Liz Clay

Textile Artist Liz Clay is renowned for her hand-felted textiles often used in haute couture, as well as her one-off pieces for private commissions. Having studied textiles at Bath School of Art and Design, Liz continues to study innovative felt-making techniques and the creative potential of British 'waste' wool for fine craft felt making. Her work is held in the collections of Givenchy, Balenciaga, the Crafts Council and Bradford College Textile Archive.

Textile Artist

Liz Clay

South West England

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THE PROCESS

British wool plays a significant role in Liz’s designs. Having worked mainly in the realms of fashion couture, Liz has created a special collection for The New Craftsmen, designing luxury pieces for interiors by employing her innovative pleating and felt folding techniques. Happiest when crafting bespoke fabric, British wool plays a significant role in Liz's work as it offers great diversity for surface design. She is particularly fascinated by the potential presented when felting unfamiliar wools.

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Q&A

1. What motivates you to make?

I have always loved the process of making with my hands. It began at a very young age with basic knitting and sewing tasks. Now, it is the transformation of fibre into felt that leads to endless possibilities of exploration and satisfaction.

Experimenting with material is a great motivator. Over the years I have built up a considerable portfolio of samples. The collection is personal and underpins my practice. Whatever commission or opportunity arises, there is always something I can refer to if needed. This body of acquired knowledge is constantly evolving, and never fails to inspire and motivate an idea or thought process.

2. What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?

A combination of tradition and innovation inspire my creative process. I found a niche for my work in nudging the boundaries of an ancient craft, finding new and unexpected directions in contemporary practice. Since first discovering felt, I have constantly explored ways to reinterpret and create fine felt fabric. Making cloth that is lightweight, and sometimes translucent, is far removed from the expectations associated with the word ‘felt’.

Travel also plays a key part in influencing the way I process my ideas and discoveries. In 2001 I was fortunate to witness, at first hand, the work of felt makers in Kyrgyzstan. Traditional methods are fundamental in understanding the process of creating cloth from raw wool. I am often asked if I have been influenced by Japanese art and textiles. This has not been a conscious direction, but several trips to Japan has greatly influenced my approach, and I prefer to produce work that is understated and timeless.

My work has explored similarities between hand made paper and traditional felt making methods, resulting in translucent feature panels for walls and windows, described as Wool Paper. The paper cut outs of Eduardo Chillida have greatly inspired this area of interest.

During my PhD, the haptic exploration of different wools uncovered subtleties and new identities, arousing curiosity and stimuli for innovation with materials and processes. It is this area of artistic practice that continually fascinates and captures my imagination.

3. What is your unique approach to your craft, and how have you honed your skills?

My approach is experimental. I aim to innovate and expand techniques by customising material using additional manipulation. The felted cloth is skilfully folded, pressed and steamed to achieve one of a kind surfaces and reveal sumptuous textures.

Beautiful fabrics become enlivened by unique, three dimensional patterning to produce a truly handcrafted work of art. This is what gives my craft its distinctive characteristic, and it may sound counterintuitive, but in order to experiment you must first understand the principles involved. That way, with a focused approach, the magic can happen. Some of my best work has resulted from errors and mistakes.

British wool plays a significant role in my designs. It offers great diversity for surface design and I am particularly fascinated by the potential presented when felting unfamiliar wools. Working these wools is seductive; it's a slow and painstaking journey, involving a dialogue between hands and material. Continually refining the skills and expertise gained within this field of craft allows me to innovate whilst sustaining my maker identity.

I am never keen to reproduce work or to create multiple identical objects, so I am happiest when crafting bespoke fabric. The development stage of a commission becomes a frenzy of activity, where boundaries are pushed and ideas, materials, and processes reveal new concepts or outcomes. The production element becomes less energetic and acutely organised with much attention to detail. This experience can be nerve-racking but the result is rewarding.

4. What is your definition or proudest moment as a maker so far?

Seeing my work on catwalks gives immense satisfaction and pride. My first introduction to the extraordinary world of high fashion was a commission for Givenchy. The ultimate triumph was seeing the fabric metamorphose onto the runway. Unlike some later assignments, I did not witness this show in person, but months later I was proud to see the garment featured in Vogue magazine with photography by a leading fashion photographer.

On an intimate level I was truly gratified when a complete stranger told me my work had a strong and recognisable identity. This was the moment I felt I had achieved a sense of place and acceptance within the wider contemporary textile community.

5. What is your dream project?

A dream project might present a creative diversion to challenge my skills as a maker. Such an opportunity would be an extension to the work I produce for haute couture, where the collaboration between artistic director and team of artisans is paramount. To achieve this, within a design-led interior project, would give me great satisfaction. I would be excited to embark on a design-led project with a team of architects. Working with professionals who specialise in interior design would offer scope to validate my practice within a new arena. Perhaps my work would be used as acoustic wall panels, or provide a visual accent, or decorative impact to complement the interior design.

 

ALL PRODUCTS

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8 Products found

  1. Striped Chevron Cushion (Square)
    Striped Chevron Cushion (Square)
  2. Striped Chevron Cushion (Rectangle)
    Striped Chevron Cushion (Rectangle)
  3. Grey and Brown Boro Boro Throw II
    Grey and Brown Boro Boro Throw II
  4. Diamond Chevron Cushion (Square)
    Diamond Chevron Cushion (Square)
    Out of stock
    Liz Clay
    £370
    Out of stock
  5. Diamond Chevron Cushion (Rectangle)
    Diamond Chevron Cushion (Rectangle)
  6. Navy and Red Boro Boro Throw
    Navy and Red Boro Boro Throw
  7. Navy & Orange Boro Boro Throw
    Navy & Orange Boro Boro Throw
    Out of stock
    Liz Clay
    £1,750
    Out of stock
  8. Grey & Brown Boro Boro Throw I
    Grey & Brown Boro Boro Throw I
    Out of stock
    Liz Clay
    £1,650
    Out of stock
View as Grid List

8 Products found