We were really pleased to meet the gorgeously colourful Cassandra Whitfield last week, Cass is a local Brighton based textile Artist, she creates unique inspiring 'wearable art' pieces that are feasts of colour. Made using hand and machine embroidery with digital print. She uses her art to up-cycle, customise and rework pre-worn clothes, designing fashion art to wear and one off wall pieces.
She recently embroidered her pair of Zola Amour ethical jeans, which we absolutely love!
Learn more about this inspiring artist and woman in our recent interview below (Available to listen to below or read):
Why do you feel it’s important to use sustainable fabrics within your work and what made you focus on it?
Cassandra: I came to the decision one day after seeing the video of the turtle with the rubbish in his mouth, there was a lot of it and the people really had trouble to pull it out. I thought to myself, ‘my god, that’s us, we’ve made that happen’ and I cried a lot and I thought I really need to do as much as I can right now. I was making my Frida Kahlo collection and I thought the best thing I could do was to use 100% GOTS fabric and from then on I decided that I would only buy second hand clothing and the other thing was to only buy sustainable fabrics. It was a decision that I had to make because I want to be more conscious and really care about the planet and I need to have a sustainable business if I’m going to do that as much as I can, as I go along, it’s going to be a learning curve.
(@richardkaby - photographer)
What’s your starting point and source of inspiration?
Cassandra: It depends really, if I get a commission, someone might already have an idea of what they want. They have probably seen my work before, so they have a general idea of what I do. I’ve done portraits before, if it’s family based I’ll go along and take some photo’s of the people in the family. I did some portraits of kids once, that was really nice. Often pop icons and famous Godesses. At the moment I’m doing a portrait of a goddess called Saranya, she’s a goddess of the dawn, so I’ll use the colours to inspire and add things like weathers and rivers. She’s a hindu goddess, so I’ll add things like the wind and the rain and make it so that her hair might be flying a bit, that sort of thing. Initially, I’ll do a bit of research and send it over the person who may want to change it a bit, it’s communications, a conversation really. I’m doing two collections a year A/W and S/S based on something that’s out there, such as an exhibition. I’d really like to do a day of the dead theme. It really is art to wear. I’m also looking to find some eco-friendly paints to paint onto the clothes.
What’s the most important message you want to convey within your work?
Cassandra: It's about doing what you want to do and making it as sustainable and ethical as possible. Really sticking to your true self. I’m really into that at the moment. I’ve tried to adapt myself to other people in the past and simply ended up unhappy. I do my work from a place of truth and urm if I don’t think something is going to work then I’ll speak my mind and aim to get the work done to the best end. A good example is the Frida Kahlo collection ‘everything Frida’ and I tried to make clothes, this dress that had pin tucks in it and twin needle seams. It worked and it looked really nice, but I didn’t enjoy the process. So I think the process is just as important as the final thing for me, in a way. I’m hoping that my work shows that I’m sticking to who I really am, so that is really what it is for me.
What’s your design process when working on a piece and what’s your favourite part of it?
Cassandra: Definitely the embroidery. I love being on my machine, it’s like a meditation for me it’s helped me through sometimes when I’m feeling anxious and really depressed, I find it to be a healing power. It’s just really helpful for me and makes me feel happy inside. So yeah, the free-hand embroidery is really what I enjoy. But I have recently got back into paining and I used to paint a lot as well. Urm so my Frida images are based on paintings that I’ve done. So the process is, I will research something, then I’ll create some drawings from that and then choose the ones that I like the best. I’ll think about how I want them placed on the clothes and I’ll either get them digitally printed and then stitch over the top or, with my one off bespoke designs I’ll carbon copy them onto calico and add the silk pieces. I’ll sew through first the features of the faces and I’ll either put it onto a canvas or add it onto what ever garment.
How do you like to experiment within your work?
Cassandra: I want to experiment more with the painting, it takes a long time to do the process, so I’m always looking to speed it up a bit. It can cost a lot to produce fabric in the way that I do and although my work is really worth it, people can get a little shocked by the price so I’d like to get it digitally printed and stitch over the top or do painting which takes less time and then stitch over the top.
Why are you passionate about working with colour?
Cassandra: Oh god!! I love colour! Colour makes me feel alive! I work as well as foing my art and I don’t feel that I’m allowed to dress as colourfully as I’d like and it drags the soul out of me. I have to be around colour, it makes me happy. If I’m wearing colourful clothes, it just makes me have a good day. I love being surrounded by people that are wearing colour as well. It just makes me really happy and is inspiring. It’s really nice to share the joy of colour with the world.
What art mediums do you work with? Do you combine any?
Cassandra: Although we’ve covered this, I’d really like to do collaborations with other people. Its mainly the painting and stitching, it’s art to wear.
How do you source sustainable and up-cycled fabrics?
Cassandra: For the collections I did, I got my fabrics from spoon flower, they were the only ones that printed on sustainable fabrics. Other than that I got them from mauds fabric designs. I was trying to get some organic calico. I go to charity shops to get second hand clothing and old curtains and scarves. I would like to go to the vintage market when they do the vintage weighing in thing which is coming up soon.
When did you start your work and what made you start doing it?
Cassandra: Oh my goodness… I started making art. Do you know what, on my talk, the healing power of art I talk about it. My Mum and Dad split up when I was at school and I felt really lonely and then I remembered this situation when I was given some sugar paper, you know the really brown shiny paper and a big fat blue crayon. I remember the time when the crayon hit the paper and I started making big blue squiggles and it made me feel so good inside and finally I had a connection to something, I was feeling really isolated. That was the very first time I made art. Then I did art at school and went to fashion college for BTEC and got really into Vivienne Westwood and John Paul Gauliter and it just carried on from there and it has never really stopped. Even when I traveled around south east Asia. I like writing as well, I was always writing and drawing as well. I partied hard in Essex and didn’t do much then, but then really wanted to go back to college and went back and got my degree when I was about 21. So yeah, it’s just been on going. I’m always doing something, even when I’m at work. I’m always doodling.
What’s your greatest achievement to date?
Cassandra: I’ve never given up, I’ve always gone back to it and I’ve always thought ‘I can do this’ and now even more so. I think that, I have to make it part of my life and do it everyday. Even now I have to do it… So I guess the greatest achievement to date is not stopping, not giving up. Always getting closer to what ever it is and focusing on finding my purpose.
What’s been your favourite project and why?
Cassandra: That’s hard! I think, my favourite project would’ve been doing the sewing circle re-thread last year at ST Pancras hospital because it combined two things, the gallery is actually in the hospital. It’s there for people with mental health issues to go and look at it. It’s open to the public as well and is a combination of stitch, painting, cloth and jewellery, so much different stuff. It is really well put together by the arts project. Peter Herbert and Elaine Harpguay set this up. It was also amazing to meet Sue Kreitzman, who's a n absolute colour Goddess and an inspiration of mine
I really believe in the power of art and the healing it has, so the patients can look. It was combining those two things massively, just meeting loads of really brilliant people that are really into doing what they do again. I felt really lucky to meet people and to get introduced to all these lovely people that have so much in common. It was really nice. I love the thought of people with mental health issues being able to see the art as part of their day, it’s in the hospital. It’s so forward thinking.
(@richardkaby - photographer)
Want to know more:
Current projects: Frida Kahlo capsule collection. ‘Everything Frida’
Thank you for reading!