Amanda Cobbett: Embroiderer
Amanda Cobbett’s embroidered sculptures contain something extra:
an aura; a presence; a soul:
palpable and precious.
I have loved Amanda Cobbett’s work for years. Having had the pleasure of twice including her in my curated area at Handmade at Kew, I’ve watched her work, and the way she presents it, ‘mushroom’. And I mean mushroom (as you will learn!). As an artist she has gone from strength to strength.
Amanda recreates the natural world and does so in exquisite detail. Her 3D embroidered snapshots of forest flora and detritus – discovered in the undergrowth on her daily dog walks – are perfect in every ephemeral and living detail. Suspended in time. Immortal.
Looking at Amanda’s work is like taking a step into a Richard Dadd painting … one might expect a fairy to poke its head around one of her toadstools! Or perhaps one might just catch a glimpse of a lugubrious caterpillar smoking a hookah (The Rev. Dodgson, Lewis Carroll, knew the same Surrey hills that now inspire Amanda). But there are other historical resonances. Amanda’s work isn’t whimsical, it has all the detail of Beatrix Potter’s exquisite illustrations of fungi – for which she is scandalously less well known – or, in her recreations of bark, moss and lichen, the equally beautiful study of an elm tree by John Constable (part of the permanent collection at the V&A, and a picture I have adored since first viewing it).
In the 19th Century, Potter’s studies were largely ignored. The scientific community not only excluded women from their illustrious circles but also dismissed anything they presented. It is reported that the Linnean society famously rejected her work without even viewing it (prompting an apology for sexism and an admission of ‘scurvy treatment’ of Potter as late as 1997). Thankfully Amanda’s creations have not met the same fate. I have very happy memories of the experts of Kew Gardens racing into the Handmade in Britain marquee to marvel at her pieces, naming each toadstool excitedly. So truthful are her representations.
They are presented like a Victorian curiosity in a transparent box, adding to the illusion that we are glimpsing real specimens worthy of study by a botanist or mycologist, preserved in a protective atmosphere, and timeless. And all this created in stitch! Sometimes 130,000 stitches a day (by her own reckoning). Miniature works of art formed out of even smaller components – machine stitches – but with the eyes and hands of a master. To see Amanda’s work is to marvel at her skill and dexterity, and to doubt one’s own eyes!
A miniature world to us, but in perfect scale and proportion to the real specimens represented, Amanda’s creations are magical. To stand close to them is to still believe they are not the work of an artist, but the achievement of nature herself.
Learn more about Amanda here: www.amandacobbett.com