Saturday 14th March – Friday 27th March, 2015
Francesca Lindsay-White is an artist whose work encompasses the Devonian natural world, blending it with magic and folklore to create an earthy and playful mix. For her, being an artist came naturally. “Textiles are at the heart of a lot of my work,” Francesca started. “One way or another, I always interpret things as a textile pattern. My mum taught me to knit, my sister used to sew, and where I grew up, there’s a lot of history with the textile industry. I’m also very process driven, and interested in folklore, religion, old ideas about magic – subjects like that.”
From the moment you enter the room, you see the split of Francesca’s palette. On one hand, you have the greens, browns and greys of the forest, and on the other, you’ve got glowing, eye-catching floral. The wreaths are so delicate, you can’t help but swoop in closer.
“It’s a new thing for me, really,” Francesca said about the wreaths. “I volunteer at the FabLab at Exeter Central Library. One of the machines they have is a laser-cutter. You make the designs, find the software, arrange it, and then print out these amazing patterns. It takes all the donkey-work out of cutting them, which gets really uncomfortable after a while! It also means you can let your mind run wild with the design.”
Armed with her laser, the sky’s the kaleidoscopic limit for Francesca. “I want to make my wreaths a bit more 3D,” she continued, “so it feels like you’re walking through a hedge in spring. I like the idea of combining that with traditional hand-beading and embroidery. I’m very much a believer in being hands-on with things, but also of making the most out of technology. Eventually I’d like those wreaths to have flashing LEDs in them, with moving bits!”
Dipping back into the traditional, I asked Francesca about the amulets hanging from the wall. Enveloped in little felt wallets, the four-leaf-clover design has been made to protect the wearer from evil. “I went to a fantastic exhibition at the Welcome Centre in London,” Francesca said, “and it was about how after the Industrial Revolution, lots of people moved from the countryside into London to find work. They wore these amulets on their body with little spells written on them for protection. That really took hold of my imagination!”
Another memorable piece from Francesca’s exhibition would be the basket of cats sitting by the window. “My husband and I had a pet cat,” Francesca recalled, “and he was ill, so we took him to the vets. The vet said ‘your cat has a flower-shaped heart’, and I thought ‘What?! That’s not normal!’. That inspired me to do the cats with the little embroidered hearts. It’s an interpretation of Scampy’s heart!”
I asked Francesca if she had a favourite of her own works. “That’s difficult! I really like the Green Man, and I also like that little flag thing – I like the idea of carrying it off into a pagan procession or something. I also like the big pink wreaths with the honeysuckle-like shapes. Of course, if you ask me on another day, it’ll all be different!”
The Green Man that Francesca mentioned hangs on the wall just by the door, and was also my personal favourite. To quote Francesca, it might also be a “mischievous, sprite-like creature”, again capturing the playful heart of Francesca’s felt works.
Not just filling the Glorious Gallery with everything from smiling cats to old magic, Francesca also connected us to the countryside. “When you use materials and you know where it’s come from,” she began, “maybe ten miles away, or perhaps you know the person who produced it – well, there’s something about that connection. It might be sentimental, but I believe it shows a kind of richness.”
A richness it shows, indeed. Be sure to keep an eye out for Francesca’s work, and don’t forget, she’s working on a large wreaths for Exeter Central Library, to be exhibited as part of a FabLab event in May.