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Friday 29 October 2021

Llinos Owen: Thank Your Lucky Stars

Thank Your Lucky Stars is an exhibition of tapestries by Llinos Owen, inspired by her experiences throughout lockdown during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The show speaks to the impact long-term isolation has with regards to mental health and offers an abundance of original artwork to purchase.  

The show is currently on display at Orleans House Gallery and runs until Tuesday 2 November. 

Llinos shares her story with us below

I was in the final term of my Fine Art degree during the first lockdown and therefore I was away from my usual studio space and away from all the facilities that were available at my university at Wimbledon College of Arts, London. I moved back to North Wales during this uncertain time but art school continued virtually and therefore my making had to continue too.

At this point my practice was already textiles based, but mainly focusing on hand embroidery and printmaking. I was searching for new techniques and materials that were accessible and safe to work with from home, and that’s how I was introduced to punch needle rug hooking.

I turned to social media such as Instagram as the main source of inspiration during my introduction to punch needle rug hooking as we couldn’t visit galleries or exhibitions due to the pandemic. I would say that viewing different textile artists and forms of textile arts online definitely influenced my practice, developing it into what it is today. 

Punch needle rug hooking is a weaving technique that began during the 1980s where rugs and textile designs are created by looping yarn through a woven fabric such as hessian or monks cloth with a punch needle tool. The punch needle punctures the fabric and creates downwards loops that are placed very tightly together which creates tension so that the loops and design keeps in place. Punch needle rug hooking is different from other forms of weaving such as latch hook, traditional rug hooking and tufting with a tufting gun.

Traditional rug hooking uses a hook to weave pieces of textiles and yarn through the backing and hooks the yarn upwards whereas punch needle rug hooking punches and create loops downwards. Latch hooking knots the yarn with each stitch whereas the loops made with a punch needle creates tension which keeps the loops from unravelling without any knots. Tufting with an electric tufting gun creates the same end result as a punch needle but it’s definitely a lot quicker.

I choose to use a punch needle to create my works as I love to have full control of every stitch, it feels more organic and free and the laborious element of the technique definitely adds a meditative aspect to my making and process. I love the imperfections created with a punch needle, not every stitch is perfectly the same size and I feel like the imperfections and the handmade feel of my process definitely compliments the personal themes of my practice. 

The tapestries can take from a few days to over a month to create from start to finish, it completely depends on the design and scale of the piece. I always start off my larger works with the figures, beginning with the details of the faces; it’s always the most exciting and enjoyable part for me.

I currently create all my textile works from my bedroom in South London. I’ve been solely creating and working from my bedroom studio for over a year now and my practice has definitely changed due to my working environment. My bed is surrounded by rug making tools, endless balls of yarn and a pile of rolled up textile works. My bedroom walls are filled with notes, sketches and textile samples. Finished works are hung on the walls all around the space too.

The room has definitely become more of an art studio with a bed rather than a bedroom filled with artwork and materials.   

My practice is conceptually very personal as the beginnings of every piece comes from a thought and notes from my diary. The pieces are then developed in a very personal and vulnerable environment which definitely compliments the themes of my practice. Although working from home wasn’t originally a choice, it became a very important part of my making and thinking. I’m inspired by my personal thoughts, experiences, and vulnerability so working in a space which represents all those themes definitely goes hand in hand with my practice.  

My practice definitely developed during the pandemic, not only materially but also conceptually. It has always been somehow focused on identity, usually linking back to my Welsh heritage or personal experiences. I’ve been writing off and on in a diary for as long as I can remember; it has always served me as a coping mechanism to deal with my thoughts since I could write and draw.

When I moved from North Wales to London in 2017, diary writing became a very regular occurrence within my life as I struggled a lot with loneliness and anxiety. When the pandemic began, I began writing again to cope and document my thoughts and fears surrounding the pandemic and the internal struggles I experienced.

During this time, as we couldn’t go out, see friends, visit galleries and live a normal life, the focus of my practice just naturally shifted to my thoughts and to what I’d written down in my diary. I strangely enjoyed the process of taking my anxieties and thoughts and transforming them into works. It became almost like a healing process, taking something quite dark and turning it into something purposeful or pleasing. 

Since then, I kept on writing and using my diary as my main source of inspiration to create works based on thoughts and personal struggles as well as influential moments and individuals who have positively impacted my life. Looking back, the link between my writing and my visual art practice was a completely natural and almost obvious progression that will now always play an important role within my practice. The themes of my diary will forever be changing, with future unknown experiences and personal influential moments. Therefore, it’s also very exciting for me as an artist to know that the themes of my works will also always change and evolve as I will always rely on living, experiencing, observing, writing and existing as inspiration for my making.  

The exhibition is part of a programme devised to support emerging artists to establish and maintain a career in the arts.  

Click here to find out more about the Emerging Artist programme and the other artists involved.