6 ISSUES FOR JUST £6 Subscribe to Somerset Life today CLICK HERE

Meet Somerset textile artist Carole Waller, who's talking to Robert Hesketh from her home near Bath

19:20 14 January 2010

Carole Waller at work in her studio. Photo courtesy of QEST

Carole Waller at work in her studio. Photo courtesy of QEST

From her gallery at Batheaston, near Bath, Internationally renowned textile artist Carole Waller paints on fine cloth to produce clothes or large-scale fabric wall pieces. Her work can be found in the costume collection in the V&A and in galle...

Meet Somerset textile artist Carole Waller, who's talking to Robert Hesketh from her home near Bath





"I grew up with art," explains Carole Waller when we met at her studio at Batheaston, which doubles as her gallery and home. "My mother's a painter and draws beautifully. She worked in textiles professionally for many years and taught weaving in Birmingham Art School, whilst my grandmother used to upholster soft furnishings."


"Many painters have influenced me, but two outstanding early inspirations were Italian church frescoes and the cave paintings at Lascaux in France - I can still remember them as if it were yesterday. The notion of building an image into a pre-existing surface led me to the work I do now and to seek the same qualities of integration. I love putting colour into a three-dimensional surface. I use textiles because I want to create paintings that collaborate with their environment."


Carole's artistic journey took her to Canterbury College of Art, where she graduated with a degree in painting. She went on to take her MA in fine art textiles at Cranbrook Academy, Michigan.


"Although I trained as a painter, I didn't really make progress until I started painting with dyes on unprimed cloth in the mid '80s, when I had an idea about making paintings that were also clothes. I wanted both the garment and the painting to retain their integrity as objects and as concepts that would coalesce. I've been exploring that idea ever since."


Carole showed me her gallery, with its racks of clothes: vividly coloured paintings tailored as jackets, scarves, dresses and coats.


"Several women who are passionately enthusiastic about clothes have taught me a lot about style and dress," says Carole. "Many of my customers are business and professional women who have to wear dull, sober clothes for work, but want to break out in the evenings and be theatrical. My most successful and consistent market has been America, especially New York. I think it's a lot to do with climate and colour.


"My work's very bright and colourful, but it's also about movement and fluidity. The fluidity of dyes and the movement of textiles are ideal for me," Carole continues, as I watch her working on a tightly stretched fabric in her studio, a cloak in the making. She pauses for thought before moving rapidly from one dye pot to the next, applying the colour with bold brushstrokes.


We move back to her gallery where there is a series of textile paintings entitled 'The Beach'. Carole used mixed fibre fabric, silk and viscous rayon, etching the fabric to give it varied levels of transparency before painting it with dyes. These she applies with brushes and via silk-screen printing. The consistency of the dyes also varies: some are as thin as ink, others as thick as oil paint, making some more translucent than others.


"'The Beach' was inspired by images of people walking across wet sand at Watergate Bay in Cornwall," explains Carole. "I draw inspiration from the world around me. In the past, when I travelled widely, that included landscapes in America and Peru, paintings in Italy and France, but lately the regular drive to Trowbridge has been the most inspirational thing; the colour and light are wonderful. My favourite view in Somerset is even closer to home - what I see from my garden."


Carole continues to talk about her move into working with glass. "It was a really exciting moment when I got a major grant from the Arts Council South West in 2005 to develop a body of work with glass. I laminate the paintings between layers of glass, flat or curved, which gives freestanding displays. They can be used indoors or out in any context where you might use glass. For instance, it can be used as a window, door or glass wall.


"I started working with glass when I was asked by the International Art of the Garden exhibition and The Forestry Commission to make an installation that could stand outdoors at the National Arboretum in Westonbirt , Gloucestershire. At that stage I was only working with textiles. It was impossible to put them outdoors on their own. However, safety glass could make textile paintings durable and waterproof, as well as providing a very robust 18mm-thick frame. What's more, the resin that bonds the layers of glass has a UV factor that protects the colours of the dyes.


"I like to give the audience the chance to interact freely with the work, both with the life-sized figures and the clothes, so I produced six three-metre-tall paintings in glass inspired by the trees at Westonbirt. I was very excited about this combination: the fragility and translucency of the cloth, combined with the toughness and transparency of the glass, which looks different throughout the day as the light changes. Particularly, I liked its all-encompassing quality; you see the images I've made but because it's glass you also see the surroundings, a reflection of yourself in the glass and a reflection of what's behind you. It projects a painting into space in a subtle way."


Recently, Carole won a QEST (Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust) award to study painting on glass and enamelling. A natural development from her Westonbirt commission, it's taken her on to study and work on stained-glass making and enamelling in Germany, Gloucestershire and Scotland. She has also designed stained-glass windows for a school in Nottinghamshire.


"I'd like to create more installations for public spaces. I'm working on a project with staff and patients at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, looking at the way art and healthcare can work successfully together. There are all sorts of applications for glass in architecture, which I've only begun to explore.


"For individual customers, I now concentrate on selling directly from my gallery and studio here in Batheaston, which I share with my partner, Gary Wood, who's a potter. Visitors are always welcome if they phone in advance, and every six months we have a joint exhibition." BY ROBERT HESKETH


Carole's work, along with Gary Wood's ceramics (www.garywoodceramics.co.uk), can be found at their gallery and studios near Bath, which can be visited all year by appointment: One Two Five Box Road, Batheaston, Bath, BA1 7LR. Tel 01225 858888, www.carolewaller.co.uk. Their next scheduled exhibition is planned for 28 June - 13 July.


Carole's work can also be seen as part of a major exhibition on blue-and-white china at the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, until 30 March. Carole has designed clothes especially for sale in the shop at the Victoria Art Gallery (tel 01225 477233) to coincide with this exhibition.



0 comments

More from Out & About

Thursday, April 16, 2015
The familiar road through Ilchester with St Mary Major in the background

Here are some things to do in Ilchester

Read more
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
The east front of Montacute House, Somerset with the balustraded wall of the East Court garden. This Elizabethan Ham-stone house was built in the late sixteenth-century for Sir Edward Phelips. The east front is in the usual Elizabethan

This month’s Great Drive takes a journey from Dolebury Warren Hillfort to Montacute House,with its towering walls of glass and glow of locally sourced ham stone

Read more
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Sunset from Coram Wood

Explore this nature reserve where dormice find sanctuary and plant life is abundant

Read more
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
The Three Crowns is a five star thatched inn. Photo Simon Burt

CHARLOTTE SKIDMORE visits a gorgeous

part of Devon for a stay in a historic inn

Read more
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
The cast of Broadchurch, series 2

The hugely successful Broadchurch returned to our screens recently, keeping us glued with its surprising twists and turns, as well as creating a special buzz around a Somerset seaside town

words: Sarah Ford

Read more
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
The Wizard of Oz in Somerset

Stepping through the gates of Somerset’s reclamation yards is like walking into a real-life fantasy film

Read more
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Catch one of many fashion shows

If you are a dedicated follower of fashion you will have Bath in Fashion 2015 (21-29 March) on your radar.

Read more
Friday, February 20, 2015
Cheddar Gorge (Getty Images/iStockphoto).

Whether you want a relaxing walk, a free day out or an interesting place to take the kids - there are many beautiful towns and villages in Somerset to explore. We chose 5 worth a visit

Read more
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Two thousand years ago, the sea washed right to the foot of the Tor, nearly encircling the cluster of hills, so it would have appeared as an island

WORDS: Clare Kingsbury-Bell

Read more
Friday, February 6, 2015
Snowdrop Valley

Words and pictures: Simone Stanbrook-Byrne and James Clancy.

Read more
Sunday, February 1, 2015
Myakka offers customers an affordable range of beautiful solid wood furniture, gorgeous soft furnishings, lighting and home accessories

With Fairtrade Fortnight just around the corner, ANDREA COWAN speaks to Somerset companies that have ethical trading at the heart of their business.

Read more
Monday, January 26, 2015
Grimsthorpe Castle where Linley drowned when boating with friends

Talented Bath musician Thomas Linley the Younger looked set to take the 18th century musical world by storm until his untimely death at the age of 22, as RAY CAVANAUGH discovers.

Read more
Sunday, January 18, 2015
The Yatton phone box after its transformation

A surge of public affection for the old red kiosks is seeing phone boxes used in a variety of new and inspiring ways. PETER NALDRETT puts in a call to people fascinated by this vivid British icon to see what the appeal is.

Read more
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Walking through a narrow rocky section of Ebbor Gorge

Explore Ebbor Gorge and enjoy the breathtaking views

Read more

NEWSLETTER SIGNUP



Somerset's trusted business finder
subscription ad

subscription ad