Michelle Holmes: textile artist

A quick glance around Archangel Studio at the Ferrers Centre for Arts and Crafts –  the workplace of textile artist Michelle Holmes –  and it’s easy to see from where she gets her inspiration. 

Carefully laid out, wherever there is a bit of space, she has an amazing collection of miscellany including lichen and seed pods, postcards and photos – even fragments of a butterfly’s wing. On her shelves there is a rainbow of haberdashery and her beloved sketchbooks which date back years as well as a collection of art and vintage books.

One book I didn’t spot though was a novel which Michelle says inspired the name of her studio, Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers.

The book weaves the story of Tobias and the Archangel Raphael into the life of Miss Garnet who has gone to Venice in search of solace after the death of a friend.

“When I read the book I was totally captivated. It is a haunting novel but one that all lovers of Venice should read. 

“I am, among many other things, inspired by spiritual and religious figures and iconography and when I was deciding on a name for the studio Archangel just seemed a natural choice,” explained the 49-year-old artist.

Last year Vickers was one of the speakers at the Derby Book Festival and Michelle couldn’t resist going along.

“I had planned to get her to sign my book,” she said smiling. “I didn’t manage to get her to do that, but what she did do was reawaken my interest in icons and inspire me to take a new direction in my work.”

The results are so impressive that Material Tenderness won a coveted place at the Royal Academy’s Summer Show this year.

Each tiny piece of material embroidered into the picture are from different sources, many with a significant religious connection and all have been painstakingly stitched together. 

The same can be said for the work for which Michelle has become known since she started creating textiles professionally at the turn of the Millennium: her series of moons and of course her figurative work including the famous Betty whose adventures are posted on Facebook once a week.

“I like watching people and I love stories, especially folk stories as well as the illustrations that go with them and with my work I am creating little worlds for people to enjoy. 

“I have my sketchbook with me most of the time and I jot down ideas from what is going on around me. Betty is a fun character and she is something I challenge myself with each week.”

Michelle says she tends to begin with a base of heavy weight Calico on to which she adds appliquéd patches which she machines into place and she also free machines embroidered figures. There are also sometimes some beads and handstitching.

“I am so lucky to have the support of people at the Ferrers Centre who haves always encouraged me. “I have always wanted to make and I am lucky that I can do so here in this lovely valley where the lake and the woods and wildlife are a constant inspiration.”

The Archangel Studio is open from 11am-5pm Wednesday to Saturday. 

Michelle will be exhibiting as part of the Angel Project at the Manger Gallery, King’s Newton, from December 1 to January 30 and will be showing work at an exhibition to celebrate the 900th anniversary of Launde Abbey in Leicestershire next year.

Fore more details go to http://www.archangelstudio.co.uk