Cambridge Open Studios 2015 - Louise Thomas

We kick off our series of interviews with Cambridge Open Studios Artists for 2015 with textile artist Louise Thomas who produces vibrant patchwork hangings and quilts...

Lousie Thomas Hexagonal Quilt
Did you train in the arts?

In some way yes; I studied Architecture at Undergraduate level and then went on to take a Masters degree in Egyptology. The architecture really comes in handy with my patchwork in that I'm used to having one idea, thinking it over and then realising that I could be doing it a much easier way or that something else would work better instead. You get used to taking your time over a design and not just starting without thinking it all through - there's no point in making a quilt when you haven't got enough fabric!

What aspects of your training have spilled over in to your arts practice? 

I tend to be drawn to certain fabrics, especially those with Egyptian designs and colours (although i've yet to actually make something with these fabrics)! I also really like being given a 'brief', as it were, and designing something based on a word or specific idea. I don't make quilts that are an abstract design - I prefer the traditional patchwork mentality of using basic blocks and shapes to make a really intricate pattern overall.

Louise Thomas Stained Glass Quilt

What is it about patchwork that you find so satisfying? 

The best thing about patchwork is that you can use 3 different fabrics in more than one piece and never get the same results! It hooks you in and makes you want to finish a piece to know what it will look like right at the end. Patchwork is also a great way to learn different sewing techniques; the more you do, the better your work will become. There is never a stage that you feel you can't learn any more!


Do you have favourite outlets where you source your fabrics? 

Not really. I tend to stick to about 4/5 shops overall but each one sells different things so it really depends on what I'm making at the time. I would one day love to own my own fabric shop so that I can choose which designs to sell and I can make sure that I present it and sell it in a way that I would appreciate as a customer! It would also mean that I would never have to worry about not being able to buy only 20cm again - I would own it!

It appears you like to make quite practical items with textiles and patchwork. What can we expect to see on a visit to your Open Studio?

I will have a number of different things on view and for sale, both large and small. There will be wall hangings, quilts, cushions, table runners, coasters and placemats, bags, scarves and ties. A lot of these items will incorporate colour and I try to make sure that I work with as many different patterns and ideas so that my visitors can see a number of techniques being used.


What kind of patterns and motifs do you enjoy depicting in your work? Do you make sketches first? 

I honestly just like having a go at anything and everything. There isn't one particular design I prefer because that would limit me I feel. I do make sketches and draw out the designs on my computer first if possible so I can see the play of the different colours before cutting out any fabric. The best program I have found to do this is called Sketch Up.

Chris Thomas
Your Dad, Chris Thomas, has been a great influence on your practice. What aspects of his work have made an impact on you? 

My Dad's work is completely different to my own in that he practices photography down the microscope. Some of his photos look so fun that I felt I could recreate the image in patchwork.

Louise Thomas Open Studio

This is what happened with the 'Acoustic Wave Amplifier' and we are using a combination of both as our Open Studios guide image. Other photos show designs that are just so intricate and beautiful that we are looking at printing the images onto textiles and creating some unique products. Watch this space! 

postcard quilt
Your beautiful 'postcard' artwork is a slight departure from the traditional patchwork feel. How was that developed?

I wanted to make a hanging/quilt that my friends and family could participate in and decided to make it a travel piece. I advertised on social media that I was doing this and 10 or so different people sent me pictures from their travels! I have pictures from al around the work and I will definitely credit each person for their photo in the exhibition.

Louise Thomas Maths Quilt
We were also very taken with your 'mathematical' quilt. Please tell us how this came about? 

So, there are 10 colours in the piece, each representing a number between 1 - 10. There are 100 different blocks in the quilt, each representing a number between 1 - 100. The different coloured strips in each 'block' indicate which numbers between 1 - 10 divide into the corresponding square number!

For example, on the top line, the furthest right is Square number 10. We have a line of Black (1), Light blue (2), Dark Blue (5) and Purple (10).

Louise Thomas Map Quilt
What is your favourite piece of patchwork/textile you have made, and why is it special?

My favourite piece is my World Map quilt. This is a piece I made for myself a couple of years back. I pixellated a world map, coloured in the sea as light blue and then added in a union flag behind the land. It is a really striking design and I actually used over 1000 different squares to make it!
Apart from visiting you at the Open Studios festival, can we find your work available to buy elsewhere?

I participate in Christmas Fayres each year and I am looking to add a shop section to my website in the near future, however I also accept commissions so customers are welcome to contact me at any time.

Louise and Chris will be opening their studio on weeks 2 and 3, find out more:


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