Mormon Artist

Adele Thomas

Adele Thomas is a textile artist, creating decorative textiles out of natural fibers such as cotton, silk, and wool. She and her husband have three daughters and live in Devon in the United Kingdom. Website
Photo courtesy Mike Thomas

What came first, textiles or art?

Textiles came first; as far back as I can remember I was drawn to colourful fabrics with wonderful textures. There was quite a strong craft movement in the 1970s in England—many clothes had embroidery on them and I really wanted some embroidered flares. It was a very colourful time. At school we were allowed to “make things” every Friday afternoon and that was one of my favourite memories in my childhood.

Is there any other profession that you’ve thought seriously about pursuing or perhaps just dreamt about?

Before my husband became ill I was a behaviour support worker for children with behavioural problems and/or learning difficulties. I enjoyed that job for the most part. It was extremely challenging sometimes, but I felt I was making a difference in young people’s lives.

When I had to give that up, I had the opportunity to study something I really loved passionately, so I decided to go back to school.

I had no idea how intense the amount of work was, though, and I am not too sure whether it was good for my family or not to have me that busy. But we survived, and I’m sure that for my two daughters who still lived at home, it set a good example of getting an education, working hard, and sticking at it however difficult it gets. I also want them to follow President Hinckley’s advice to get as much education as possible.

Photo courtesy Mike Thomas

When do you feel most like an artist?

That’s a good question. I wish I felt like an artist more of the time. I feel most like an artist when I am still enough to be inspired by the beautiful countryside around me, when I can absorb the wonders of creation and the power of God’s hand, when I can then record the impressions down into a sketchbook, stick things in—leaves, photos, seeds—and, when I have the time, develop some work to come from that.

The advice to ponder is essential to me. With the hectic lives we live in the Western world, our culture is not conducive to having time to think, ponder, and pray, and this interferes with my creative process. I have been told many times there is a season for everything and I have faith that time will come eventually. Managing multiple demands is not my strong point, obviously.

Photo courtesy Mike Thomas

When you are creating, how is an idea born?

I have quite a methodical approach to my work. I would love to say my work is spontaneous, but that would not be true. I start off with a design source—that can be from a walk, a thought, a memory, or even something someone says. I put those ideas into a workbook, trying to capture the feeling of that inspiration. While this happens, ideas come to me of ways to interpret that into fabric. There are many techniques to choose from and I experiment until the right one leaps out. The design begins to take on a life and spirit of its own. Sometimes, if I have to produce work too quickly, this gets cut short and I feel I could be missing something important.

Photo courtesy Mike Thomas

What goals do you have for your career as a textile artist above and beyond what you’ve already accomplished?

I have many goals to develop my career. I believe it is an intrinsic part of womanhood to create, but so many are put off through bad experiences or lack of time. I would like to write a book or DVD to show how wonderful results can be achieved very easily. The sense of achievement when you look at your own handiwork is enormous and is excellent for increasing self-worth.

Knowing how to make elegant clothes and how to beautify our homes by our own hand is, I believe, important to our spiritual and emotional well-being. I would like to talk to women in developing countries and encourage them to keep their traditional arts and crafts alive and not to abandon them.

Photo courtesy Mike Thomas

What role do your beliefs play in your art?

My beliefs play a huge role in my art. I am aware that this amazing world was created for us and I never feel closer to my Heavenly Father and Saviour Jesus Christ than when I am in nature. It brings peace and comfort into my often hectic life. Nature is frequently the inspiration for my work—I think of the Lord’s hand in creating it, and I feel his hand in my work also.

What’s your ideal day like when you are creating?

I have not had an ideal day for creating yet. I like to concentrate on one thing at a time, but I juggle being a mother and wife, having two or three callings, and teaching for West County Embroiderers. So if I were given an ideal day to create, I would go for an early morning walk, make some sketches, go into my art shed, and spend several hours playing around—felting, dyeing and stitching. Textiles are very time-consuming. I would hopefully have a good bank of samples by the end of the day and know where I was going for the next day’s work. So maybe that’s something I have to look forward to one day.

Photo courtesy Mike Thomas

You wrote about fear on your website and how it affects you as an artist. How do you usually overcome this obstacle?

I overcome my fear with faith now. It has taken me some time to realise I can do that. There are several scriptures that give me confidence, and prayer really helps too. I know those are the typical answers but they actually work. I want my art to uplift those who see it, and who better to ask for help than the Lord of creation?

Photo courtesy Mike Thomas

How does your family support you in what you do? How do they inspire you?

My family has been a huge support to me, especially while I was retraining—particularly my middle daughter Tamara and youngest daughter Enya. They helped cook, clean, shop—just about everything. In fact, the last project I made fell apart in my hands the day before it was due in for assessment. Enya help me get organised enough to start again at 10 pm. I can honestly say that without them, I would not be where I am now.

Photo courtesy Mike Thomas

On your website you talk about having time to take walks on Fingle Bridge and visit Corfe Castle. How does your love of Devon affect you creatively?

I make the time to walk in the countryside because in a lot of ways it is the heart of my inspiration. It is damp and grey for most of the year here, so if I don’t make the effort to get out in spring and summer and enjoy the greenness, I miss out on some of the best blessings in my life. I feel God’s love through nature and I want to share that through my work.

Tell us about your favorite piece.

I do not have a favourite piece of work, since each piece almost gets a personality and spirit of its own. If I were really pushed then maybe the abstract “A Day at the Beach,” made from my dad’s recycled work shirts. It ended up being a very personal work because it was like stitching my memories together.

Photo courtesy Mike Thomas

What is frustrating about your work and what do you find most rewarding?

The most frustrating aspect of my work is that I lack somewhere fit to work. A shed at the bottom of the garden sounds lovely but it would likely get too cold and damp in the winter.

The most rewarding time is when people look at my work and the colours and designs make them feel happy. Colour is very emotionally healing and is good for uplifting mood.

What was it like creating your piece based on Walter de la Mere’s poem “When the Rose is Faded”?

It was emotional. Because I am middle-aged now, my face is different than it used to be. My body’s different, too. Inside I still feel like I am eighteen and I always get a little shock when I look into the mirror.

Talking to my friends, I find many of us feel that we have faded from the beauty of our youth, but inside we still feel the same. It can leave me feeling a little sad but inside there is still beauty.

Photo courtesy Mike Thomas

What are your favorite parts of the creative process?

My favourite parts of the process are getting out of the house for the initial inspiration, the design development, and the creating of the piece.

I am never as happy with the finished work as I would like to be. I am very critical of my work and I always wish it were better.

What’s your favorite medium?

I have no favourite medium other than natural fibres. I like to work with wool, cotton, linen, and silk. They can all be dyed and they feel right in my hands. I use many different techniques that give my work a varied look. I do not have a certain style and I am thinking now my work never will.

How does your art make you more complete or whole as a person?

My grandfather told me to choose a job I love and I will never work again. I can say this is exactly how I feel when I am working. When I come out of my shed I feel so happy and I know I am doing exactly what I should be. That feels good to know. ❧

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