Being diagnosed with dyslexia gave me self-confidence and a career in art - Louise O'Hara, DrawntoStitch
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 February 2015
Mixed media artist Louise O'Hara from Davenham followed her dream and found peace; we could all learn from her story
Follow your dream: this is perhaps the moral of Louise O’Hara’s tale; one where long-time dreams were finally made reality and a peaceful night’s sleep was an unexpected result.
Having studied art at Northwich’s London Road Studios, Louise claimed herself a place at Liverpool University to study fashion and textiles.
‘I loved that course and worked so hard I burned myself out,’ she says. ‘After I graduated I took office jobs, working in administrative roles, but was very unhappy and stressed. I knew something had to change, so undertook a PGCE course in 2003, with a view to becoming an art teacher. I was inspired by this and decided to do a Master’s Degree, again in fashion and textiles, at MMU in 2004. It was hard – the writing of essays was very difficult and literally weeks before my course ended my tutor announced that she thought I was dyslexic and sent me off to get tested!
‘When the tests showed that I was indeed dyslexic, it was like a weight lifting from me. I thought “I’m not thick after all!” I’d failed my GCSE in maths and not ever done well academically. Indeed, today I’d not even be able to get into college to study anything!’
With her new qualifications under her belt and a new sense of self-confidence leading the way, Louise applied for and won a role as a lecturer at Stafford College, where she spent ten enjoyable years, but a sense of fulfilment was still lacking and the stress levels remained high, showing itself in awful nightmares, though Louise didn’t realise this at the time.
‘I had a feeling that I wanted to be more than “just a mum” so in 2012 I started to create my own art and promote myself as an artist - and set up DrawntoStitch’
Like any entrepreneur, Louise spent as much time selling her product (and herself) as she did creating it.
‘It’s not easy getting started as an unknown. I do think there’s a dearth of opportunities in Cheshire for artists who have yet to grow a reputation. There are many fabulous galleries, but they really are only interested in already established artists. I plugged away however and started to win space in exhibitions from Cheshire to Cornwall.’
In February of this year Louise felt she’d gained enough traction to step out and set up for herself, giving up her teaching role ten years after starting it.
‘It was almost immediately that the night terrors stopped,’ she marvels. ‘I haven’t suffered from nightmares now for about six months. It must be connected.’
Now that Louise’s days are no longer governed by the demands of others, she can spend her time going where her heart leads her. Bright, buzzing and positively overflowing with happiness, Louise is a joy to spend time with. She has created a studio for herself in the front room of her pretty cottage in Davenham, which is perfectly designed to suit her needs. On each wall shelving and workbenches are filled with papers, paints, boxes of fabric, buttons, ribbons, lace and lots of works in progress, which fall into three distinct types.
‘Many of the coastal galleries I work with like my harbour paintings. These are inspired by childhood holidays to Wales and Cornwall, and while they don’t represent a single place, they inspire a sense of nostalgia for those days.’
Louise also creates a range on canvasses. These are highly textured and tactile; the use of mod rock (the stuff A&E will use to encase your broken arm) giving her the facility to create an almost 3D feel, with oils and acrylic paints adding their own depth in colour and texture.
‘I do occasionally use some stitching in these,’ she says, ‘but I don’t necessarily set out to, it simply happens as part of the creative process.’
The pieces that really give the ‘Stitch’ to her business name are her textile based work. Using heavy Fabriano paper, Louise builds layers of fabrics and stitching among her pen and paint work, ending with intricate, fabulously detailed and endlessly fascinating pieces that you simply can’t appreciate to the full in 2D; a case of ‘see it to believe it’ if ever I’ve seen one.
‘I get sent things by people. One man who is based in America and runs an art page on Facebook sent me a huge box of things he’d found when clearing his mother’s house – old buttons, cufflinks, papers and fabrics, the ephemera of her life. I cried when it arrived. My husband can’t believe how lovely people in my industry are!’
Success no longer beckons, it’s fully ensconced in Louise’s studio. With private commissions from across the world filling her days, exhibitions to prepare for and an exciting licencing deal with The Art Group, who create prints for Next, Ikea, B&Q and others, plus a short teaching course taking her to Australia next year, she’s never been busier - or happier.
‘It’s a bit crazy, but I love it all. I have realised I work best under pressure – I need deadlines. My children think we run everywhere! I can’t simply stroll along…it’s too boring!’
See more of Louise’s work at www.drawntostitch.com