Cas Holmes is a textile artist loved by many art and textile teachers. Using mostly low-tech techniques that can be replicated in the classroom, she is an ideal artist to use with students. Found materials, layering collaged fabrics, building up compositions and adding detail in stitch are all part of Holmes’s process. Her work captures fleeting moments in time and creates narratives that reflect a variety of themes. This blog post explores those themes: travel, natural forms and landscape. It then looks more closely at her process. There is a link to a free presentation about the artists at the bottom of the post.
After obtaining her degree in fine art, Holmes received awards to travel to Japan and India. She has also travelled in Europe and Australia. As she travels she often collects, not just the imagery but the materials that she uses in her work. Found, gifted or thrifted, Holmes’s work definitely has a recycled feel.
Below the hot colours and intricate patterns of India are clearly visible.
“My Romany Grandmother always said I had ‘itchy feet’ and inherited her love of the road. Ever since I started to work, the travelling life began also.”
Natural forms often feature in Holmes’ work. She states:
“My work reflects my interest in place and people and seeks to identify the relationship of our flora and related habitat to both the urban and ‘wild’ landscape which make up our country.”
’40 Yards’ was a significant piece of work that explored the environment within 40 yards of her home. It started with the accidental finding of a piece of cloth outside her front door which had the words ’40 Yards’ printed on it. This piece became an ongoing diary of her immediate location. Taking inspiration from the way the urban and natural world can meet, Holmes noticed the little things – the beauty of a weed, the fragility of a dandelion clock, a neighbours lace curtains.
Some of Holmes work is less abstract and more clearly landscape which might appeal to a student who prefers something more representational. They also strongly employ foreground, middleground and background and that would be great to bring into students work.
“I have always looked at the landscape and our fragile relationship with the local and global environment.”
“I gather cloth, paste, colours, papers and other found materials together and build up layers as I would a painting. I then cut and tear into the layers to see what’s underneath. This is then worked with further paint and machine stitching. There is a lot of intuition, a response to materials and the given environment or landscape in the pieces.”
Holmes is always drawing and collecting things. She describes herself as having a ‘magpie tendency’.
Cas Holmes describes her process as having three key areas. Mark making with a variety of media, layering with cloth, paper and found materials and then stitch. She uses her drawings for reference but doesn’t feel compelled to copy them exactly. You can read more about her process in the article ‘Cas Holmes: ‘From conception to creation‘ from TextileArtist.org
“The process of layering with pins or paste is never exact and I constantly make changes and often leave the work overnight so I can look at it fresh before making further compositional decisions.”
Cas Holmes has exhibited internationally and also teaches short courses regularly at West Dean College which is near Chichester in West Sussex. Click here to see if she has any courses coming up.
Holmes has a collection of books which explore her themes and process further. They would be a welcome addition to any art room library.
Click the image below to go to a free presentation for art teacher on artists Cas Holmes.
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