Entering textile artist and illustrator Megan Ivy Griffiths' workspace is a visual treat. It is a compact space, in a dilapidated building, but with the magical feeling of a small vintage shop full of treasures and curiosities that call attention and invite a close look. In a style all his own, the shelves and walls are lined with printing trays containing miniatures of found treasures, dried flower tapestries, books and postcards from his travels, an antique Singer sewing machine, mountains of miniature threads and, of course, , , her own exquisite watercolors and folk-inspired embroidered dolls and creatures. I have long been fascinated by her small creations, all beautifully painted and embellished with intricate patterns and full of detail and personality. I was delighted (and genuinely excited) when he agreed to meet with me and show me his work process. So, before wrapping up, I traveled to her workshop in Dorset, where we chatted about her love of nature and travel, how she has perfected her technique over the years, what inspires her and the slow nature with which she approaches her work. .
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clara:Could you tell us a little about your background?
Megan:I grew up in the countryside in a country house in Hampshire, where I moved again. I spent my late teens and early 20s drifting through hospitality jobs, fun travel, and a job as a chocolatier before earning a degree in illustration at Falmouth University. Since then, little by little I became a full-time freelancer.
clara:How it all began? Was there a specific moment that inspired you to start making your art?
Megan:It's been a pretty natural process with some ups and downs along the way, but something that's always been there in my life. When I got out of university, it took me a while to adjust and start enjoying creating things again without worrying about how it would be marked or seen by other people, but it led me to love doing it again.
clara:Do you consider yourself primarily an illustrator or an embroiderer, or both at the same time?
Megan:They are inextricably linked to each other and I don't really think about the difference. My embroidery is a form of illustration and a way to explore in a more three-dimensional way, but it has the same themes and feelings as my painting and drawing. I spend most of my time embroidering, probably just because it's so slow!
clara:Which came first?
Megan:I started out illustrating mostly with watercolors and then I made a fictional book for a project dealing with worried dolls. I had the idea of making the dolls I had written about in the story and attaching them to the book as little companions for the reader. This was my first time doing embroidery and I thought it was super innovative and exciting to bring a character to life in a way.
clara:What sparked your interest in each medium?
Megan:When I was growing up, my mother was an amazing children's book illustrator, so I always watched her work on beautiful projects with utter fascination. This meant that we always had lots of books to look at and paintings to play with. My interest in fabrics comes from an appreciation of all things handmade, especially wonderfully intricate embroidered garments. I like that each dot is a tangible way to see the time and skill someone has put into something.
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clara:How has your work evolved over the years?
Megan:Over time and many hours of sewing, I have seen my embroidery become more refined and now incorporate a variety of stitches. When I started I mostly backstitched, but now I love learning more complicated stitches and seeing how they look in a miniature version. It's nice to look back at old work and see how it's changed, and I'm really happy with how the colors have evolved and become more earthy.
clara:Is this what you've always wanted to do?
Megan:Yes! I don't think I know how to do anything else.
clara:How did your childhood influence your career?
Megan:Massively so. I thought illustration was a pretty normal thing because I grew up with my mother doing it, and the things I do now are trying to bring back the tender joy of childhood, of seeing an acorn and thinking it's a hat for a little creature.
clara:Could you give us an idea of how you work? Could you tell us about the design and manufacturing process?
Megan:I have a basic sketchbook that I jot down ideas in whenever I have them. These are usually rough drawings that are done quickly before inspiration is forgotten! When I'm painting, I draw and use watercolor. With embroidery, I design the basic shape of the doll and sew. It really depends on how creative I'm feeling that day. Sometimes I like to be pretty free with the design and see where it takes me, and other times I need a little more structure to keep going. I've found that the best way to break out of a creative rut is to not sit and stress and do things like walking, knitting, squeezing flowers, or anything to calm the mind.
clara:What artistic materials do you use?
Megan:Almost all of my yarns and fabrics are second-hand, sourced from charity shops, antique shops and boot sales. They even sent me some specials from people who wouldn't use them, the best of which are on beautiful wooden spools. The watercolors I use are from St. Petersburg, but I hope to upgrade to a Sennelier set soon!
clara:What are the three words that describe your style?
megan: Smooth, detailed, patterned.
clara:Where do you find inspiration?
Megan:I'm inspired by all kinds of curiosities, especially anything patterned and intricate, from island ants to hair curlers on an old church door. Most things that spark my imagination have some kind of story or narrative behind them. I'm always walking through the countryside and watching the seasons change and trying to spot pockets of natural magic. One of my favorite things to do is go to a car sale or party and rummage through second-hand treasures and dusty books.
clara:Do you have any artistic icons?
megan: A very important one for me would be Tove Jansson, for his extraordinarily sensitive and human way of creating characters and stories.
clara:what is your most prized possession?
Megan:I get ridiculously sentimental about everything... especially feathers! My friend gave me a small blue jay feather he found on a hike and I keep it as my good luck charm.
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clara:Do you listen to music while working? If yes, what kind of music?
Megan:If I'm embroidering and I hear it in the area, it would be melodic and mellow. Some favorites would be Joan Baez, Donovan, Linda Perhacs, Henri Texier. To boost my energy, I play 80's psychedelic African music, funky or cheesy.
clara:What is the soundtrack to your life right now?
Megan:Traveling Wilburys - End Of The Line, because it's all about doing everything right and not worrying or feeling the need to prove to yourself which train I want to travel on.
clara:Feeling lonely or do you have a group of creatives you connect with?
Megan:The nature of my work means that I sometimes spend a lot of time alone. Usually it's nice to be able to hide and do things all day, but I'm also alone and that means I'll try to strike up a conversation when I go to the post office and find someone to talk to. Online interactions can be very helpful, and luckily I have a few friends who are also self-employed and understand that it's not just about staying in my pajamas all day. I find freelancing very rewarding and it's also very difficult sometimes because there's no one else to guide you. So talking to other creatives is a big part of my day.
clara:Which was the last book you read?
Megan:The last book I read was The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington. It's a really witty, hilarious, sensitive story with wonderfully wacky language. A true luxury book!
clara:What was the last exhibition you went to see?
Megan:I recently went to an exhibition called 'Unbound - Visionary Women Collecting Textiles' in Two Temple Place, London, which featured incredibly beautiful historical pieces that inspired you to think about how intricate embroidery can be. The building itself is worth a trip with amazing carved woodwork and ornate tiles.
clara:Could you tell us about the workshops you give?
Megan:In the workshops we learn and practice different stitches, which we then use to create a small embroidered figure. So far, I've taught people how to make a lion, a bird, and a spring maiden. Being a rather shy person, I was frankly terrified to do this at first, but it always turned out to be the best time. As I often work alone, it is a great pleasure to spend the day sewing and talking with other people, who are always very generous in sharing their own techniques and knowledge. It creates a really inspiring atmosphere.
clara:What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Megan:I received the most beautiful messages from people who gave the dolls as baby souvenirs, used them as friends or souvenirs and presented them to special friends. I appreciate that the feeling that they are a source of comfort transcends to other people, because that's why I started making them for myself. I find the workshops very rewarding when everyone is quiet and focused and sewing in a meditative way. Embroidering, painting, and crafting have been ways to deal with anxiety, slow down, get into the flow, and just enjoy being present. Being able to share that with people is really special. I also loved making wedding invitations just because you can be a part of a happy occasion!
clara:Who are some of the other creatives you follow online?
megan: My friend Nicola Hardingham (@nicola.hardingham) who make brilliant illustrations and ceramics. She makes 'Strong Women' figurines, and I have one on my shelf that gives me steadfast conversation when I need it. rosanna morris@rosannaprints) who creates beautiful earthy prints, Lucy from Tuck It In (@tuckitin_quilts) who makes soft, botanically dyed quilts, Rachael Cocker (@rachelannacocker) ceramics and pattern assistant, and textile artist Karen Stevens (@kzstevens).
clara:What would you most like to be known for (personally or professionally)?
Megan:The lady who walks with a pet goat
clara:What makes you laugh?
Megan:Offensively British sitcoms such as Psychoville, The Detectorists, Peep Show, This Country, Flowers. Also Tim Key's poetry and every time I do something awkward it's pretty constant.
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clara:What are your favorite places in the world? it's because?
Megan:I love many places in the UK, especially the South West, where I've lived and explored a lot. In spring, walking from Mawnan Smith Church along the Helford River with flowers peeking through the hedgerows and crystal clear water. There's a coastal path in Dorset, near Dancing Ledge, which is my family's favorite place in the world. The walk features rolling patchwork fields, turquoise water, around 1000 steps up and down a valley and ends with an ice cream from the village shop or a pint from the pub. What more could you want?! Last year I took a trip to Sofia and took the night train to Istanbul, which was an incredible city and a feast for the eyes. They leave food for dogs and cats and take very good care of them, so there are hundreds of happy cats to pet and play with in the street (I recommend a film called Kedi about this), and the architecture, frescoes and mosaics of the old churches and mosques were amazing.
clara:What are your plans for the future?
Megan:I don't have much idea at the moment, but I would like to spend time learning and expanding my knowledge about fabrics and other crafts. It would also be nice to work on some bigger projects. I just learned how to use a sewing machine and made a patchwork quilt, so I'm envisioning a huge blanket with hand-stitched details all over it.
You can find Megan's work at:www.etsy.com/shop/meganivygriffithsand on Instagram at:@meganivygriffithsBe on the lookout for updates to your store for Christmas 2021!
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