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Polly Fleury

04 July 2022

Polly Fleury is an artist of many mediums. As a long-time customer, and a fabric enthusiast, Polly always appreciates a fabric's story, such as where it's from and how it was made or dyed. We love her quilts, her colour choices, and the narrative style of her compositions. We asked Polly some questions about her work.

Have you always worked with fabric?  

I have always enjoyed working with materials in the broadest sense, I have a background in fine art (long ago), so I’m often curious as to what can be made with a variety of materials. I used to love welding steel, watching the solid metal become almost liquid, following a line of a join. Perhaps in a similar vein, I’ve been drawing on paper and fabric with lead pencils and hand stitching along these lines with needles and thread.

When did you start sewing and patch-working?
I started in earnest a few years ago. I enjoy the immediacy of drawing directly onto beautiful coloured cloth, some of which I hand dyed at home and layered with fabric bought from the Cloth House. I cut out shapes and assembled patches and hand appliqued these onto a plain khadi cloth, creating layers. This led to making some quilts and ‘stitched and patched drawings’ I refer to as ‘flag maps,’ all of which can be hung on a wall. The quilts can also be used in a practical sense to wrap around the body and I’m intrigued with the way these sit between art, craft, design and domestic use. I began to share what I was doing on Instagram and received my first commission almost immediately.

Where do you find inspiration for your pieces? Do your drawings directly influence your textile work?
The drawings have a strong connection to the textile works, they are intertwined, and ideas are cross-referenced in each piece. All of the things I make and draw are part of a wider story encompassing objects, events and details from past, present and future. Some references have a specific link to events that I have experienced in my own life and others are fictional. The link between these objects and events is often to do with time passing and the part we play in that, how it is marked.

It’s an eclectic mix of references, objects remembered and gathered from my childhood as well as things I see walking around the city today. I’m particularly fond of urban street furniture; lamp posts, traffic signs and bell bollards being some of my favourites. I'm drawn to their structural formality, and the idea that these objects are silent witnesses to the everyday. Other references in the work that often appear are Dartmoor and its Tors; paper planes, acorns, flags, beehives, bridle paths, orchids, rowing boats, maps, oars and elements from the periodic table; the list continues and is ever changing.

We love the colours you choose for your work. What do you look for when choosing fabrics? If you were to come to Cloth House next week, what would you be looking for?
The colour choices of fabric are a true delight and different for every-one but I do like to seek a certain ‘zing’ or tension in my choices. It’s a balancing act of; colour, weight and texture. Cloth House fabric has an integrity which I appreciate, it holds a story of the maker and the process by which it’s made, often having been repeated over generations. I’m particularly drawn to the hand woven khadis, the width of the material is limited by the width of the hand loom, it’s very human, if I outstretch my arms then the material is basically the same width.

If I was to visit Cloth House next week, I would be looking for plain colours, something orange, something peachy and something violet as well as the gorgeous brown ‘mud cloth’ which has an enticing ‘irony’ feel to it. Also, I would buy an indigo cake to carry on with my home dyeing experiments now that it’s summer. I love the very human connection of fabric and its multiple uses, the subtlety of difference in each bolt of cloth is magical.

What does the future look like for your work, are there new ideas or new mediums that you want to explore?
I’d like to continue the narratives that inform my work and that may expand to other mediums but I’m currently very content with where cloth, paper, pencil and thread are taking me. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of exhibiting my work, people often ask this and it seems like the right time. I’m delighted to be included in ‘Felt Collections’ new exhibition in October.

Thank you Polly for taking the time to answer our questions.

Keep an eye on the Felt Collection website for dates of the group exhibition. www.felt-collections.com

You can view more of Polly's work on her Instagram @pollyfleurytor

Quilt photos by Nigel Shafran.