From textile taxidermy, to entomological millinery, Bridget Bailey’s artworks explore the natural world, combining intriguing ideas and observations with her very particular making skills. Trained in textiles at Farnham, and with a background in millinery, Bridget now works as an artist, making one-off pieces for exhibitions and as commissions. Here she tells us a little bit about her practice.
Whether I’m rolling straw to make sharp thorns, embossing silk petals, or fraying fabrics to look like feathers, I love the effects I can get by painting and dyeing with my own colours. I think it’s the combining of these techniques that make the most special effects. I might make a spider's legs hairy by binding on frayed silk organza, or wrap the legs of a fly with threads of peacock feather. Embossed velvet is very like a dusty butterfly wing already, especially with a few tiny snips of iridescent feather added on top.
I grew up in the North York Moors National Park and spent many hours of my childhood searching the moors for Northern Eggar caterpillars and Emperor moths. However, despite this early fascination with insects, a career in millinery has meant making lots of flowers. My first insect didn’t happen until in 2011, with a commission for a piece to go with a meadow garden at Chelsea Flower Show. The garden needed a bee…
Attempting to recreate a creature using textiles really makes me study it closely. Seeing how materials can suggest an effect can be magical, like a conjuring trick, but the process is much more than that: it makes me look and wonder: what’s important about the spots on a butterfly wing, or why are moths antennae so intricate? As with all translation, when you can’t say something literally, you have to find another way to convey the meaning. And that leads me on to learning about nature, instead of just trying to copy it.
I made my first hats in 1984 for the iconic designer Jean Muir, and co founded the Bailey Tomlin millinery brand selling and making hats until 2007. Since then many of the qualities of millinery have become an integral part of my making. When I’m making a sculpture it will partly be in the language of hat.
I’m teaching some special one to one master classes in my textile and millinery techniques at my studio.