Past and Present – Finding Connections from Nature

One’s present often echoes one’s past.

Looking at samples of textile work completed over my lifetime, I find that subjects, colours and techniques recur and perhaps a paraphrase of Wordsworth’s “The child is father of the man” should be coined to describe how aspects of my teenage textile efforts have been echoed in much later work.

Assisi work for my teenage dressing table

While I have experimented with a wide range of techniques, I find that I return again and again to the mathematics of counted thread work, to the interplay of light provided by work with metallic threads and to methods that add texture to 2D pieces.


Much use of precise laid work in my traditional crewel work piece for a Certificate course at the Royal School of Needlework.

My interests lie mainly in the natural world especially birds, the sea and things seen in detail under the microscope; this is reflected in my textile work. The colour palette I use and the subjects of my work are often those of nature.

Using a variety of ways of working, I select techniques to reflect the subject matter I am working on as can be seen in the following images of my previous work.


This portrayal of birds by the sea, with greens and blues on canvas, is typical of my work. This used an image from a bird watching holiday, my most frequent choice of colours and a wide variety of canvas work stitches. The stitch choice, especially the fluffy wool of the chick in velvet stitch, adds texture. This dates from a time when gannet nests used mainly seaweed and far less colourful plastic than they sadly do now.

Irish strand

Drawings based on memories of seaside holidays in my native Ireland and aided by calendar pictures provided the basis for this piece.  A mixture of hand and machine embroidery, an impression of 3D is achieved both by couching textured threads and mounting the embroidery proud on a silk-covered backing.


On visits to the southern continent, I have taken thousands of photos of ice and attempted many sketches. No textile can fully reproduce the play of light on iceberg, glacier or icy sea, but I keep trying to share my love of these awe-inspiring ice scapes.

Birds’ feet:  Detail from one of a series of hangings exploring the patterns produced by birds’ feet and footprints, when I was challenged to produce larger-scale work than I usually make for an exhibition in a spacious gallery.

Secretary bird – heavily padded metalwork for the insignia of my profession of Chartered Secretary.

An ordination stole for a friend, wings of a dove

The dove of peace was the symbol of choice by the recipient who was moving from a military role to that of priest. The work used traditional goldwork techniques with a modern twist.

Continuing to use images of birds, my work gradually moved from static representations of form to more dynamic interpretations. A range of images of flocks of birds in flight sparked thoughts of frightened birds under threat. Images of swirling flocks escaping raptors led on to the many seen and unseen threats now reducing both the volumes and variety of wildlife.

Birds under threat –inspiring current work in progress

The blades of wind turbines, force fields from power lines, changing insect movements due to climate change, increased use of pesticides and other agricultural changes, the noise and light from human settlements are all impacting on our wildlife.


More birds threatened

Many of the impacts on birds and the whole of our planet result from human actions, so that the current age is now called the Anthropocene epoch. My current work is exploring the interactions of people and birds.

By Joan Bingley

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