There is a blend of the spiritual and the realistic in the new work of textile artist Emily Smalley.
The 29-year-old has firmly established herself as an artist who can capture the character of an animal through printing and embroidery and she has exhibited her work at several festivals and fairs in recent years.
But this month Emily is taking a step away from the cutesy rabbits, owls and hedgehogs created with freehand machine embroidery that have become the mainstay of her business, and she is heading in a different direction.
She is staging her first solo exhibition of work – a collection of Japanese-inspired wall hangings – at Banks Mill, in Bridge Street, Derby, where she has a studio.
“My new work is much more experimental. It is not completely different, as my inspiration is still flora and fauna and I am using machine embroidery but for this I have allowed my imagination and creativity to flow freely. I am quite excited by the results,” she explained.
“I am breaking away from pure photographic study and allowing myself to explore my identity as an artist,” she added with sincerity.
Emily has always loved drawing and although she studied art at school she is very much self-taught. She studied Textile Design at Nottingham Trent University and there discovered a passion for illustration through printing and embroidery.
Detail is her strong point and that is what has won her many commissions – especially for pet portraits – and it is also what makes her new wall hangings so beautiful.
“I spent some time in Japan and developed a passion for the architecture and art of the country. It is such a beautiful place.
“I also adore the Japanese animation films from Studio Ghibli – the stories they tell take you to another world.
“I came back from Japan with all these new ideas and for the last few months I have just let myself go and let the creativity come out and slowly develop into these wall hangings.”
One of Emily’s favourite Ghibli films is Spirited Away directed by the studio’s co-founder Hayao Miyazaki and she has used the title for her exhibition in a nod to her inspiration.
Each wall hanging in the exhibition also conforms to the measurements of a tenugui cloth, a traditional Japanese hand towel that is beautifully decorated with a printed pattern or artwork.
The exhibition runs from April 22-May 17 and is open week days 10am-3pm.
A special evening viewing is being held on Friday, April 26, from 7-9pm and will include light refreshments and live music.
Go to http://www.emilysmalley.co.uk for more details.