Libby Smith

Tollesbury Marshes
I am inspired by the varied landscape of North Essex, from farmland to coast, and my love of poetry which always influences me somewhere along the way.  

By creating a story or mood this helps to bring meaning to the finished pieces when working through the designing and making processes.

I have been a regular walker for many years and always carry my camera with me whenever I am out and about in the countryside to record those places to which I feel particularly drawn.  

Back in my workroom I try to respond instinctively using dyes to capture colour and paints for mark making on natural fabrics to provide a palette which I can use to blend, collage and manipulate.  

I find the art of hand stitching and embroidery completely absorbing, and it brings me closer to the work.

In more recent years I have also looked at alternative ways to present a landscape, and in my latest work I have used wood panelling bought from a salvage yard.  The panelling itself is not the main interest of the work but provides a ‘canvas’ on which to build upon.  The wood is cleaned, loose paint, dirt and dust removed and then a base layer of washed calico is wrapped around the panelling to provide support for the fabrics and threads to be applied.  Where possible use is made of any features in the wood such as holes, marks, distress and wear.

Find my Instagram here

Bridging the Gap

Creativity vs Domesticity

My research for the next EAST exhibition focuses on female artists and in particular Gwen John (1876-1939) and her female peers who, once they had left the Slade School of Art, were confronted by prejudice and limiting societal norms, their creativity stifled by the burdens of domesticity.  Gwen John studied at the Slade School of Art which offered women an equal art training to that of men.  The genres often studied by female artists prior to this were limited  to portraiture, still life and flowers.  Gwen John’s brother, Augustus John, was already at the Slade where she joined him and where she met, among others, fellow students Ida Nettleship, Gwen Salmond, Dorilia McNeill and Edna Waugh.

For many female artists once they had left the Slade the issue was how they could develop an art career while running a home and caring for children as was the expectation at that time.  Perhaps one way of solving this dilemma was by marrying a fellow artist but while such marriages meant that both husband and wife could be professionals in the same field, in many cases it still could not erase the engrained expectation that it was the wife who dealt with the everyday domestic issues and child care.

Of the five students mentioned above, it was Gwen John who was the most successful.  Having moved to France and after having a passionate affair with Auguste Rodin, she wrote to a friend

“I think to do beautiful pictures we ought to be free from family conventions and ties ……” and in not marrying and having children she was able to pursue her artistic career on her own terms, unlike many of her female friends.  Often portrayed as a recluse, she was an ambitious artist who chose her art over domesticity and motherhood.  Gwen John is now considered an important female British artist and her life and work is currently being celebrated in an exhibition at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester.

Rolling Landscape

Talks and workshops

I am available for talks and workshops on the following:

 - Landscape Collage

 - Kantha Still Life

 - Fabric Dyeing - natural fabrics - give yourself a palette of colour and effects using Procion cold water fibre reactive dyes with Manutex thickener and mark making with acrylic paints.