Textile Treasures From Santorini:  Interview with Textile Artist Linda Matthews

Sometimes the best memories are the ones that touch our heart and soul in small, unusual ways. In this special workshop you’ll be traveling to Santorini with Textile Artist Linda Matthews. Your eyes fixed not only on the beautiful blue oceans but you’ll also be on a quest to discover the small hidden treasures that have personal meanings to incorporate into textile art called “Fragments”.

“Fragments” are small stitched textiles that are a fusion of fabrics, fibers and papers, images and words, and found objects collected along the way. All these pieces are hand stitched together using a free-form sewing technique to form a beautiful collaged fabric travel journal that contains secret pockets and places to hold the things you most want to remember about this trip.

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and your art.

A: My name is Linda Matthews and I’m a digital and mixed media textile artist. In 2001 I moved from my homeland in Queensland, Australia to Deland, Florida where I currently live. For several years I was a National Educator with Janome America and travelled extensively throughout the US teaching workshops and classes before settling down and starting my own textile art business in 2008.

My medium for making art has always been fabric and thread. I learned how to sew on my mother’s treadle machine when I was about 6 years old, and I was taught how to embroider and hand sew by my grandmother also at an early age. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a needle and thread in my hands.

art retreat_santorini art_travel santoriniBeing curious by nature, I’m always creating and exploring new ways to make art that is personal to me. I create my art using a combination of digital imagery, surface design and mixed media processes, all blended together with creative sewing techniques. My imagery is mostly inspired by nature using my own photographs. I particularly enjoy designing and using digital images created in Photoshop and other photo editing programs, to make art quilts, art bags, fabric journals, and most recently, Fragments, which are small pieces of textile art that can be used as a form of story-telling and memory-keeping. I currently teach my digital and sewing techniques through online classes, and love nothing more than sharing and inspiring others to think, sew and make textile art in a creative way.

Q: Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

A: Creating has always been part of my life even from a very early age. I’ve never considered it to be a separate thing that I had to strive to attain; it’s as natural to me as breathing. I come from a family of creative people so I think this is part of the reason it feels so natural to me.

Q: Tell us about a day in the life – or a day in the studio, to be precise! What does it look like (and feel like)? What can you share about your process or routines?

A: I have a morning routine that includes meditation and sometimes a bit of journaling. This always helps me ease into the day in the right frame of mind. From then on though, every day is a little different. I try to balance my time between computer work and hands-on work. Computer work such as creating digital art in Photoshop to be used in my own textile art or as lessons for my online classes is very left brain and analytic. Hands-on work such as creating stitched art, fabric painting and dyeing, or working with mixed media is more right brain and intuitive. Both types of work are creative, but in different ways. Too much of one and not enough of the other always leaves me feeling a little unbalanced so I always have to be mindful of this.

Q: Where does the magic happen? What does your creative space look like? 

A: I’m lucky to have several large rooms in my house where I can work and create. My creative space always has a certain amount of mild chaos going on though with small piles of fabrics, threads, papers, books and other odd things lying around. I think a small amount of controlled chaos helps with my creative process and allows my brain to make connections that it might otherwise not make if the room was perfectly neat and tidy. That’s my excuse anyway.

Q: Where do you derive inspiration?

A: I’m mainly inspired by nature. I take my camera with me everywhere and I’m always taking photographs that often end up as reference material for my art. I can’t say that I’m a great photographer, but I am good with Photoshop which helps me turn ordinary photos into something more special.

textile workshop_santorini art_art retreat_linda matthewsQ: Does your creativity ever stall? What do you do when that happens?

A: I think everyone suffers from creative blocks or burnout at times. I find that having an art-related business can be both the source of creative blocks as well as the source of creative inspiration. When you have a creative business you have no choice but to turn up and do the work every day – whether you feel inspired or not.  Over time I’ve learned to realize that on days when I feel a little uninspired, it usually means that I’ve been working too hard and I need a break. Sometimes this can be a few hours or sometimes it can be a few days. But after a break, inspiration always returns and I know things can then get back to normal.

Q: How does travel inspire your work?

A: Traveling takes you out of your comfort zone and allows you to see things in a different context and from a different perspective. It challenges your concept of how things “should be” and offers an alternative version of how things “could be”. What I learn from these experiences are valuable lessons that can be applied to my life as well as my art.

Q: What do you love most about teaching?

A: The thing I love most about teaching is when someone finally “gets it” and begins to understand the purpose of the lesson and what I’m trying to teach. It’s like a light bulb flashes inside their head. Their whole being lights up, their energy changes and they see a new world of creative possibilities.

Q: What are you most looking forward to during this workshop?

A: I’m excited to share my process for using photographs to create beautiful stitched textile art as a way to preserve our memories.

Q: Do you journal or sketch?

A: Yes I do both. I am not committed to a daily practice, but I use both journaling and sketching as part of my art process.

Q: If you could take only five items to create with while on vacation (not necessarily a workshop – any vacation), what would they be? 

A: Fabric, thread, needle, thimble, scissors.

Q: So many of us believe our art can only ever be a hobby. How did you make the leap from passion to profession?

A: Turning my art from a hobby into a profession was a gradual thing that happened over the course of about 5 or 6 years. I had no grand design for things to turn out as they did; it just evolved. I know a lot of people are afraid to share or show their art to others for fear of ridicule or criticism. But I have never really felt like that. By sharing what I loved to do, particularly though my website and blog, I found others who loved to do the same thing and wanted to learn more about what I was doing. So I began sharing and teaching what I knew. Before I really knew it, I had a part-time business which eventually turned into a full-time business. It’s only through the continued support of my customers that my business continues to grow and thrive.

Q: Any tips for balancing creative time and administrative duties?

A: Having a daily creative practice is important to me so I make time for it every day. It can be as short as 15 minutes, or it can extend to a full day. To maintain a daily practice though, sometimes I have to give up things that are less important – such as housework. I don’t really have a problem with this.

Q: If you could an afternoon with any artist, dead or alive, who would that be?

A: It would have to be Gustav Klimt. I love his use of decoration and symbolism.

Q: Where can we find you and your work?

A: You can find me online at www.Linda-Matthews.com

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