Anne Kelly is an award-winning Canadian born, UK-based artist, author and tutor — and we’re lucky enough to have her as a guest on our #MeetTheContributor series!

Her multilayered and densely stitched textiles have been likened to ‘small worlds’. Trained in Canada and at Goldsmiths College in London, she creates wall hangings and objects using a mixture of mixed media collage and hand and machine embroidery. Her teaching and gallery work take her around the UK and abroad.

Photo Credit: Alun Callender

Anne’s incredible work has been featured Embroidery Magazine, most recently in the May/June 2022 issue. The publication has just celebrated its 90th birthday and its goal is to bring readers the latest, most exciting and innovative stitched work.

Let’s hear what Anne has to say about her career, her Embroidery Magazine contributions and the challenges of her job.

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1. How did you get into textiles as a career?

I trained as a fine artist in Canada and did further training at Goldsmiths College in London. I have taught art, design and textiles for the past thirty years and always stitched. Although textiles was not a degree course in Canada I am grateful for the fine art training as it gave me the confidence to work in mixed media. My grandmother was a great needle woman and I was influenced by her productivity and the variety of work that she produced. I developed my own method of collating fabrics in response to my love of collage.

2. In the May/June 2022 issue of Embroidery Magazine, the article ‘Making Meaning’ describes how your embroidery blends folk art influences with personal travelogue. What inspired this unique style?

I have been a collector of textiles and ephemera for many years. I like to combine them, layering and adapting them to a theme or as a response to a particular subject. I favour the old, worn and neglected patina of vintage paper and textiles which allow for adaptation and manipulation. I like the honesty and simplicity of folk art imagery which can be universal and represent more meaningful themes. I find myself returning to and reintroducing them into my work. I like to use hand and machine stitching to bind the layers together.

3. What is the most important thing you have learnt over the course of your career?

This is a difficult question to answer as I have learnt so much! From the start of my career, I would say that you should rarely say no, as you never know where a certain experience will take you. Now I can be more selective, but still like a fresh challenge. I also feel that it is important to be as present and giving as possible when tutoring. Working together can change a student’s life in ways that are hard to envisage. Since the pandemic, it seems crucial to be patient and provide empathy to those you work with, the support often works both ways.

‘Making Meaning’ from the May/June 2022 issue of Embroidery Magazine

4. What do you find to be the most challenging part of your job?

I find the administrative part of my work challenging. Although it is crucial and I like to answer requests and emails promptly, I will always prefer a day in the studio stitching. I try to spread administrative tasks through the working week but occasionally it will take a whole day to devote to it. Your online presence is important as a professional artist and tutor and social media is for better or worse a large part of it. Doing it well takes time but is also rewarding when it makes things happen. I like the writing aspect of my work, as an author it is essential, but am always pleased when a project is completed. Stitching should never be a chore and I try to keep it fresh and have a range of projects on the go at any one time.

5. When you’re not creating beautiful textile art, what do you like to do in your free time?

I have family here in the UK and in the USA and Canada, and am a new grandmother, which is wonderful and very time-consuming (in the best way!). My garden takes time and is always in need of attention. I also like to travel close to home and further afield, walking and swimming when time allows. I am a member of a long-standing local book club but unfortunately don’t get to read or visit with the group often enough.

6. Do you have a particular favourite issue of Embroidery Magazine?

I would probably say November/December 2020, as my piece ‘Corali’ features on the cover. It was an enormous honour to have it reproduced and to be a ‘cover girl’! I enjoyed the feature by Jane Audas inside too.

I also loved the interview ‘Making Meaning’ in the May /June 2022 issue as it features a selection of photos from Alun Callender, which was a memorable and happy day of a photo shoot in my garden and studio.

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Thanks so much for talking to us and giving us an insight into your amazing creativity, Anne. We wish you all the best for your upcoming projects!

Digital subscriptions to Embroidery Magazine, which feature unlimited & fully-searchable access to the complete archive dating back to 1922, are available in the Exact Editions individual and institutional shops.