Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Kirsty Mitchell

Gaia, The Birth Of An End

     Kirsty Mitchell was born and raised in the English county of Kent, known to many as the ‘Garden of England’. Growing up, art became Kirsty’s sole passion. The imagination and belief in beauty became her root, and the place she constantly try to returns to in her work. She studied until 25, taking courses in the history of art, photography, fine art, and then on to train in ‘Costume for Performance’ at the London College of Fashion. Having graduated and worked for a short time in the industry, Kristy decided to further her education, returning to university and completing a first class degree with honours in Fashion design, at Ravensbourne College of Art in the summer of 2001. During this time Kirsty completed two internships at the design studios of Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan.

The Ghost Swift

     Since then, Kirsty has worked full time as a senior designer for a global fashion brands, until 2007 when personal illness brought a sudden change, and led her to pick up a camera. Photography became a passion, and gave her new purpose.
            Mitchell's fondest childhood memories are of her mother Maureen, a schoolteacher, reading fairy tales aloud. These tales of imagination, beauty and love followed Mitchell throughout whole her life. Her mother passed away of a brain tumour in 2008, leading Mitchell on a creative journey through ethereal lands and personal memories. The photographer has created a new world in her mother's memory, rich with intricate detail and drama. Her work reminds us that the real world is not the only world, if you allow your imagination to take hold. 

The Queen's Centurion

     She retreated behind the lens of her camera and created Wonderland, an ethereal fantasy world. The photographic series began as a small summer project but grew into an inspirational creative journey.
     'Real life became a difficult place to deal with, and I found myself retreating further into an alternative existence through the portal of my camera,' said the artist.
'This escapism grew into the concept of creating an unexplained storybook without words, dedicated to my mother, that would echo the fragments of the fairytales she read to me constantly as a child.'

A Forgotten Tale

     To realize her visions, Kirsty, collaborated with hair and make-up artist Elbie Van Eeden. In the beginning, both were in full time jobs so they spent evenings and weekends creating props, wigs, and sets on a shoestring budget and shot in the woodlands surrounding Kirsty's home in Surrey. She developed a deep bond and respect for the locations in which she was working and strove, through her pictures, to 'remind others of their forgotten magic and beauty'. 

A Most Beautiful Dead

     She became fascinated with pockets of wild flowers such as the bluebells that would appear for only a few brief weeks of the year. In some cases, she would wait a full 12 months so she could shoot costumes matched to the vivid colours of nature.
      'All the characters came to me in my dreams,' she explained, but she delighted in the chance to step into the scenes for real: 'after all, it's not often you get to stand beside an eight foot princess in the rain, or witness the dawn with a dancing circus girl on stilts!'

The White Queen                     The Fall of Gammelyn

     The resulting images looked so hyper-real that it was assumed that they were created in Photoshop. Many people believed the photographs were shot all around the world, when in reality they were taken in locations within short drives of her Surrey home.
            Kirsty began to write diary accounts and blog behind-the-scenes shots about the creation of each photograph. 'My aim was to portray time passing, an unsaid journey through four seasons, incorporating every colour in the rainbow’. As things progressed, her costumes became more elaborate with the props and new characters often taking up to five months to create. 'The project blossomed into our own private playground,' she said.

The Arrival Of Gaia

     In the words of Mitchell, Wonderland is a “storybook without words”. The series, made up of 69 images with 10 more in the making, has been completely self-funded and every single character is product of Mitchell’s imagination. A incredible imagination that gathers faded memories of stories read to her by her mother, book illustrations, poems, paintings and dreams and mixes everything to construct a detailed and singular fairy tale world. “The costumes, props, sets and accessories, are all a vital part of the process that is finally recorded in the finished product of the photograph. This physical creation is my favourite part, and has taken me to places I would have otherwise never known. I have walked on snow covered in flowers, stood in lakes at sunset, painted trees, set fire to chairs, made smoking umbrellas, and giant wigs from stolen flowers.”

The Garden of Whispered Wishes

     Mitchell’s unique approach to portrait photography shows the deep influence of her 10 year career as a costume and fashion designer. Everything framed by her camera is real, including the intricate costumes that are specifically designed and constructed for each character she creates. All the elements are shown in real scale, all the props exist and are handmade by her, and the locations are natural settings found in the woodlands around her home. Her extraordinary technique creates otherworldly scenes without the need of Photoshop, cloning or digital add-ons.

The Briar Rose                 The Beautiful Blindness of Devotion

     The artist describes her photography as ‘fantasy for real’. She spends months meticulously handcrafting her characters costumes and props to coincide with the complex narrative she imagined. But the actual shoot may take months or years to complete since it must coincide with the exact season or weather conditions that the character and scene calls for. The photo shoots are elaborate, similar to a miniature movie set, with lighting and assistants.


     In order to share her incredible production over the 5 years it took to produce them, each of the images is accompanied by a 5 minute film, which shows the intense and meticulous work that it requires. For those who cannot believe that these images are real and created without digital intervention, Mitchell’s diary offers a detailed and up-close account of the entire project.

More of her works can be seen on her website:


She'll Wait For You In The Shadows Of Summer

The Voyage                             Vortex      

The Queen's Armada

In the process                                 Gaia's Promise

The Patience Of Trees

The White Witch                           The Fairy Cake Godmother

Portrait Of A Princess

Kirsty Mitchell

                 The Making of the ‘The Ghost Swift’


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cas Holmes

Writing on Red Walls

     Cas Holmes is an artist, teacher and author living in the UK. She trained in painting and photography at the University of Creative Arts, Kent followed by further scholarships studying paper and textiles in Japan and India. Working with textiles and mixed media, she creates textile collages using discarded and ‘found materials’. These are torn, cut, and re-assembled creating translucent layers, which connect drawing, painting and image, with clothe and stitch.

Preniac Grasses

     The Artist has a down-to-earth approach to life and her art takes her on flights of fancy, which evoke folk cultures, traditions and mythology with an abandon, which ignores all barriers. Sometimes figurative, sometimes wholly abstract she has an unerring faith in her feeling for her materials. Confidence pours from her work and with it a power and sophistication that brings to it an almost religious sensation of ancient wisdom revisited.

Red Bowl                             Spring Snow

     Cas is passionate about the environment and her use of recycled and found materials. Her imagery highlights the vulnerability of the wildlife that most of us overlook in our daily lives – the nature that shares our city spaces. Some of her work had been prompted by the start of the London Olympics. She remember the walks she’d taken in the Lea Valley before building work had started at the site, where she had stopped to take note of the beauty of the commonplace wildlife such as the dandelions, grasses, birds and moths that she came across. The work is wonderfully delicate and ethereal. Layering fine fabrics, with a subtle use of colour, she creates the atmospheric backgrounds for her hand and machine stitched images, highlighting the fleeting nature of such encounters.

             Tulip                           Amber Walls

     She is interested in recording the changes that might impact on the flora and landscape of South East of England and her adopted County, Kent. Holmes is looking at political and social as well as climatic change. Flooding, as witnessed in the American South and the Tsunami in Japan, and its impressive physical changes to the landscape raises issues about our fragile relationship with the local and global environment.

Natural History Kaleidoscope    

     Looking at translucent layers, connecting paint, mark and print with the found surfaces of fabrics and papers she seeks the 'hidden edges' of our landscape, the verges of our roadsides, railway cuttings and field edges, the places where our gardens meet the outside spaces. Worked with what Cas describes as 'stitch sketching' these atmospheric pieces seeking to capture a moment or thing before it is gone.

Arches                           Mendhi Book           

     The often-overlooked things of daily life and observations of the land inform her work. Connecting paint, mark and image she reflects the ‘hidden edges’ of our landscape, verges, field edges and wild spaces, ‘stitch sketching’ to capture a moment before it is gone. Her work is inevitably influenced by her visits to Japan but more as someone who would use that influence to reaffirm her own strengths. That is her originality.

Weeds by the West Door       Carkins           Bridges, Reflection

     Holmes' textured, translucent, and intricate textile art is a testament to the history of this medium, as well as the social and political undertones that it implies. Devoted to incorporating historical and found objects in her artwork, Cas creates layers of both fabric and meaning, inspired by her travels, her hometown of Maidstone in Kent, England, and her interest in the societal role of textiles both past and present. Her stirring work has been well recognized in her community; as the Pride of Britain award she received from the NRI® Institute for her research in India and the resultant body of work exploring her Romany gypsy ancestry.

After the Rain                           Counting Crows

     Her materials are overwhelmingly organic and appear to have been given new life. Paper ages and crinkles with a will of its own and is made exquisitely into a Japanese style panels allowing light to pass through, or are incorporated into one of her unique quilted hangings. Behind it all there is a sense of grand design under the control of the artist. It is both decorative and rich in symbolism.

Grassland Book

     The Artist is deeply moved by the stories of ordinary people's lives, the births, marriages and deaths; the diseases brought on by harsh working conditions and the way these hard facts are hidden from history, forgotten with the passing of time. Her work, often contain snippets of text or discarded materials and objects that have associations or that conjure up memories. There is always a dialogue with the materials she uses. They bring their own history, which is woven into the work.

Giant Hogweed                           Ginko     

     Cas Holmes makes art. If it happens to reference the techniques of the quilter, it is coincidence - same brush, different painting. Her work has a primitive quality that wanders the earthly through the ethereal. Translucent layers of painted fabrics, collaged papers or stitched bits combine and then recombine across different series of her work. Cas sketches regularly. She brings this quality to her thread painting; which is more thread sketching with frenetic stitch lines that capture movement and personality. The simplicity of her thread sketching brings a charm to her work and a sense of urgency, as if we need to look now to see a moment or thing before it is gone. This simplicity can also bring reassurance to any of us - to say that we need not worry about the perfection of every line of stitching. In this medium, we can cast off the yoke of perfectly spaced, even stitching and embrace the moment of "doing". Continuing to develop her techniques, drawing and use of colour remain the foundation for all her work. The fragments of found materials are layered and mark the passing of time, the rituals of making (drawing, cutting, gathering materials, machining, sewing) acting as part of the narrative of the work.

Imperfect Plant                         Bluebell       

     Her work relates to the natural and built world and the elements that make it up. She lives in a house which edges on a park bringing the Urban and 'Nature' together. Cas like to make drawings, take photographs and gather found materials from within my footsteps as part of the regular journeys she makes from her front door. The process of looking and recording helps to establish the environmental links between the built and 'natural' spaces as well as addressing issues of sustainable practice. She is interested in the open landscape, the shadows of marks made by man in the earth, the reflections in water and flooded fields, gardens and seasons changing. Holmes refers to this process in her book “The Found Object in Textile Art”, as 'Magpie of the Mind'.

Indian Journal                             Pendulous Dark Woods

     Cas Holmes regularly exhibits in the UK and abroad and enjoy working on collaborations and installations with other artists. This includes the installation “Curiouser and Curiouser” at Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery and workshops in Europe and Australia. Her book “The Found Object in Textile Art”, (published by Batsford 2010), looks at some of the processes.
     After obtaining a Fine Arts degree in the early eighties, her understanding of paper and related media was further enhanced through two periods of long-term study in Japan in the mid to late eighties (supported by the Japan Foundation and the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust).

           Traces: Installation, Rochester Cathedral

     In 1991, she was given a joint award with South East Arts and the British Council to research art based organisations and community groups in Canada. She focused on those, which used re-cycled and found materials in their projects. Exchanges, talks and workshops remain an important part of her practice and more recently she have studied and worked in Europe, India and Australia.
     Cas Holmes creates works for public and private settings and has pieces in collections around the world, including the Museum of Art and Design in New York, Arts Council England and the Sir Leonard Cheshire Foundation.
     To find out more about her you can visit her website:

Bird Crow                              Cuttings   

Marsh Valerian                          Rouge         


Sandshadows                      Souls and Feather       


Cas Holmes