Clare has been involved with textiles as a community artist, exhibition curator and banner maker for the last thirty years. As well as an award-winning author, Clare has established the community enterprise NeedleWorks in Glasgow to celebrate local history and document community experiences through the art of sewing.
She is also a contributor to one of the longest-standing and most respected textile publications, Embroidery Magazine, published by the Embroiderers’ Guild, to promote and encourage the art of embroidery and related crafts.
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1. How did you get into textiles as a career?
I have sewn since I was a child, taught — like most people — by my mother. In the 1980s I was working in community arts and started to use needlework in projects with community groups. I decided to establish a community sewing company in Glasgow. NeedleWorks became a way to involve marginalised people of all ages and abilities in creating large-scale public textiles which told of their history, achievements and concerns.
2. You have recently published ‘Embroidering her Truth’, an alternative biography of Mary Queen of Scots. What first drew you to her as a subject to write about?
I have always been fascinated by Mary, Queen of Scots I suppose because she was a rare female figure in the procession of male heroes of Scotland’s story. For my first book, Threads or Life: The History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle, I had Mary as my central figure in my chapter called Power and the research I did for that whetted my appetite to find out more about her and her use of textiles.
3. What is the most important thing you have learnt over the course of your career?
There are two things: to accept that everything takes much longer than you think and that it is important to say thank you to everyone who helps you realise your aspirations.
4. What do you find to be the most challenging part of your job?
Putting in the hours. It’s not just a matter of research and writing, it is the re-writing that takes forever and makes the difference between a book and a good book. For Embroidering her Truth I had to put in 12 hour days for months.
5. When you’re not creating beautiful textile art, what do you like to do in your free time?
I sew! There is a difference between sewing as a profession and sewing for the love of it. Every night I have a piece of mending or some embroidery to hand. I find it soothing, particularly if it’s accompanied by a glass of wine.
6. Do you have a particular favourite issue of Embroidery Magazine?
Every issue has something that surprises and delights so I couldn’t possibly pick out a favourite.
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Thanks very much for your time, Clare. It is inspiring to learn more about the social, emotional and political significance of needlework, particularly with your work on Threads or Life: The History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle.