Mary Norden paints with fabrics creating pictures that convey stillness, a quiet moment and a sense of passing of time. She trained and worked in textiles for many years where she became renowned for her unique use of colour and pattern whilst also becoming established as a writer and art director. She divides her time between London and the wilds of the Shropshire hills.
I have always loved fabrics, particularly vintage cloth. Whether printed, woven, threadbare, patched or plain, each piece comes with a story: a narrative woven into its wear and age, carrying memories of different uses and lives lived. I love the spontaneity of cutting into a length of fabric, playing with it, creating shapes, and adding other colours, just as one would mix paints. I find it fascinating too how moods and even representative images can be found in these materials. The raw hem of an old red silk slip becomes the horizon in a landscape at sunset. A vintage Japanese sack originally used for straining unrefined sake becomes a field, and in several of my still-life paintings, vessels are cut from the floral fabrics I discovered hidden inside the remains of an 18th-century French bedcover.
A new picture always starts with a single piece of fabric. It’s the seed of the picture and where the story begins. It might be the tiniest cotton fragment from a dress, or a strip of old linen, heavy with indigo dye and stains. I then gather other fabrics that complement the seed fabric, and from here the narrative unfolds, taking me either towards an abstract, usually evoking landscape, or a still-life often depicting simple objects. Shapes are built by overlapping layers of fabric, and I like to incorporate any original stitching - this might be patching, darning or simple hand stitching, as well as age marks - fading, fold lines, and seam edges.