INTERVIEW WITH AN EMBROIDERER; Diana Springall by Sue Prichard PDF 


This interview is posted on the Victoria and Albert Museum website  http://www.vam.ac.uk/ and is part of a series of "Interviews with Embroiderers" which is located in the Textiles home page entered through Collections home page through the websites main Menu

It has been made available here with permission from Diana Springall 

Dianna Springall

Diana Springall at work. photo by James Morton-Robertson


Diana Springall is amongst the most well-known of all British textile artists. Her work is found in many private and public collections, including the Embroiderers' Guild and the Victoria and Albert Museum. In a career spanning over forty years, she has devoted more than half to full-time teaching and lecturing. She was for many years a panel lecturer at the Victoria and Albert Museum, is a former chairman of both The Embroiderers' Guild and The Society of Designer Craftsmen, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She has written five books on the subject of embroidery: Canvas Embroidery (Batsford), Embroidery (for BBC ), Twelve British Embroiderers (Gakken Tokyo), Design for Embroidery (Pelham) and Inspired to Stitch -21 Textile Artists (A&C Black).


Panel for entrance foyer, Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, London
Panel for entrance foyer, Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, London, Diana Springall 1989 Hand-tufted yarns and hand-applied covered piping cords width 500 cm x height 200 cm  © Diana Springall

Did you undertake formal training in college or within the industry, or did you find your ways into embroidery via a different route?

The route was through Fine Art at Goldsmiths' College School of Art 1956-60 specialising in Painting.
Formal embroidery classes were undertaken in the evenings during the Painting years and again as one of the selection of pre-requisite 'craft' subjects on the Art Teachers' Certificate year. The embroidery department at the art school at Goldsmiths' College, the first to achieve validation for Embroidery at NDD level, was led by the legendary figure Constance Parker (née Howard) between 1954 and 1975.

As a child, embroidery and knitting were as familiar as writing. Born in India to a mother who was a wonderful needlewoman, and in the absence of schooling , her skills were imparted at the nursery table to be overseen by both an ayah and governess. Boarding school in England from the age of nine progressed this endeavour.


Hoffman tufted carpet depicting chickens & ducks Diana Springall
 Hoffman tufted carpet depicting chickens & ducks, Diana Springall 1998, width 240 cm x height 240 cm © Diana Springall

How would you describe your work and your position within the world of embroidery?

Teacher, Lecturer, Author and Practitioner (designer-maker) and a contributor - hopefully one experienced enough to be enabling and supporting others.

What type of material do you prefer to use?

All kinds of fabric and thread depending on the requirement of the work in hand. Techniques vary from various types of hand stitchery in cotton, wool or silk (particularly for group and community projects of which I have done many) to machine. Various loop pile techniques either with a Hoffman gun for carpets or a hand operated tool for smaller projects. Appliqué, patchwork and low -relief felt surfaces.

 Altar frontal for RAF College Cranwell

 Altar frontal for RAF College Cranwell, 1990, Altar frontal for RAF College Cranwell Diana Springall 1990, silk appliqué by machine, width 250 cm x length 100 cm., Diana Springall, Made for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

What would you like to make that you haven't so far?

I would love to run a regular centre / workshop, in my area, for young people to learn a skill that leads to the enjoyment of creating and making applied art - something they could sell - something that would give them a direction if they were not involve d in sport, music and other arts - something that gives them pleasure and keeps them away from materialism and drugs.

What inspires and influences the designs you create for your work?

Undoubtedly the client in the case of commissioned work. I gain a great deal of satisfaction from work that involves problem solving in response to a brief.

For my speculative work I am motivated by colour, texture and line that I have perceived in things around me. Drawing and painting remain fundamental to my making.


pair of hangings fro West Central Synagogue, London 1997

Pair of hangings for West Central Synagogue, London, diana Springall 1997 Width 60 cm x height 210 cm © Diana Springall

The design features an interpretation of Exodus 25 verse 20; 'And the cherubim shall spread out their wings on high, screening the ark-cover with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the ark-cover shall the faces of the cherubim be'.


See more of Diana Springall's work on the Axis website.

Diane Springall http://www.dianaspringall.co.uk/index.html

Diana Springall  A Brave Eye by June Hill. To be published in September by A&C Black  £24.99 

to read other interviews vist the V&A website


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