Lou Gardiner’s work is like an explosion of colour and bold femininity. I fell in love with it the instant I saw it, and I’m not exaggerating. Her process involves using a domestic sewing machine, creating intricate and labour intensive layers of stitches and appliqués, painting, and hand-beading on fabric. If you don’t know her work, you must read this post and then not waste a second, but go straight to her website to find out more. You will not be disappointed.
Among the many incredible projects Lou has worked on, she’s also won a string of awards and high profile commissions: in 2015 she made a huge tattoo-inspired quilt for Liberty Flagship Store called ‘Steering The Lighthouse of Love’; made a set of five panels commissioned for the Crafts Council for Collect at the Saatchi Gallery in 2012 titled: ‘You Blow Me Away’; illustrated a book by Valerie Finigan titled: ‘Saggy Boobs and Other Breastfeeding Myths‘ in 2008 (and I love the title!), and most recently created two mesmerising capes: ‘The Cape of Empowerment’ for Pukka and the wonderful ‘Cape of Clouds’. It’s this last project that I humbly helped with, offering nothing more than some simple hand-stitching skills towards it for two mornings a few weeks ago, but about which I’m excited nonetheless.
And let me tell you why. Like many, I often feel awkward, self-conscious and clumsy. Reaching out is hard, right? We’re scared of making fools of ourselves, or of bothering. But life is a work in progress, so despite my insecurities, I drank an extra cup of coffee and wrote to her. I don’t know if the extra caffeine helped my already pretty high dosage of enthusiasm, but I said to myself: “What have I got to lose?” and, “what the heck, I just want to tell her that I admire her work!”, I also, perhaps, added that I would happily do anything for her, I mean, not in these exact terms, but you know that feeling of awe that resides deep into your stomach just a bit above excitement and terror (apparently the same thing!)? Well, I went with it.
To my surprise, Lou got back to me, but what is most incredible about this story is the triumphant role of serendipity! For, not long after what I’ve been calling my ‘love letter to Lou Gardiner’, she found herself needing a pair of extra hands that I could offer, just as I travelled to the area she resided in! So here’s to serendipity, and the importance of reaching out to people you admire! May we all learn to do so, if we haven’t yet, and may we engage with the wonderful, surprising and moving creature that is art! For art is a powerful tool: it heals, it remembers, it explains, it gives hope and it brings people together.
Lou Gardiner’s art does that for me, and so does her project #stitchacloud. If you’re a visual person, you might recognise this feeling: it’s that type of joy that can give you goose bumps or make you teary, or make you want to do a wiggly dance. I think it’s fair to say I did all of the above when I looked closely at the huge amount of clouds sent from across the whole world to contribute to Lou’s project. Each cloud so different from the other, so colourful, rich with another stranger’s feelings. They feel intimate, sweet yet brave, all at once.
“As a result of one Instagram post and a Facebook story clouds were being requested from all over the globe and I was sending felt and instructions as far as Iran, Hong Kong, Venice and New Zealand.” She recounts on her website. “I am overwhelmed with women’s eager need to communicate their hopes and dreams for a peaceful world of equality and love. It has at times been breathtaking, beautiful and poignant. Everyday I am struck by the sincerity of these women, the humble yet powerful nature of these hand stitched clouds.”
What else to add? I think Lou Gardiner’s work speaks for itself, and Lou, as an artist, is extremely inspiring for it. I’m so pleased I got to meet her in person, help her, and witness not only her kindness and drive, but also her humour. Thanks Lou!
‘Here’s to feeling empowered!’
- Louise Gardiner is on Instagram as @lou_gardiner_embroidery
- Her beautiful website: www.lougardiner.co.uk is full of awesome content. I’m sure reading through it will cheer you up on a grey or sunny day in equal measure. But if you’re not a big reader, why not check out her short films? Totally worth your time.
- And don’t forget to check the #stitchacloud and #thecapeofclouds project progression, I’m sure it will be up to lots of amazing adventures!