I think my interest in textiles must have skipped a generation: Mum isn’t into fabrics, but both my Grans were avid knitters. Gran Millar made exquisite smocked dresses in phenomenal detail and Gran Inglis would knit for the neighbourhood. So ferociously did she knit, that the ends of her knitting needles would create bald patches in her clothes where they nestled under her arms!
I studied at Goldsmith’s College, London. Audery Walker was running the course at the time & I was fortunate enough to have tutors like Micheal Brennah-Wood, Alice Kettle, Sally Freshwater. At 18 years old, I didn’t really appreciate just how lucky I was. We were given workshops in stitch, print, weave – plenty of techniques with incredible designers and textile artists. But no projects. No briefs. I remember Micheal’s introduction: ‘...find a desk, a chair, a space and get on with it...’ With what I thought, well you had to work that one out for yourself. Eventually I did and I now realise just how valuable that time was in helping me to apply myself and be self directed.
During the last year of my degree, I bumped into an old tutor from my Foundation Art and Design course, cheekily asked for a job & to my amazement the reply was positive! I started to run workshops during university holidays and then more regular lecturing once I’d graduated. Passing on skills and exchanging experiences with students can be incredibly inspiring and that connection with an educational institution always offers an insight into the latest ideas and technologies plus providing a platform for creative discussion.
About 15 years ago, I became particularly fascinated with the burn out process of devoré. I’d worked with felt, paper, stitch but with devoré on velvet everything seemed to just make sense and I was amazed at the attention my work received. As my children arrived so did my success! In 1996 I was selected for Chelsea Craft Fair, London [Organised by the Crafts Council] and in 2001 I represented Great Britain at Australian Fashion Week in Sydney. It was a busy time and tricky to juggle family life/creative work. I created unique accessories in hand painted devoré velvet – scarves, cushions, books and pictures. It was the wall pieces that gave the greatest satisfaction, they allowed me freedom to express the qualities of the landscape around me. I now offer specialist workshops, supplies and a ‘Demystifying Devore’ DVD to share my devoré developments further afield. Further details are available on my website: www.dionneswift.co.uk
We live in Yorkshire in the north of England. The moors are vast and windswept and I used dye in painterly brush marks to capture the structure of the land and the energy of the weather.
Four years ago I co-founded Radiant Works; visual arts resource and group studio with colleague Martin Smith. From there I run a varied selection of inspirational workshops, based near the centre of Huddersfield it’s easily accessible and ideal for small groups to develop new skills in drawing, printmaking, stitch, devoré and dying. Full details are available on my website: www.dionneswift.co.uk
A recent Arts Council England grant has allowed me to redevelop my work: It gave me time and space to play again, to explore and experiment. I’m thrilled with the outcomes – not just the physical pieces, but the journey has meant I’m creatively in a better situation.
The title; ‘New Grounds’ has resonances with traditional print making and also with the fact that I am treading new ground with my ideas and surfaces. It’s fantastic – I’ve given myself freedom to move and expand.
This new body of work can be seen at the Knitting and Stitching shows:
Alexandra Palace, London, UK 8th - 11th October;
Dublin, Ireland 29th October – 1st November;
Harrogate, UK 19th – 22nd November.
Bankfield Museum and Gallery, Halifax, UK 16th January - 5th March 2010
Ropewalk Gallery, Barton on Humber, UK 27th March – 23rd May 2010
Myles Meeham Gallery, Darlington, UK 1st August – 18th September 2010