Madeline Norris - Studio Tour
Words: Jo Dowsett
Photography: Carolyn Carter
We visited the cosy studio space of Madeline Norris to find out a little more about her style, aesthetic and inspiration. Madeline’s welcoming home displayed her collection of childhood nostalgia, ephemera and love of folk art. This common thread is visible in her unique textile and mixed media products. Everyone has a dream and for Madeline it is to one day open her own folk art museum with her contemporary artist sister. Her love of nature, texture and tonal qualities with attention to detail are visible in her ever evolving body of work.
A short walk past the daffodils and hellebore in Madeline’s garden takes you to her creative space - a beautiful wooden studio situated at the end of her garden. The large window is north facing, allowing a constant stream of natural light to fill the space. Madeline always slips on her studio cardigan, made with love by her own Mother and habitually wears her ‘studio slippers’ to ground her to her personal space. Madeline's love of folk art is apparent in her tiny eclectic found items which provide continual inspiration as well as her mood board of spring flowers. Her table is located under the window and houses her sewing machine as well as baskets of fabric scraps, wool and trimmings which are stored alongside with her vintage cotton reels and thimbles. Pots of paintbrushes sit happily next to her templates for her current project. Swathes of antique lace and retro fabrics are piled up ready for use. The sense of calm and serenity and order and inspiration are tangible.
Madeline’s creative journey has always involved textiles, arts and music. Following on from studying Art & Design, she had various creative opportunities from playing fiddle in a band in the 1990s and having an album signed to singing with Birmingham’s CBSO. She went on to study for a degree in Art History and Dance at Birmingham as well as completing an MA specialising in gallery education. Madeline now divides her time creating her own products, running workshops with pre school children, participating in her local community to raise awareness of the refugee crisis and more recently, bringing creativity to adults suffering with dementia.
Madeline’s extensive body of work includes beautiful unique dolls with individual clothing and accessories, sculptural houses made from textiles and mixed media, embroidery, pen and ink illustrations and her most recent project entitled ‘Vessels.'
Madeline lives in Birmingham with her partner and two children.
Did you have a creative upbringing? Did you have a teacher who saw your potential or did you find it yourself?
‘Neither of my parents were artists but the arts were definitely valued in our house. My Mum was a good seamstress, knitter and made home furnishings. Fabric scraps, threads and materials were always readily available and very accessible when I was growing up. The visual arts have always interested me and from a young age, I was always drawing.’
What are your main aesthetic concerns?
‘Pattern, colour and texture. My work demonstrates a sense of nostalgia.’
Having grown up in the 1970s, Madeline was heavily influenced by children’s television such as The Railway Children and The Secret Garden. Her overriding memory of these times was Bagpuss and her desire to be ‘just like Emily.’ These programmes reflected Victorian and Georgian eras but definitely had a 1970s feel about them. Madeline feels that the relationship between these two eras are intrinsic to her style and ‘are reflected in my pattern and colour choices.’
Your work is based heavily on childhood memories. Was this always your destination or did it evolve?
‘It was inevitable. As an artist, you can always try to do something different but you need to be honest and authentic and true to yourself. I don’t feel my work is sentimental, but nostalgic.’
Madeline’s current project is an exploration of the traditional feminine values of the domestic home. We wanted to find out what is the inspiration behind her ‘Vessels’ project.
‘I wanted to make something unexpected. Something that links the traditional ideas of the domestic and the home using my preferred medium of textiles and mixed media.’
Madeline revisited and has expanded upon a previous project of small sculptural pots made with cottons and denim. The idea of linking traditional womens work such as sewing and domestic chores appealed and ‘allowed me to explore the traditional feminine values of the domestic home.’ These beautiful sculptural items include intricate free hand machine embroidery and an introduction of mixed media.
How has being a creative changed your outlook on life?
‘Becoming a Mum gave me self-belief and confidence. I could be true to myself and follow my dreams. Creating makes me so happy. And if it makes other people feel better, that’s great.’
What has been your favourite item to date.
‘That’s hard. There isn’t one thing and my style is constantly evolving.’ Madeline perceives her whole body of work to be reflective of her creativity. ‘When I finish, my relationship with the item finishes. It isn’t mine anymore and it becomes something else for someone else. It begins a new relationship with its new owner.’
Where is your favourite place to be to unwind and relax?
‘Nature is my spiritual place. To me, walking is my escapism.’ Madeline loves the opportunities and community Birmingham has to offer. ‘I enjoy the countryside but I love the community that is here in the city.’
See more of Madeline's work here: