This week Brighton Journal spoke to Anna Liversidge, a Brighton-based textile and embroidery artist. Anna is constantly inspired by natural elements including seaweed, rocks and gulls. We discussed Anna’s journey to calling herself an artist, her current projects and how the local area has made an impact on her work.
What are you doing today?
I’m getting organised. It’s back to school, and one of my favourite times of the year. I love the feeling of a fresh start in September. I’m planning new work, stocking up on threads, sketching seaweed, and spending some time looking in my art books.
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
I work from home, where I have a desk by a large window and pin board where I keep inspirational images and quotes. There’s never enough space as textiles is messy and it spreads. I also have 2 British blue shorthair cats who love to sit on everything I’m working on. I keep thinking of getting a studio but the perks of working here are the light, the fact I can start as soon as I’m up, and the garden which is a 3 acre communal paradise (where I take my work as often as I can) though it’s very breezy being right on the seafront.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
I had a lovely commission from Hannah Gibbins (a Brighton Uni Graduate and Menswear assistant designer at Debenhams) to hand embroider one of her degree show garments. The theme was very organic, she had a specific idea in mind, and we worked closely together to realise this. It was exciting to show her the possibilities of embroidery, and discuss how it could be applied. I hand stitched the final piece using wools, and hemp string. It was very textural with a raised effect, very rewarding to work on.
What made you decide to become an artist?
I think I was an artist from a very young age, it just took a long time to give myself permission to own that. My teachers were very encouraging even though I was not talented in the classic ways – drawing and painting. It took a long time to find my medium. I had actually stayed away from textiles thinking it was boring. Then one day it all clicked into place when I first tried machine embroidery. I’ve spoken to many artists and it seems I’m not alone in feeling shy about saying I’m an artist. Though I’ve made a huge effort to change that, and now I go around announcing I’m an ARTIST at any given opportunity.
What are you currently working on?
I’m taking part in The Maker’s Fair, 14th September, St Augustine’s, Stanford Avenue which is organised by Lauren Hayes, last week’s Artist of the Week. I recently bought one of her beautiful pieces. So I am creating work for that. I’m making several seaweed inspired pieces, some framed mussel shells, and lace vessels as well as handmade cards.
What are the key themes in your work?
Nature is always the starting point, I love the less obvious aspects of flora and fauna, the fragility of a dropped petal, leaves with holes bitten out of them creating delicate patterns. Strength and fragility are key themes, as are small captured moments in time, and what the waves bring with them.
What would you like people to notice about your work?
My most recent piece is called ‘Beneath the surface’ and though it is stitched seaweed it has emotional meaning, hinting at what we hide beneath our outer persona. I hope people notice the beauty I try to capture, and the complexity between the fragile yet strong nature of what I make.
What attracts you to the medium you work in?
It’s versatility! I’ve been working with textiles and embroidery for 25 years and it still fills me with excitement, the possibilities are endless, there is so much I still want to do.
What equipment could you not do without?
Needle and thread, though I rarely leave the house without some linen, needle, thread, paper and pencil.
Who or what inspires you?
Nature, and other artists. I love to spend as much time outdoors as I can, I love looking out for texture, as that is a vital part of my work. Plants, flowers and trees are a huge source of inspiration, as is the sea, and all the beach finds, don’t get me started on seaweed! Though I’m textiles based I’m fascinated by painters too. I love the work of Becky Blair, Phillipa Stanton, (locals) Marian Jazmik and Annelie Krantz two artists who make stunning stitched work.
How is your work affected by living in this area?
I’d say the sea. I dreamt of living by the sea as a child, and moved here aged 20. It fascinates me, it’s beauty and power, and all the interesting seaweed it delivers to the beach. I walk locally along the under cliff where it is just sea and cliffs, and I’m finding the texture of the rocks, the gulls are all starting to creep into my work. The creative community here is also wonderful and enriching.
What’s your favourite thing to do locally?
As above, the under cliff walk is my favourite place, I go there daily, I love sitting on the beach and observing, and cycling along the coast too.
If you could collaborate with one artist, who would it be and why?
David Hockney. I saw his exhibition at The Tate and it really blew my mind! I wasn’t ever a big fan before, and certainly did not love his famous paintings. I went along as I thought I should, and I guessed it would be a good exhibition. I found it dazzling, and it really shifted something in me creatively. I fell in love with his drawings, observations, his vision, and his immense talent. I loved the experimentation and playfulness he brought to his work. Seeing it made me feel more alive than I had before. I love the hints of Matisse in his paintings, his use of colour, and observations of trees. Seeing the exhibition really woke me up, and I think it helped me to stop messing about and take my art more seriously and really commit to it.
What is your favourite gallery?
Currently its The Tate Modern and Tate Britain, I’ve made a point of seeing more exhibitions, and so I’ve visited lots. Annie Albers, Bonnard, and Van Gogh most recently.
What’s your favourite colour?
Tricky one… so many, I’ll go for dusky pink.