Cheshire gardens an inspiration for textile designer Rowena Ardern
01:00 18 January 2010
THE flora and fauna of Cheshire gardens at Arley Hall and Tatton are important inspirations for textile designer Rowena Ardern.
'The gardens are perfect for making drawings and taking photographs of the plants and flowers, as is walking through the beautiful Cheshire countryside. And I have visited the RHS show at Tatton many times,' says the freelance artist.
Rowena makes gauzy, vibrantly coloured flags and banners which reflect her love of flowers, from the intricate passionflower to the dainty crocus, and she has extended these designs into textile jewellery and hand-dyed silk ties.
Rowena explained: 'I am drawn to the beauty of the natural world. I create images that capture the essence of my subject: the delicate unfurling of a leaf, the shimmer of light on water and the velvet softness of spring blossom.'
A former teacher, Rowena gained a first class honours degree in embroidery at Manchester Metropolitan University and there joined forces with three other students on the same course to form a group called TELA.
'I always wanted to do an arts degree, and I was going to do a textile degree but felt the embroidery gave me more freedom to experiment,' says Rowena, who uses cutwork techniques to combine natural fabrics such as cotton, wool and silk.
She has exhibited in places as diverse as Stockport Art Gallery and Norton Priory in Runcorn and has undertaken work for the Manchester Buddhist Centre, Manchester's City Pride scheme and the National Wildflower Centre near Liverpool.
Her work can currently be seen at the Royal Exchange in Wedding Adornment, an exhibition combining jewellery and textiles with a wedding theme and created by members of the Manchester Jewellers Network and TELA.
'I have been making small flags exploring the symbolism of flowers in wedding ceremonies. Flowers cross all cultures and religions and are often said to hold symbolic meanings: the bridal white rose represents eternal love, larkspur first love, ivy signifies fidelity, while azaleas speak of romance and bluebells an everlasting constancy.'
Her work can also be used for other celebrations, including birthdays and retirement, and will be '21st century heirloom pieces to treasure' says the artist who is based in Chorlton.
Rowena credits her family background with bringing her to where she is now: 'My father was in the textile trade and gave me my love of fabrics and nature; and my mother and grandmothers introduced me to embroidery.'
And her two grown-up sons, Jon and David, are following in their mother's steps by studying art at university.
As for Rowena, now in her 50s, her ambition is to develop her business as a freelance artist and designer working to commission and exhibiting. But she hasn't finished studying yet and would like to do an MA in printed textiles.
To see more of Rowena's work hit www.rowenaardern.com and for details of TELA see www.tela-art.co.uk