Christine Chester

Christine Chester

Christine is an artist and teacher. She enjoys the experience of starting a project with white fabric, adding colour or texture, and then stitch.

Christine loves to work in large scale, hence her journey into quilting from embroidery.  She dyes and prints her own fabrics in order to make a range of work that includes personal art work that she exhibits regularly, and bespoke contemporary heirloom quilts.

Christine has been quilting, winning prizes and having work accepted into international shows for many years, with 2015 being a particularly successful year with a solo gallery at the international quilt show Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, focusing on a theme of  dementia (The Fragility of Memory) which was really well supported, completion of her Masters degree from Brighton University, and acceptance into the prestigious European group of artists: Quilt Art.

"I hope to keep my work fresh, contemporary and vibrant".

An Interview with Christine

1. Why did you become a designer-maker?

My textile journey has been a very long one starting with being a Young Embroiderer.  My mother was a keen embroiderer and we went together to YE workshops at Christmas every year. I then picked up stitching again when I gave up smoking when I was 25 - something to keep me occupied in the evenings.  I gradually realised this was what I wanted to do all day every day but it was a life changing event in 2000 that really galvanised me into action as I then understood there was no point in waiting for the right time; anything could happen and I didn't want to look back on my life and say - if only ...

2. What are your main influences?

Everything I see around me.

3. What part of the process excites you the most?

I love the start - getting marks and colour on to plain white fabric. But then I also really love stitching. The physical contact with the work is really important to me and seeing the work develop and change is very exciting. 

4. What would you say is important to you when it comes to designing?

Time, space and my design wall where I pin fabrics up and audition them together and apart, where I collage and where I photograph finished pieces.

5. And when it comes to choosing materials?

 I choose materials on their qualities for taking colour and texture, and when piecing, for stability.

6. Can you describe from beginning to end how a piece, selected by you, is made? Describe where the design concept came from, what influenced you, how you decided on the materials or colour, what processes did you  use etc?

I create fabrics first. I just do that when I have the time in my wet studio, experimenting with colour and mark making in order to create a palette of cloth. Later I review my fabrics and decide whether they need more process (colour) or if they can be quilted as whole cloth pieces. Occasionally I will look at dividing a piece up into smaller sections if the colours and marks suggest this to me.  As I also demonstrate when I teach, I occasionally have odd shaped pieces of fabric which need to be used along with others in a pieced 'quilt'. For these pieces I will look in my stash for other fabrics which will coordinate and contrast or decide to add them to the stash for later projects. Once I have my fabric, I select thread that will coordinate and off I go, letting the marks on the fabric speak to me as I work with my sewing machine.

7. What do you think makes you different/ unique from other makers within your genre?

I am not sure I am unique or different but I do have a sense of colour and I will persevere to get a fabric to work and in the process this can create some very unique pieces of cloth. I do have a strong sense of brand and can use different types of work to promote me as an artist and teacher.

8. What do you regard as your greatest success in your career to date?

My personal art work are textile pieces based on the fragility of memory and the effects this has on dementia sufferers and their families and carers. Work from this series has been accepted into significant international juried competitions with the most recent piece in the series accepted into the 'Oscars' of the contemporary quilt world: Quilt National 2013. This has been a huge boost for me this year.

9. From all your pieces which is your favourite and why?

I always love my latest pieces of fabric best. It drives me forward to keep making quilts and hangings.

10. What are the benefits of being a maker?

 I love the feel of fabric and being a maker keeps me in contact with that.

11. What are the disadvantages?


12. Did you have an inspirational teacher?

Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan at Committed to Cloth were hugely inspirational and remain firm friends and really supportive mentors.

13. Describe the commissioning process you employ. What aspect do you enjoy most and which do you fear the most?

Commissions begin with a chat where I try to get to understand what the client wants for the quilt, their expectations, as well as their more specific criteria. This may reveal more about their wishes than answering straightforward questions about themes and sizes etc. I prefer to see the site for the work, though this is not always possible and in those cases the chat also includes questions about light and surface. After the discussions and some planning time, I present the client with several ideas via sketches and samples to enable them to have some participation in the design process. Then I enjoy seeing the piece come to life from the initial designs and sketches, and of course, I worry that I haven't priced it correctly, as textiles is such a time heavy process, particularly stitching, along with the ever present fear that it won't hang straight if done for a wall.

14. What do you enjoy doing apart from designing and making textile pieces?

I love getting outside! Walking allows me to reconnect with the world outside my studio and gives me long distance views after such long periods spent looking at work at my fingertips.

15. If you weren't a designer/ maker what would you have liked to be?

 I am living my dream already. Can't imagine wanting to do anything else.

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