All about Catherine Howell...
Growing up in the beautiful English Cotswold countryside instilled in Catherine a love of nature and a passion to recreate its beauty with a combination of drawing, painting and embroidery. Her career began as a designer for Marks and Spencer in the United Kingdom after completing her First class honours degree in Fashion and Textile Design at the Gloucestershire College of Art and Design in Cheltenham, U.K. She moved to Melbourne, Australia in 1981 where she continued her fashion career for a few years before her two children were born. During this time she continued working as a pattern maker and also created elaborate beaded Wedding dresses. One of her clients saw the hand embroidery and encouraged her to teach embroidery; that was 25 years ago.
Catherine is now well known for her three-dimensional designs. Her technique produces life-like delightful images with plenty of colour, movement and whimsy. She moves between painting elegant pictures of fashionable vogue ladies and glamourous, eye catching bags to charming Beatrix Potter style creatures that cavort throughout her work. It is this English style for which Catherine is well known in the embroidery world. “People tend to know me for my woodland creatures,” she says. “A lot of my work incorporates a
whimsical painted background to include small creatures with a fun story to it. My inspiration comes from long walks in the countryside, collecting flowers, fauna and maybe the odd dried insect or perhaps a toadstool. I believe it is important to look at the real thing, such as an autumn leaf for example, to truly capture natures perfection,” she explains. “The real beauty, though, is that nature constantly changes and things aren’t necessarily perfect. There may be a misshapen petal, a broken branch or a leaf that’s been chewed by a caterpillar. All these things add to making each embroidery as life-like as possible".
As an artist, Catherine admits that her favourite technique is wool embroidery, particularly thread painting. “I love building up layers with different thread textures, getting realistic effects for fruit and plant life.
"My most prized project is a Flemish Still life, depicting a three dimensional floral theme based on a painting by J Van Dael, a 19th century Dutch artist." says Catherine. She cites Kaffe Fassett as one of her favourite craft artists. “He is not afraid to experiment with rich colours and textures. He’s been a great inspiration for my work over the years".
Many of Catherine's designs have been published over the years in Australian Embroidery magazines. She also contributed a special design in the heart foundation book, “Heart of the Matter” raising funds for heart research. Catherine has been recognised for her creative work by Expertise Events, the organizing company behind the Australian Quilt fairs, chosen as their “Artist in Residence for 2008. Showcasing her work at each of their shows around Australia and New Zealand. This further led to her being commissioned to teach in New Zealand for the embroiderers guild as their touring embroidery artist /teacher for 2009.
Besides teaching locally and around Australia, Catherine has been teaching for the past 14 years at “Koala Conventions”, the largest Queensland embroidery retreat with a successful ten year history, held at Brisbane’s Girls Grammar School in Spring Hill. Catherine enjoys teaching at this yearly event immensely as she meets up with students she’s become friends with over the years, and to mix with other tutors who she also has treasured friendships with. They network and exchange ideas with each other; which she feels is very important in this industry.
For the past 3 years she has also ventured into teaching on the Needlework Tours Embroidery and Craft cruises, which allows her to travel the world; a passion she loves whilst teaching to eager ladies on the comfort of a luxury Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Last year she taught on the Needlework Tours Stately Homes, “Smitten with Britain” September tour of the Cotswolds and Lake District, a trip home to her roots.
Catherine ultimately hopes to spread her passion for embroidery around the world and leave her mark by hopefully writing a book or two, when she can squeeze the time in her very busy life. And as she always constantly says to her students: “Its not the destination that matters but the creative journey and friendships you make along the way!"
Click the above links to follow Catherine on Facebook, Pinterest, and Wordpress