I am an artist that uses nature as my inspiration, and textile as my chosen medium for interpreting the emotional response to what I see and feel of the natural world around me.
I choose to work in fabric and thread as I love the process and rhythm of stitching and the feel and texture of the various fabrics I use in my work.
I take my inspiration from the natural world, particularly the birdlife and native flora of Guernsey’s West Coast. I decided some time ago that I would limit my subject matter to what I saw and experienced within walking distance of my home. To compensate for this potentially limiting subject matter I employ a wide range of styles and techniques as best suited to each piece, including print and paint – but always incorporating stitch as the main component. I might sit on an idea for months, even years, before I find the right fabric, or decide on the best way to interpret the idea in my head.
It is a constant source of pleasure that my twin passions of nature and stitch can find expression in my art.
I was recently asked to find just one word that summed up why I do what I do. After due deliberation, the conclusion I reached is that I stitch for JOY, both in my source of inspiration and in the process. It is my hope that the viewer, in turn, can experience something of this emotion when looking at my work.
©Jenny Mahy. All rights reserved 2020
SCRUFFY CROWS and FIGHTING COCKS
This piece was originally destined for the Gallery’s ‘Warmth of the Sun’ exhibition in February but didn’t make it as I changed my mind and worked on a picture of swallows instead. The title of the February exhibition made me think about the first migrants to return for the summer breeding season; traditionally chiffchaffs.
I discovered a suitable photograph in an RSPB magazine showing a nest woven in a tangle of undergrowth. I decided to use that as a basis for my embroidery.
The hitherto plain khaki-coloured linen has been bleached with a de-colourant paste, applied with a stick, and a mix of natural threads have been used to suggest the tangle of undergrowth caught in a shaft of sunlight.
Rightly or wrongly, I occasionally feed the Herring Gulls on the West coast headland where I live. I find it exhilarating to watch the birds as they swoop down in large numbers but each seeming to find its own space. I wanted to capture this excitement in this piece of work. Again, I have used printed silk organza overlaying printed cotton fabric with various cut-outs of birds held between the layers. There is no attempt at perspective as I wanted that feeling of chaos that accompanies the bird’s descending on the scraps of food that I throw out for them.
FLIGHT PATTERN – OYSTWERCATCHERS
My favourite seabirds are Oystercatchers; I love their evocative calls and distinctive plumage, especially in the breeding season when their beaks are bright red. I wanted to capture the striking pattern that they make when a flock takes off in unison.
Some time ago I admired a beautiful piece of dark blue linen that had been roughly joined together by a row of white stitching. The owner very generously made me a gift of the piece with the seam down the centre. I kept it safe in my fabric stash until I realised that it would make a perfect horizon for a flock of oystercatchers!
The ‘waves’ have been created by stitching a series of pin-tucks across the length of the fabric then brushing the ridges with lines of diluted bleach. Without this lightening of the fabric, I felt that the black part of the birds would be lost against the navy linen.
The birds were cut from coloured paper and placed/moved/placed until I was happy with the arrangement. During ‘lockdown’ I rationed myself to stitching just half a bird a day – I find the rhythm of hand-stitching to be really calming and totally absorbing and could have stitched all day.
PARLIAMENT OF ROOKS
This piece was inspired by a holiday in Exmoor in early May 2018. Sitting with friends in the garden of their hotel, we watched a raucous colony of rooks feeding their young in the trees overhead. Rooks are gregarious animals, so I wanted to include several birds in this composition. I used my own personal sketches and bits of several different photographs to create this piece of work.
The natural background linen has been embellished with overlapping stencils using a combination of oil paint sticks and spray dyes. Some painted areas have subsequently been removed using de-colourant paste. The birds have been hand-stitched, the beaks are painted leather.