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.
Introducing Rodebjer, exclusively available at Liberty.
Founded in New York in 1999 after native Swede Carin Rodebjer’s designs caught the eye of New York buyers, Rodebjer offers laid-back luxury designed to be lived in. Exclusive to Liberty, Carin’s designs feature feminine tailoring inspired by the landscapes of her tranquil birthplace – Swedish island Gotland – the intensity of her adopted New York and the strength of the women she admires.
Close-up detail and soft draping lend a unique edge to traditional minimalism, while innovative construction allows the garments to be worn in multiple ways. This distinct aesthetic has earned Rodebjer numerous prestigious awards, including Swedish ELLE Designer of the Year. We caught up with designer Carin to talk design inspiration and stylish living, as her collection drops exclusively at Liberty.
We’re excited about Rodebjer launching, could you tell us about your inspiration for this collection?
I’m very excited as well. The inspiration for this collection was to visualize the life of an urban nomad. I wanted something that functioned well in the pulse of the city but at the same time felt relaxed. I wanted something that was very direct and therefore I studied the directness and energy of indigenous art as well as unschooled, yet brilliant, creativity.
– New York is such a unique city; does it influence your work? In what ways does this combine with Swedish fashion?
New York influences my work a lot. The energy, the people in the city, the melting pot of different cultures and styles. I like to bring that intensity into the Swedish sensibility and the Swedish style that used to be quite minimalistic. Therefore I usually say that our expression is rich yet clean. A mix of New York and Sweden.
In what way do powerful and independent women inspire your work?
I have always been inspired by women who take responsibility and lead their own lives. Therefore I want to make versatile design so these women can find their own personality in the collections. I don’t want to dictate too much and I don’t want our design to restrict movement.
Why choose Liberty for the exclusive?
Liberty is such an amazing department store. I like your heritage and I like what you are now. It’s a privilege to see Rodebjer as a part of your offering.
What is your top tip for stylish living?
Make yourself rich of valuable experiences.
What was it like moving multiple times between Stockholm and New York – was it difficult?
This last time was a bit more difficult since I brought a 1-year old child. Finding good daycare and insurances can drive you a bit crazy but it was definitely worth it. I have earned so many amazing experiences out of this.
Have you had a chance to visit Liberty? Do you have a store wish list?
I have been to Liberty but unfortunately not in a while. New York has kind of sucked me into it’s machinery. I haven’t had too much time to spend in Europe but that will definitely change because I miss Europe a lot.
What is your favourite Liberty department?
I love the fabric department – I love all the Liberty fabrics and patterns.
Shop Rodebjer online and in-store now
Artist Rory Dobner introduces the exclusive Love collection.
A favourite in the Liberty Gift Room, Rory Dobner’s intricate illustrations are a must-have for any stylish home. With a repertoire including sculpture, print and home furnishings, his English-made artworks have garnered a global following. We chatted to Rory about his Valentine’s Days past and present ahead of his visit to Liberty on 13 February, where he will be signing purchases and introducing the exclusive Love collection.
Best Valentine’s Day:
Sitting on the beach as the sun came up after a fun night out with our feet in the sand.
Worst Valentine’s Day:
It was at an antiques market where I came across the most amazing chandelier which I wanted to buy for my wife so I was extremely pleased that I had: a) remembered Valentine’s Day b) actually come across something she would like. I was happy all the way on the bus to meet her at her favourite restaurant up to the point where I greeted her, and mid-cuddle realised I had left the aforementioned chandelier cosily on its own seat on the bus…
Best Valentine’s gift to receive:
Anything! If you get a Valentine’s gift think yourself very lucky!
Best Valentine’s gift you’ve given:
A personalised Intricate Ink Tile I wrote a VERY special secret message on. It’s now publicly on display on [my wife's] office wall.
Dream Valentine’s date location?
Underwater – preferably scuba diving in Mexico.
Favourite piece you’ve worked on:
Having the opportunity to hand paint (in the boiling hot sun under a holey umbrella) my cat monocle on a 20 foot wall at a hotel abroad.
Favourite character in your alphabet:
E for Extinct. I love my little dodo. I think we would have been pals if he was still around to hang out with on Valentine’s Day.
Top 3 inspirations:
My childrens’ imaginations, the Natural History Museum and any and every antiques market.
Why made in England?
I was made here so it made sense. I love England!
Shop Rory Dobner online . Visit us in-store in the Gift Room on the third floor Friday 13 February 12 – 7pm to have your purchases signed by Rory. Find out more