Seamstress Tracey Coverley is a maestro with the machine and can’t contain the joy she feels being able to use her incredible skills to create art people want to buy.
Her signature work branded as Handmade in Horwich End started out as celebrity rag dolls and has evolved into reverse appliqué portraits and more recently beautiful Penguin Book covers.
“I sew and what I sew, I sell,” is her motto and she has no shortage of customers singing her praises – including at least one celebrity – rock star Paul Weller.
With much justification one of Tracey’s favourite anecdotes is the day she woke up to a voicemail from The Jam and Style Council frontman.
“When I was told that Paul Weller wanted to commission me to make as set of my celebrity dolls as The Small Faces I thought someone was kidding me, but it really was him. I actually got to meet Paul when I delivered the dolls and I admit I was very excited,” she said with the biggest of grins.
Much like many professional artists it has taken 48-year-old Tracey a fair few years to get to the stage where she can consider earning a living from her craft.
She did a foundation course at St Helen’s followed by a Fine Art degree at Loughborough in her youth but was then expected to get a ‘proper’ job by her family which saw her spending several years working for Network Rail – 13 of them as a signalbox operator at Chinley. She was then promoted to a job training other signallers all over the country and found herself spending long hours commuting. It was then that she decided to give up the well-paid job she had secured and change her lifestyle.
“I always give my all to what ever I do and I somehow knew it would work out. Making things and sewing was what I really enjoyed and so I thought you know what, I will mend clothes for a living instead.
“That’s what I started doing and then one day I made a rag doll for a friend’s child and the idea for these dolls came to me. I decided to give it a go and made one of Amy Winehouse. I posted a picture on Facebook and it all kicked off from there really. It just went mental to be honest.”
Her home at Horwich End, which is on the edge of Whaley Bridge, is now pretty much dominated by her work, sewing machines, thread and fabric.
The reason the celebrity dolls were such a huge hit was that Tracey pays attention to every little detail and makes all the clothes and accessories that give them their identity herself. They are all made from scratch so totally unique and are more than a foot tall. She is prepared to make anyone, but already has a lengthy list of rock stars under her belt including The Beatles, Bowie, Elvis, Paul Weller (of course), Jimi Hendrix and Freddie Mercury.
The portraits, which are 100 per cent stitching with no ink or paint, came about almost by accident when Tracey was trying to brighten up a cellar room she was exhibiting in at her fellow artist’s home in Whaley Bridge for the Derbyshire Open Arts event last year.
“I was planning to make a cushion with a portrait of Peter Sellers but when my sister saw it she suggested I framed it. It was such a good idea that I practically had no sleep for three months and produced a dozen portraits including Sinead O’Connor, Lemmy and John Lennon.
“The DOA event was such a great success, I sold seven of them, and even got a few commissions for more. This year I have decided to open up my own home and studio for the event and am looking really forward to inviting visitors to my home and showing them my work,” she said.
The Penguin Book series were produced for World Book Day this year and displayed at the Pear Tree Cafe in Whaley Bridge where Tracey holds some of her own tuition classes and workshops. The stitched covers will be on display there again for Derbyshire Open Arts which is from May 26-28.
Tracey will be at 9 Lower Macclesfield Road, Whaley Bridge, SK23 7DD.
For more information about her work go to http://www.handmadeinhorwichend.com or follow her on facebook.
For full details of the open arts event go to http://www.derbyshireopenarts.co.uk. There are more details about the event on pages 27-34 of the online edition.