Diana Springall


Diana Springall in her workroomDiana Springall is among the most well-known of all British textile artists and textile art enthusiasts. Her work is found in many private and public collections including the Embroiderers' Guild and the Victoria & Albert Museum. In a career spanning over forty years, she has devoted more than half to full-time teaching and lecturing. She was for many years a panel lecturer at the V & A, is a former chairman of both the Embroiderers' Guild and the Society of Deisgner Craftsmen and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She hs written five books on the subject of embroidery: Canvas Embroidery (Batsford), Embroidery (for BBC), Twelve British Embroiderers (Gakken, Tokyo), Design for Embroidery (Pelham) and Inspired to Stitch - 21 Textile Artists (A & C Black).

Diana studied Fine Art at Goldsmith's College School of Art between 1956-60, specialising in painting. Formal embroidery classes were undertaken in the evenings during the painting years and again as one of the selection of pre-requisite "craft" subjects on the Art Teachers' Certificate year. The embroidery department at the Art School at Goldsmith's College, the first to achieve validation for embroidery at NDD level, was led by the legendary figure Constance Parker (née Howard) between 1954 and 1975.

Diana SpringallAs a child, embroidery and knitting were as familiar to Diana as writing. Born in India to a mother who was a wonderful needlewoman and in the absence of schooling, her skills were imparted at the nursery table to be overseen by both Ayah and Governess. Boarding school in England from the age of nine progressed this endeavour.

Diana describes herself as a teacher, lecturer, author and practitioner (designer-maker) and a contributor - hopefully one experienced enough to be enabling and supporting others. She still works on commissions in her spacious workshop in the Kent countryside and collects and encourages other artists' work. Artists she has championed and whose work you will find in her private collection include Alice Kettle, Jean Littlejohn, Audrey Walker and Karen Nicol.

Karen Nicol, the leading contemporary textile and embroidery artist and winner of the 2015 Beryl Dean Award said of Springall's work "Diana brings an artist's eye and informed sophistication to embroidery that is very special and transcends time and fashions in the craft. She is a true artist/designer who uses textiles as her medium, not allowing the process to dictate and inhibit the work of art". This high praise from one artist to another demonstrates the significant contribution Springall has made and continues to make.

Diana Springall's workDiana uses all kinds of fabric and thread, depending on the requirement of the work in hand. Techniques range from various types of hand stitching in cotton, wool or silk (particularly for group and community projects of which she has done many) to machine, as well as loop pile techniques, appliqué, patchwork and low-relief felt surfaces.

We asked Diana where she draws her inspiration from: "Undoubtedly the client in the case of commissioned work. I gain a great deal of satisfaction from work that involves problem solving in response to a brief. For my speculative work I am motivated by colour, texture and line that I have perceived in things around me. Drawing and painting remain fundamental to my making".

Diana SpringallIn a long and distinguished career Diana has tackled many challenges but she says she would love to run a regular centre/workshop for young people to learn a skill that leads to the enjoyment of creating and making applied art - something they could sell - something that would give them a direction if they were not involved in sport, music and other arts - something that gives them pleasure and keeps them away from materialism and drugs. She would also like to see the creation of a permanent home for the Textile Arts she holds so dear. A prodigious letter writer, she has written to all the major British museums encouraging, cajoling and pressing them to exhibit textile arts and treat the artform as they would any other artform. The ultimate goal is for a venue to exist in London where visitors can see textile arts through the ages and where modern textile artists can exhibit their work.

Diana Springall Embroidery CollectionA new website featuring Diana's Embroidery Collection, is now live. It offers the opportunity to view the 150 pieces that Diana has collected over the years. Diana tells us "Following my training as a painter I soon realised the importance of adding craft skills to my teaching career, in particular, embroidery. Thus at the start of the 1960s, as a passionate teacher and practising embroiderer, I made scores of 35mm slides for students to share and I bought every book, but I knew nothing would excite them more than enabling them to see and handle the real thing. The only solution was to make modest purchases of examples of contemporary embroidery by graduate students and my colleagues and peers."The collection was described as "providing a crucial contribution to modern textile history through the representation of work made with needle and thread in Britain from the mid 1970s onwards.... The results provide us with a considerable record of recent material culture in stitch, a collection that may not have materialised if it had allowed itself to be defined by more mainstream collecting policies" Jessica Hemmings (in her forword to An Embroiderers' Eye, published in 2009 to accompany the exhibition of the collection at Macclesfield Museum).

 
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