Louisa has reinvented herself several times. After a brief spell thinking she might be a crofter’s wife, she started out as an actor. Eventually she remembered that what she loved doing the most was making things, so she did a degree at Wimbledon School of Art, specialising in Theatre Costume.  She worked in this industry for many years before setting up her own bespoke dressmaking business, creating unique garments for clients. Finally she became an artist. Having worked in the theatre for so long, using mixed media and especially textile, stitch and paint is her natural creative language. She loves colour and shape and a bit of drama. She is constantly excited by the outside natural world – it’s colours, lights, pathways, and stories. Recently she has returned to my homeland of Scotland after many years living ‘down south’.

Hi Louisa! Can you tell us how your practice has changed over time?
‘Time’ is really the operative word here. Until fairly recently nearly all my time was taken up making garments that (hopefully) fulfilled other people’s visions. I used my skills to articulate their ideas and dreams. This could be enormously satisfying but at the same time, enormously frustrating. It took me quite a few years to understand what was wrong – I felt creatively suffocated. The minute I began to make work for myself again my life changed. I get scratchy and irritable if I can’t be making, stitching or painting. Eventually this pressure became overwhelming, and I knew I had to make my practice my main priority.

How do you overcome creative blocks?
Just do something! Don’t sit and analyse or stew about it. Move out of your thinking brain and into your doing brain…pick up a pencil and sketch something. Anything. I try to draw and sketch everyday even if it’s a subject I don’t think has any relevance to what I’m specifically interested in. It’s all referenced away subconsciously and weeks or months later I realised I’ve used those shapes, marks or lines in my work.

Which artists inspire you? Are there non-artistic influences such as literature or music that impact your work?
At the moment I’m obsessed with Joan Eardley. Poetry influences me, and as do random phrases of speech heard in conversations (especially my mum’s – I’d like to do a piece just using all her best expressions.)

What element of the show’s theme did you connect with the most? How did that connection manifest artistically?
I was born in Glasgow and brought up in Ayrshire but have been living ‘down south’ for the past thirty years. Last September I moved back to Scotland to develop my creative practice and help care for my mum. It’s been an interesting time to reflect on ‘being Scottish’ in Scotland, as for so long I’ve been a Scot in England, which is a different experience. I’ve been viewing Scottish life from a distance for so long (I probably have a rather rose-tinted view – my mum definitely thinks so!)  I was inspired to make ‘Scottishnish-fish-wish’ in response to your Open Call theme. My salmon is leaping against the tide, against the odds, to find its own way ‘home’. In the process it is slipping out of its tartan skin to reveal its full rainbow coloured sparkling glory. This could be me, or it could be the Scottish character, or it could be the future I’d love for Scotland – hopefully all three.

Are there specific advantages or challenges associated with working in your chosen mediums? Have you experimented with other mediums or techniques?
I’ve always instinctively turned to fabric and stitch, often in a three-dimensional way, which is probably why I found my way into making for the theatre. So the journey to using textiles for my creative expression was a natural progression. Textile Art has come a very long way – thirty years ago, when I wrote my degree dissertation on the subject, it was very much seen as a second class, predominately ‘feminine’ medium. To be honest, in some quarters it still is! But there has never been a more exciting time for Textile Art and it’s riding high. There is always a dichotomy between paint and textile. Sometimes I feel people think we are trying to use textile and stitch to mimic paint, but textile brings its own unique language of texture and history quite different to paint. They are different but equal.

I also paint (mostly acrylic) and I love the comparative speed compared to stitch.  I’m quite a speedy person which is ironic as stitch can be very slow.

See Louisa’s work at our first Open Call of the year, MulticulturAlba, running at Six Foot Gallery until Thursday 14th March 2023. You can also find her on Instagram @louisaruthvenartist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *