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Meet the Maker – Rachel Parker of Pixel&Thread

Meet-the-makes-header

Why have you called your Business what you have?

My work combines traditional hand embroidery techniques with contemporary digital design; ‘Pixel&Thread’ is the meeting of the two!

Rachel-Parker_sketchbook

What are your greatest achievements so far , what are you particularly proud?

I graduated from Norwich University of the Arts in 2012 with a First in Textiles, and I’ve been stitching ever since.

I’m now a member of Studio Flock, a design collective that gives new designers a creative platform and the chance to have their fabric commercially produced whilst keeping their name to their design, a really rare thing when you’re just starting out. My Northmore furnishing fabric has been stocked by Liberty, Heal’s and Studio Four NYC, to name a few! Our most recent collaboration is with Florrie+Bill, expert upholsterers, on a range of vintage Danish cocktail ‘flocktail’ chairs. We’ve also just launch our new collection at TENT.FlorrieandBill Northmore Flock fabrics

How would you describe your work?

I like to describe what I do as Digital Craft. The vast majority of my designs start out as a drawing or a stitched sample – I’m a textile artist at heart so my love is for real world materials and experimentation. These samples can go on to become original hand-stitched artworks (which I sell in my etsy shop, Pixel&Thread), but they’re also scanned and digitally manipulated to create my textile designs. I use my stitches and drawings as grids and templates to draw over on Photoshop, focusing on the unique little shapes that emerge between the lines to create complex and geometric patterns. I love that the end result is so digital, when in reality it’s all come from the handmade process. I very rarely start with a blank computer screen, its far too intimidating!

I’m inspired by historical textile samplers, cross-stitching and traditional embroidery techniques. By combining this with contemporary graphic design, grids, symbols, geometric shapes and bold colour palettes, I hope to create designs that are fresh and exciting whilst directly referencing the past. I love to play with unexpected colour combinations – orange and turquoise will always have a place in my heart.

Rachel-Parker-stitch

When do you work best, are you up with the lark or a night owl?

I’d much rather start the day early! An ideal day would be dealing with all the admin/accounts/email stuff over breakfast and then spending the rest of the day swapping between Photoshop and stitching or painting. (This never happens).

Describe your work space?

I dream of my studio space at uni, light and airy, teeming with inspiration and right on the river with the swans swimming by the window. Back in the real world, right now I’m working out of the spare bedroom in the tiny flat that I share with my boyfriend while we hunt for somewhere to spread our wings. Not ideal, but on the plus side this means that everything I need is within arms reach! I have shelves that are rammed full of books and magazines for inspiration, be it surface pattern journals, vintage fair isle knitting patterns or children’s story books. I work from a lovely old wooden desk that I had in my bedroom as a child, it’s a little battered and bruised but I wouldn’t be without it. If I’m drawing or painting then everything gets shunted to one end, including the widescreen monitor. My scanner and printer are next to me, along with boxes of thread, fabric and collage materials. The radio sits on the windowsill and it’s on pretty much all day everyday (thank you BBC 6 Music!)

Rachel-Parker-workspace-new

What do you do to overcome designers block?

This can be a tough one, and I find it happens a lot when you work on your own from home! If the ideas or motivation aren’t there I’ve found the best thing to do is not to stress about it – I walk away. I’ll tidy everything away, leave the house and come back at it from a different angle. Sometimes this might be deciding to spend the rest of the day on drawings that are absolutely nothing to do with the project I’m stuck on, or reading design magazines and books instead. There’s so much amazing work out there! A trip to a gallery or museum is always good to refresh your thoughts. Ideally I’d love to work in a studio space with other artists and designers, a creative atmosphere and having someone there to bounce ideas off is the best defence against designers block.

Where did your love for design originally develop from?

My earliest memory of textiles is as a child learning to cross stitch, and it’s this memory that’s influenced my most recent work. There was something about the grids, patterns and ordering of colour that had me hooked! For me, cross stitch is repetition and rhythm, symbols and memory. It’s graphic design in thread form. I love cross stitch for the same reason that I love pixels, because it’s somehow quite reassuring that something giant can be broken down into tiny manageable elements.  There are some amazing artists and designers out there doing incredible things with stitch. I love Evelin Kasikov’s CMYK embroidery and Charlotte Lancelot’s giant cross-stitch rugs!

Rachel-Parker-paper-stitch

What is it that draws you to work with fabric and what benefits to your process does Digital Printing bring?

I’ve always known I needed to work with fabrics in some way, but I really couldn’t see how I’d be able to make a living out of my embroidery – until I discovered digital printing. The old and the new compliment each other perfectly, and I love that I’m able to spend hours stitching a piece and then make it commercially viable through digital printing. To see a design you’ve created as a finished product is surely the ultimate thrill for any designer, but there are often so many obstacles in the way of achieving this, both practical and financial. Digital printing allows me to make my vision a reality and has really opened up possibilities for me as a designer – it allows me to work in a way that simply wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago.The immediacy of digital print gives my designs flexibility and means that I can jump between different fabrics and end uses to suit my project or mood. I can quickly see how a design might be adapted for fashion or interiors, and if a client sees a print of mine on a heavy linen but would love to have it as a silk dress, it’s not a problem! Working with BeFab gives me the confidence to keep on experimenting, because I know with them I’m in safe hands.

Your home is on fire, assuming your family, pets & computer/phone are safe, what is the one thing you save from the blaze?

The dreaded question! Just one thing? Well, luckily most of my childhood is still packed up at my parents’ house, which makes things easier. I’d probably save my sewing box. It’s a wooden carved box stuffed with bits and pieces I’ve gathered over the years, like vintage thread spools and my Grandma’s faded pink pin cushion. It’s also scattered with little fragments of fabrics from past projects which tell their own story, and my trusty kingfisher needle case which I’d definitely mourn losing.

Rachel-Parker---fire

In terms of procrastination, what are you doing, when you should be doing something else?

Wading through Pinterest…it always starts out as innocent ‘visual research’, and then four hours later I snap out of it when I realise I’m just looking at pictures of cats.

Food & drink: We like our food!

It’s been a long week, what’s in your glass (or mug) on a Friday night?

A glass of red wine of course!

You have clients coming round, do you bake or buy in the treats to go with your tea/coffee, what are they and why?

This is an easy one. I’m a pretty decent cook but a terrible baker. So, bought in it is!

Music: What’s on your Studio Playlist?

Emotional Track: The track that calms you down or gets you through when you’re just having one of those days.

Fake Empire by The National. (Or, just anything by The National.)

Inheritance Track: A track that you inherited from your parents or significant person in your childhood and who did you inherit it from?

You Only Live Once by The Strokes – years of pinching CDs from my older brother’s music collection worked out pretty well.

Physical Track: The track that gets you up dancing or tapping your feet without fail.

Motion Sickness by Hot Chip.

Album: What’s your album of the moment, who’s on repeat for you right now?

Mug Museum by Cate le Bon – love.

Advice: A few pearls of wisdom here.

What is the best advice, you’ve ever been given?

We had some fantastic visiting tutors at uni. I remember having a tutorial with Sarah Angold in my third year and her telling me to forget about assessments, grades and where it’s all going, and just to go with my gut. That moment really stayed with me, she taught me that if you don’t have confidence in what you do then no one else will. I now make a point of having conviction in my artwork. I love people who are passionate about what they do!

If you were starting out again now, what advice would you give your younger self?

Make the most of every second at art school, it’s not only the luxury of having the work space and facilities at your finger tips, it’s also the luxury of having the time to experiment and grow as an artist. And also, don’t worry!

We like to hear about new and up and coming designer and artists, can you recommend someone new (or new to you) a ‘one to watch’ that you think is doing great/interesting/admirable things, that we should know about, and why do you like their work?

Aisling Smyth is a recent graduate who’s caught my eye, her ‘Embellished CV’ is witty and original. I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next! Another one to watch is Siobahn Palmer, a fellow Norwich graduate in Surface Design. Her fashion collection entitled ‘Twenty Four Miles’ is simply beautiful – ethereal and mysterious, her designs make you want to go on an adventure.

And lastly, whose words inspire you, a quote to live life by?

“Dream big”. I don’t know who originally said it, but what wonderful words to live by.

If you want to find out more about Rachel you can find her in all these lovely places too:

Website : Blog : Facebook : Twitter : Pinterest : Etsy

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