Deborah Manson works from her studio in Sussex where she makes textiles, collages, prints and drawings.
Whether working with paper or cloth she explores the interplay of materials, colour, shape and the spaces in-between. Her work reflects her interest in the cross over between art, design and craft.
We asked her to tell us more about her career and influences.
Can you tell us how you first got interested in textiles?
My mum used to make us our clothes when we were kids and taught me to sew. I studied fashion when I left school and learnt to pattern cut and construct garments, but I was more into drawing, and textile techniques such as printing and dyeing so went on to study textiles at art school.
What led you to an interest in natural dyeing?
Five years ago I did an MA in textile design at Chelsea College of Art where the teaching focus was on sustainable approaches to design. There were tutors such as Katherine May and other students who were using natural dyeing as part of their practice. I was inspired by them and keen to try it out, so I incorporated it as part of a collaborative design project to make heirloom quilts with my twin daughters. I began using weld on wool to achieve bright yellows. I was hooked!
Your quilts are named after famous women artists. Can you tell us what inspired them?
I have named the series of four quilts ‘For my ladies – four quilts for a fragile world (Annie, Sonia, Louise, Agnes )’
These four quilts are made from reclaimed clothing, vintage/ found textiles and naturally dyed fabrics which I dyed over the spring summer of 2019 and are my homage to four women artists whose life and work have fascinated and inspired me.
The abstract compositions make connections with the geometric designs of Sonia Delaunay, Louise Bourgeois’ spider motif, Annie Albers’ textile designs and Agnes Martin’s abstract minimalist paintings.
The handmade aspect of the piece’s embrace and celebrate imperfection – unevenly dyed fabrics create texture, hand stitched quilting and uneven edges bring a human quality to the works.
What techniques did you test out on this series of quilts and what did you learn in making them?
I grew some of my own dye plants for the first time, specifically weld and woad, and foraged others such as nettle which gave me a beautiful golden green as seen in the Sonia quilt.
The process of growing the dye plants started in the winter of 2015, processing and using plant dyes has connected me with my garden and ancient craft practices.
These fragile colours, like our blue jeans will fade over time, reminding me of my own impermanence on this earth and my responsibility to tread lightly and engage with the hugely significant challenges facing our times.
What are you currently working on and where do you see your practice developing now?
I’m doing a lot of drawing at the moment and working on a series of collages and prints on to paper and fabric, continuing my investigation into the interplay of materials, colour and shape.
I’m allowing the materials and processes to lead the way and am staying open to new possibilities.
I’ll continue to grow and use natural colour in my work and hope to grow some new dye plants in my garden this year. Earlier in the year I learnt how to make printing pastes from natural dyes with the brilliant teacher Lara Mantell, so I hope to incorporate this into my work too. It’s important for me to show my work so I’ll be seeking out new exhibiting opportunities this year.