Catching Up With Claire Wellesley-Smith

Every year, Selvedge hosts several all-inclusive residential craft workshops at Chateau Dumas, a private estate with 18th-century interiors, a large pool and glorious panoramic views - set amongst rolling hills in the peaceful, scenic countryside less than an hour north of Toulouse international airport. Owned and run by Lizzie Hulme, the Chateau is a place where you can relax, unwind and be truly creative. 

Jessica Edney has interviewed next year's Chateau Dumas tutors. Today she speaks to Claire Wellesley-Smith who will be teaching Slow Stitch, Mindful and Contemplative Textiles in August 2019. 

When did you first start stitching?

I learned to sew as a young child. My mum made most of my clothes when I was little and my early memories include playing with offcuts from her dressmaking fabrics.

Can you describe a typical day for you?
My working life involves a lot of variety so I don’t have a typical day. Most of the week I work on long-term socially engaged arts projects that engage with textile processes and textile heritage. I could be out a community-based textile session working with a group teaching and sharing creative skills, researching an aspect of textile heritage in a library or archive, writing up my research, working in a textile garden or preparing materials for teaching. My studio is at home. Whatever I am working on I always make time every day for some stitching. I’ve had a stitch journal, a daily textile practice, which I’ve been working on for over five years now. 
How do you come up with a new piece?
I use archival research as the starting point for my work, looking at locations and community stories. Cloth, dye and stitch are then used as carriers of the natural and social history of place.

Do you have any advice for people who want to start natural dyeing but don’t know how to begin?
There is a fantastic body of literature and online resources out there so I would suggest reading around the subject (I recommend Jenny Dean and Sasha Duerr) If you get the mordanting (preparation of fabric) stages done correctly then your results should be brilliant.
 Why is it important to you to use locally-grown natural dye-stuffs in your work?
I’m interested in stories of place. Using locally-grown materials gives an added connection.

What will you be teaching at Chateau Dumas?
We’ll be using the landscape around Chateau Dumas as inspiration for textile-based work. Using found marks to inspire simple mordant prints, local dyes collected around the studio, piecing and hand stitch we will explore ideas that evoke a quality or sense of place.

To find out more about Chateau Dumas and available courses, please visit

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