill you can build and, as an adult, it can be a way to reconnect with creativity otherwise lost in a busy life of work.
Have you tried out any of the projects with girls you know?
Yes I’ve made the Molly purse with my daughter. She wanted the Hello Kitty Liberty fabric and chose a lining to match; it’s super cute! She does the pedal on the sewing machine and I say when to stop, although she is learning to see the end coming up. She plaited the handle as well.
Do you remember the first Liberty fabric you owned?
I remember I had a piece of one of my Grandfather’s Liberty shirts when I was about 10. Then, in my teens, I went to the Liberty store for the first time and bought some gorgeous sequinned Edenham. It’s so beautiful! I made a tiny bag from it but still haven’t used the rest.
If you had unlimited time, what would you love to make out of Liberty print?
I would make quilts for everyone I know! One day I want to make a quilt using all of the 2.5” charm squares I have been collecting for a few years, but I would grade them all by colour first.
Do you have any Liberty prints decorating your house? If so, which ones?
My daughter Sophie has the duvet from the book, crafted with My Little Pace and Emolly Can Can. I am slowly starting to make curtains for the house with the gorgeous The Secret Garden Collection; I’m going to start with Faria Flowers in the kitchen!
Is there a book for boys on the horizon?
I would love to do a book for boys (particularly as I have one), but there aren’t quite as many Liberty prints for boys. Although recently we’ve had the fabulous Queue for the Zoo and Tom’s Jets – I’d love to go through the archive and maybe reprint some great boyish designs for a book!
THE PROJECT: HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN HOLLY SCATTER CUSHIONS
“Little Lady Liberty has been inspired by my lifelong love for Liberty fabrics; the huge range of magical prints is perfect for making beautiful things for children. I love sewing with a beloved one in mind; crafting a gift like a dress, toy, cushion or quilt that becomes woven into their childhood. All of the projects are named after little girls I know. I’ve designed the instructions with step by step drawings accessible to beginners as well as more advanced sewers, in the hope that anyone with a special little girl can find a project they both love!”
Select colours to match your bedroom’s theme or, if giving the cushion as a gift, make things a little more personal by choosing colours inspired by your lucky recipient.
You will need:
33 x 73.5cm (13 x 29in) Liberty fabric for a 30cm (12in) square cushion (see the book for other cushion sizing options)
Sewing machine OR hand sewing need
Thread (either contrast or matching)
How to make:
Select your fabric and cut to the right size for the cushion that you would like to make.
At one end of the short edge of the fabric, fold over 5mm (1⁄4in) to the wrong side and press.
Fold over another 1cm (1⁄2in) and press. Topstitch through all the layers, staying close to the edge of the original fold.
Repeat steps 1 to 3 at the other end of the fabric.
Lay the fabric out with the right side facing up and fold one end of the fabric over on top, measuring 19cm (71⁄2in).
Fold over the other end of the fabric by the same amount as in step 5 and, most importantly, ensure the bottom layer is as wide as the finished size of your cushion.
Stitch through all layers, 1cm (1⁄2in) from the raw edges, down each side of the folded fabric leaving the overlapped edges open for an envelope-style back.
Turn the finished cushion cover right side out through the back opening. Press and insert the cushion pad.
And there you have it! A lovely little cushion to start building yourself a homely den when the rainy British weather gets too much.
We love to see all your Liberty print projects, so why not share them with us on Twitter or Pinterest using #SewLiberty.
Feeling inspired? Let Little Lady Liberty and our newest Liberty fabrics be the starting point for your next crafting afternoon.
We chat to Sales Associate and creator of the Cape Drape Omar as his first collection for Liberty hits the shop floor.
If you watched Liberty of London on Channel 4 last November, you’re sure to remember Womenswear Sales Associate Omar. Creator of the Cape Drape, Omar’s talent was spotted during filming of the show, and his collection was quickly snapped up by Managing director Ed Burstell, and Buyer Stephen Ayers.
Here’s how this fledgling designer went from shop floor to stockist and meeting Adele in a mere six months. . .
How did it feel when Ed and Stephen told you they wanted to stock the Cape Drape?
It was so weird – on the day it was filmed the production crew just told me they just wanted to talk about windows, then Stephen and Ed came down. When they told me they were buying the Cape Drape the only three words I could get out of my mouth were oh my god. I was hyperventilating in the corner – it was so surreal. But amazing!
I’m still working on the shop floor, I’m training people on the cape drape in the morning, selling through the day and looking after my own brand. I straighten my rail every five seconds!
How does it feel to have the moment immortalised on TV?
I’ve watched it back once, at that moment in time it didn’t feel real. It was only while I was sewing the garments that it started to sink in, even last week it was so surreal saying the labels are here, or it’s launching tomorrow and I have to put signage out.
Did you come across any challenges in production?
The original Cape Drape was just made as an out-there piece for me, so I needed to bring it to a point where it was more wearable. I had to adapt the original to perfect things like the arm holes, it was just me having a vision and trying to put it across.
My university (LCF) were incredible, they let me use their facilities to produce the collection. I’m really grateful for them! Each Cape Drape is handmade, every little piece!
Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?
I would say stick to your guns, try not to doubt yourself and always strive for the best. If you envision something, make sure what you produce is what you had in mind.
What’s been the highlight so far?
Adele bought the first Cape Drape in the first hour of them being on the shop floor. She was just casually shopping, what are the chances??
What’s next for your label?
I’m looking to go into easy-to-wear dresses, along the same unfussy lines. I like the idea of shift dresses, that kind of thing.
Coming to Liberty.co.uk very soon, the Cape Drape is now available in-store.
We invited illustrator Camille Rousseau to decorate our Great Marlborough Street windows.
In celebration of our revamped and re-decorated haberdashery department on the 3rd floor, we invited illustrator Camille Rousseau (who has collaborated with Liberty on the decor) to come and decorate one of the windows of the Great Marlborough Street storefront live. We caught up with Camille to find out her thinking behind the design, and how it felt to be a living window display for a day. . .
What was the best partof working for Liberty?
Visiting the building, and diving into the history of the most incredible and inspirational example of heritage British culture.
What inspiration did you take from the haberdashery theme?
I was thrilled by the theme because it encapsulates both the functional and the aesthetic aspects of fashion, the basic technical drawing mixed with tools and the structure of an old industrial environment. I was interested in the discipline and the tools around it. I guess there is an aspect of freedom in floral pattern mixed with structural architectural lines, the old technical drawings mixed with nature.
What were your initial thoughts about the project?
I originally wanted to use the building like a kaleidoscope. The building structure would be a the lens that would generate a mirror effect, mixing floral pattern with architecture, the drawings on the glass window acting as the lens. . .
What was it like illustrating a window space live?
Illustrating on windows is just an other aspect of a childhood dream. It was like diving into the most inspirational landscape in one of London’s iconic architectural structures. People walking by were exited just by seeing anything moving inside a window display!
Shop the collection online, or visit us in-store in the 3rd floor
We drop into the Get Stoned event in the Liberty jewellery hall: four days of new collection launches, personal appearances & exclusives.
For the last two days, the stars of the Liberty jewellery hall have been in-store launching exclusive pieces and discussing their collections. Anna Sheffield was on hand with bridal consultations, while Alex Monroe launched his exclusive Eyes of the Stars collection and Melissa Joy Manning met customers at her jewellery counter.
If you haven’t dropped in yet, make sure you visit before 6pm Sunday to meet Anna Sheffield, enter the Astley Clarke prize draw and get a first look at exclusive and limited edition collections from Kojis, Dinny Hall and Alex Monroe.
Liberty Loyalty customers will get triple points* on any jewellery purchases made during the event, and a hand engraver will be in residence to give your jewellery a personal touch.
Click here for full details and Get Stoned terms and conditions
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