Corinne Young is a textile artist who takes her inspiration from nature, antiques, and country houses. Her favourite subjects are plants and insects, with her latest venture, embroidered butterflies, a top seller.
Burton Constable Hall
She got the idea, she says, when she was working on a collaborative project with fellow artist Gideon Johnson, at Burton Constable Hall near her home in East Yorkshire. Called ‘A Safe Room’, Corinne explains, “They wanted an exhbiition about the passage of time, using recycled materials. We needed pieces that would sit in the room, with antiques, and people could walk in and not know which were antiques and which were ours.”
“Burton Constable is an amazing place, “ continues Corinne, “Elizabethan, with lots of collections.”
Having seen the cases of preserved butterflies, Corinne was inspired to make her own modern collection – without harming a single insect.
Her technique, she divulges, is to draw the butterfly onto her own handmade linen paper, then embroider the colours, cut it out, and wire it into place.
To embroider the butterfly’s wings, the obvious thread to use would be silk, but Corinne does not. As is well known, silk is made from the cocoons of the silkworm, and Corinne explains, “I’m squeamish about using silk. I’ve been to silk mills in Turkey, and the poor little creatures are boiled alive. So I use viscose, a plant fibre.”
The butterflies proved very popular, and Corinne now makes them into brooches, as well as box framed collections.
Corinne lives in the Yorkshire Wolds and says, “They’re actual butteflies that I see in the garden. I grow plants to attract them, and we get the little chalk blues, because we’re on the chalk here.”
The garden is another important inspiration for Corinne. She says, “A lot of my work is about plants.” She embroiders countless flowers and plants, botanically correct and recognisable. Her house is full of ‘embroidered pot plants’ – safe from harm of forgotten watering.
A favourite is auriculas, related to primroses, but a favourite with Victorian working men, who bred ever more elaborate flower patterns and colours into their auriculas.
Nothing is too decorative for Corinne, who is also inspired by ‘stump work’: elaborately padded and embroidered caskets, popular in the seventeenth century.
She’s a lover of antiques, with the Georgian a favourite period. It was a time when exotic plants from all over the globe began to flood into Britain, and Corinne has made a special study of botanical art from the period.
Her interests came together in another joint project, this time with a garden designer, for the Grow Show, London, in 2015. Corinne says, “She did a garden that was Georgian inspired, with plants from that time, and I had a pop-up studio in it. The garden was called the Stitcher’s Retreat.”
Corinne still has the papier mache sewing machine and flat-iron that she made for that show.
Corinne’s home is a warm and cheerful mix, with little touches of decoration everywhere. But most of it is made by herself, from recycled materials. She says, “My parents were in the war, so I grew up in a house where everything was reused. I got used to reusing things, and carried on.”
She even decorates her clothes, “I buy good quality plain clothes in charity shops, then titivate them to make them my own. I might change the buttons, or add knitted or crocheted borders.”
Corinne has been creative all her life, but didn’t go to university until after her children were grown up. She graduated in 2003, and founded her textile art business then. She immediately won a huge commission – it took her two years to complete. It was a big break so early in her business, and she explains how it came about:
The first piece of luck came when she was nvited to show her degree work at the Society of Designer Craftsmen, in London. She’d made what she calls ‘embroidered wallpaper’, and, she says: “A lovely chap came in, and loved my work. He was with the Lord of the Rings stage show, and he wanted something easy to put up and take down again, to dress press events and after show parties. My wallpapers were perfect, they’re flexible and roll up like scrolls.”
She says “It was amazing to get that commission – definitely a matter of right place, right time. But it also shows that you have to put yourself out there: it was near the end of the show, but I thought I’d stay, and be there as much as possible.”
Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings occupied Corinne for two years. She says, “It was vast. I had to read all the books, and take out ideas I wanted to portray in the pieces.”
“I flew out to Toronto for the launch. My works were hung in the ballroom and I had to stand on a cherry picker to adjust them.”
She smiles, “It was a red carpet event, it was like living someone else’s life for a few days: picked up from the airport in a limousine – incredible.”
Although it was the first commission Corinne won after founding this business, she brought to it skills she’d developed over decades. She knew her plants – courtesy of her Mother. She’d been sewing since she was a child. She subsequently learned many other creative skills, ranging from tailoring to interior design, culminating in her degree.
And she still enjoys learning. Every commission is an adventure, every commission brings a need to learn something new: and every commission is unpredictable. So what will she do next? Her eyes sparkle with enthusiasm: “Whatever turns up in my inbox.”
Further reading: Corinne’s website at http://www.corinneyoungtextiles.co.uk/
NFU Countryside Magazine, July 2016, http://www.countrysideonline.co.uk/the-magazine/from-the-magazine/