Artist Spotlight – Frieda Oxenham

Hey everyone! Maggi here with an AWESOME artist I want to introduce you to today. 😀 Her name is Frieda Oxenham and let me just say, she is one of my creative idols! I first found her blog when I was researching ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) and wow, can she make an ATC! Once I visited her a few times, I discovered her beautiful art quilts, love for books and passion for gardening. On top of all of that, she is super nice so how could I not beg her for an interview??? It makes me wish I lived in Scotland so I could somehow soak up her fountain of creative knowledge and know-how. lol

So let’s get right to it, help me welcome Frieda!

Tell us a little bit about yourself! How long have you been creating?

I was born and educated in The Netherlands, studying History of Art and  Librarianship. In 1979 I was offered a job in the U.K. and eventually ended up marrying an Englishman and staying in this country. In 1988 we moved to Scotland where we still live in the beautiful Scottish Borders. Because of the move I had to give up my job and on a whim decided to do a City & Guilds Embroidery Course in 1990. The rest, as they say, is history. First embroidery, then quilting and more recently mixed-media have taken over my life. Up till a month or so ago I traveled far and wide to give talks and teach workshops but I have decided to return to my studio full-time to concentrate on making work for my upcoming solo exhibition in 2011. I truly cannot imagine my life without art. Making art is not what I do, it’s who I am.

What do you enjoy making the most?

My first and probably largest love will no doubt always remain hand stitching.  Doing it transports me into a sort of zen-like state where I can completely loose track of time and have no idea of what might be happening around me. It also only requires a needle and thread so can be done virtually anywhere. In good weather the outside world beckons and my stitching comes with me.

What inspires you to create?

I think wanting to create is an innate desire for almost all human beings. I was just very lucky to discover it was my passion and also incredibly fortunate that I have been able to devote my time to it fully thanks to my wonderful and supportive husband. The original embroidery course caused me to discover the well of inspiration within me and that then turned into a waterfall. Probably at least 85% of my time is devoted to my art, either making it or thinking about it.

You’ve been spotlighted in different publications and have won awards! How does it feel to have your work recognized?

I have been so blessed in that my very first quilt won the Scottish Quilt Championships back in 1998 and most of my quilts have subsequently won major awards. The highlight so far was in 2006 when the quilt Foxfires was the Championship Quilt in the European Quilt Championships. That was very special. I’ve also won various awards for hand workmanship which really pleased me. One of the first ATCs I made titled “Enduring, Unending” (made from a discarded quilt, by the way) was Best of Show in the House of Cards exhibition, Columbus, OH, 2005. Winning prizes sort of confirms to me that I must be doing something right, although I still think it’s probably a fluke and one day I’ll be found out!

What is your favorite technique?

It will always be hand stitching but I also enjoy making my fabric paper collages and incorporating them in my mixed media work.

You work with every size from larger things like quilts to smaller ones like ATCs. What is it that appeals to you about working with different sizes of projects?

I love working large and my quilts were just the right size for me when I started out on my art journey. But I discovered that I missed the design side while working on making the quilts. It takes 6 to 9 months to finish one and in that time I wasn’t stretching my design muscles enough for my own liking.  So I started making fabric postcards, then ATCs and eventually breaking into mixed media collages etc. They are like a treat I give myself while working on my large quilts.

I’m assuming that your favorite creative weapon of choice is your sewing machine, lol, but I know that you’ve recently taken a gluebook class where you had to use mainly adhesives instead of sewing. How was it utilizing materials you don’t normally use and what did you learn from the class?

You’re right about my sewing machine or rather machines. I could not live without them and up to fairly recently would never have dreamed about using glue. But I have slowly been coming around more to glue as an art material. My fabric paper collages use thinned down PVA glue of course and over the last 6 months I’ve started using a Xyron Creatopia with fabric adhesive cartridge. I still continue to stitch as well as glue as I don’t trust glue 100% yet for fabric. One of the reasons for taking the Vintage GluebookClass was to get to grips more with letting go a bit of my sewing obsession and learning to trust glue more. The other incentive was my ever-growing collection of vintage ephemera and books. It seemed about time to start using some of it. I absolutely loved the class and feel that it will have a lasting influence on all my work.

I know that one of your loves is books. What is it about books that you enjoy? Do they play a part in your creations?

Oh books! I could write a book about them! Of course I’m a qualified reference librarian and have been reading non-stop for as long as I can remember. I’ve just checked and there are books in every room of this house including the bathroom and corridors. I even have books in the car just in case.  I love the smell of both old and brand new books and would prefer not to eat rather than not to buy yet another book. I also have a Kindle with lots of the classics I want to re-read, such as Trollope and Zola. When stitching by hand I listen to talking books on CD. But old books are my greatest love. Hours can be spend browsing in second-hand bookshops and I always come home with some more treasure trove. They give me a sense of history, of time passing, of being one in a long line of readers through the centuries. I sometimes worry that my time will be up before I’ve read all my books! It was hard to start cutting into them and use them in my work. I only use the cheaper ones and always check first if it has any value or uniqueness, but I’m getting better at it.  After all I’m sort of preserving them in a different form in my work.

One of my favorite things about your blog is your obvious love for the outdoors and seeing pictures of your incredible garden. What is it that you like about the outdoors/gardening and how does that influence your projects?

My gardening really only started as inspiration for my art. It all began when we moved to our present home as before that we were always on the move and it did not seem worthwhile investing our heart and soul in a garden which we would have to leave before long. But we knew that this was our forever home and we started from scratch in 1995, as the garden was just a field full of weeds when we arrived. Lots of colour was our starting point and I capture all the different colours of nature throughout the summer months and these pictures then feed my art. My roses are the most treasured plants in the garden.  They are mostly old roses and I adore the fact that the same roses as we grow in our garden have been around for centuries. It’s basically the same sort of love as I have for the old books!

Do you ever think an artist gets to a point where there’s nothing left for them to learn? After years of creating and teaching others, why do you still enjoy taking classes?

To live is to learn and to learn is to live as far as I’m concerned. Learning new things keeps life interesting and makes me feel alive. It’s why I read books and also try and research as much as I can about new interests. It gives me a real buzz. I probably know as much about quilting as I need to, to make my quilts but I’m more and more fascinated by collage, art journaling, beading, digital photo manipulation and computer stuff. And the great things is that there’s ever more to learn!  The  Sketchbook Project is one of my newest ventures. Funnily enough all that other learning somehow feeds into my quilts and leads me onto new paths there too.

What are your top 3 “must have” art supplies?

Fabrics, vintage books and beads

Any last words of creative wisdom for our readers?

Enjoy your art, have fun with it. It’s not a matter of life or death so play to your heart’s content and don’t be overly anxious. Trust your own judgment and give yourself a pat on the back occasionally. This is what I continue to tell myself too, and although I don’t always listen, it has helped over the years.  Here is my favourite quotation: “To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe”. (Anatole France)

Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your art and yourself with us Frieda! Didn’t I tell you she was amazing?! 😀 If you’d like to see more of Frieda’s amazing work, head on over to her blog, her Flickr and her Picturetrail site.

Now, go glue something awesome onto some awesome something! 😀
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10 Responses

  1. Wow! Great to have some insight into how an artist thinks! That quilt piece is amazing!

  2. What stunning work. Thank you so much for sharing with us. You have me inspired.

  3. Such a fabulous interview. That bottom piece is gorgeous – it just glows. It’s all fantastic but that one’s my favourite. I’m so envious not only of your art Frieda but that you get to live in Scotland. I dream of the day that I have brow beaten my partner enough for him to say yes! The delivery van will be booked the next day 😉 Till then, Kent we stay! I’ll wave as we drive through the Borders on our way to Loch Ness next year 😀

  4. I just love seeing your work Frieda, thanks again for sharing it with us!

  5. ooooh, me, myself and I are VERY happy you shared Frieda with us Maggi!…{!!!,!!!}

  6. Frieda, if you’re listening…can’t wait to visit your blog, stay awhile and have a looky-lou. Off to have breakfast before I forget. Happy happies.

  7. Thanks so much for this, Maggi. You’ve done a wonderful job with the interview, asking questions that really made me think and reflect properly on what I do every day.

  8. How fantastic that you found Frieda. I have long admired her work myself, and we are almost neighbours-well a 30 minute drive neighbour anyway!!

  9. Nice knowing you Frieda! I love to dream about my art too…sometimes it looks nicer in my brain than in real life! =) Thanks for the interview!!

  10. […] 2010, I got a chance to interview Frieda for Gauche Alchemy and today I’m so honored to announce that she is this month’s guest […]

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