We were first introduced to textile artist Lorraine Turner last Fall. She had taken a class with Aurifil Designer Sophie Standing which led her to start working with Aurifil threads. (Check out Sophie’s collection here.) She sent us an email, thanking us for the thread, singing its praises, and attached two images of projects that she’d recently completed. We were immediately smitten, for obvious reasons. Lorraine is incredibly talented and what she is able to accomplish with machine, fabric, and thread is nothing short of remarkable.
We’ve been working on ways to feature her work and settled on a 3-part series — to introduce you to her and to her work, to showcase some of the techniques she uses, and also to give an idea of how you might take steps to work on techiniques like these on your own.
So, without further pause, please say hello to Lorraine!
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how your creative journey brought you to the world of textile art and thread painting?
I first began creating hand-painted and embellished clothing for children to sell at craft fairs during the 1980s. This expanded into displaying at children’s boutique trade shows and I was excited because my sales were now worldwide. But I was quite naïve and I found my trusted art rep was a thief who stole my portfolio, passing off my work off as her own. I was devastated and needed to start fresh. Although I enjoyed making one-of-a-kind items, I realized that I had to learn how to make my designs camera-ready for multiple purposes. I enrolled in art school and right after I graduated was hired as one of the lead designers for the Philadelphia 76ers, a professional basketball team in the U.S.. From there I went on to my current profession as the art director for The Library of American Comics, a business I co-own with my husband. In the spring of 2016, my journey came full circle when I switched my personal art from computer graphics and watercolors to textile art and thread painting. It just felt totally natural.
What within your life inspires your art?
Meditation is key for me. I rely more on my inner voice and connection to nature than to anything else. Using a simple 15-minute silent daily meditation has increased my creativity, along with improving my health. It all begins within. My love for nature and the animals encourages me to create with a passion of purpose.
We’d love to hear more about your connection with animals and how it informs your process.
In 2010 I needed to find a way to calm my chattering mind because I was juggling so many graphic design projects. I began to meditate in silence. I realize this may sound far-fetched, but it was through these daily meditations that I began seeing images of galloping horses covered in calico fabric. This went on for months and I slowly realized they were communicating about their struggle for survival. To my surprise I learned that there actually were wild horses called “the Calicos,” named after the colorful Calico Mountains in the southwest. They were being rounded up, separated from their families, and many sold for slaughter. So in 2014 I published a novel called “Calico Horses and the Patchwork Trail.” This is a story to help children of divorce connect with young horses separated from their families. It was through this experience that my animal communications deepened and I now use this in every textile illustration. I create art to help endangered animals. They often guide me through the process and have even critiqued my work! I teach this process of meditation-art in workshops and seminars to children as young as eight—visiting schools, community centers, animal sanctuaries, and Native American reservations.
What do you love most about the process of creating through your textile art?
I love the adventure of not really knowing what will come next. I approach my art studio like I am going on a journey. Every illustration feels like a story, as the animals continue showing me images through meditation. I then sketch what is shown and try and capture everything in textiles. I love telling their story!
When did you first discover Aurifil threads and what do you love most about using them in your artwork?
I learned about Aurifil from Sophie Standing, from whom I took my one and only textile workshop. She is not only a brilliant teacher, she is a gifted artist, and her simple explanation of the superiority of Aurifil compared to other brands really opened my eyes. I am very grateful for the introduction, as it has enhanced my work tremendously. Thank you, Sophie! I now use Aurifil exclusively because I love the vast selection of colors that help me blend with subtle shading. I especially love how I can use Aurifil threads to create texture—such as fur, lacey flora and fauna, and long tails and manes.
Is there a particular technique that is a favorite?
I absolutely love adding embellishments to my art—such as vintage doilies, bridal lace, eyelash silk, and dyed cheese-cloth. I approach every illustration like a kid with a box of crayons and NO rules! I really just work intuitively and allow the fabrics and threads to guide me. I stumbled upon my favorite technique by accident. I was trying to create a horse’s mane and needed it to be a specific color. I have every shade of Aurifil grey 50 wt. cotton and thought that I might be able to create the look of a flying mane using water-soluble stabilizer and thread painting the mane in every shade of grey. The look I achieved was exactly what I was hoping for! I now use this technique in all of my work, as it really adds life to the many animals depicted in my textile illustrations.
Do you have any favorites pieces that you’d like to highlight?
“Calico Messengers” is the cover of my first book and is near and dear to my heart. “The Wind Whisperers” conveys the communications brought through the song of the wolves, in which I used sheer fabrics (such as organza and metallic-laced tulle) to help depict wind, and also included a bee to symbolize flight. “The Heart of the Camargue” is also a favorite because I have traveled to this natural park and preserve in the south of France and communicated with the animals that are featured. It is quite captivating and is the home for flocks of pink flamingos and shimmering white wild horses. I used numerous shades of Aurifil 50 wt pinks, reds, and peaches to create the feathers that break the vignetted borders.
What are you working on now and where can we see you throughout the coming year?
I’m currently working on “Angels Amongst Us.” I have been visited by many large cats in recent meditations. All of the animals show themselves in their natural environment and this particular Siberian tiger lives among the birch forests of Russia. I’ve also incorporated many animals into the tree to symbolize the relationship of sharing natural resources within all aspects in nature. The background was created using a wet-felting technique with merino wool, tussah silk, banana fibers, and silk noil. I especially loved creating the fur using Aurifil whites and greys to depict the subtle changes in light and shadow. I’ll share more about that process in the next few days!
I never rush my work. I just allow it to flow naturally and I want to enjoy every stitch. I’m also working on “Yet a Warm Heart,” in which I’m combining my love of felting with textile embroidery to illustrate this endangered snow leopard. The blue background is a fine example of my favorite materials. My textiles are a combination of repurposed cast-offs, vintage ties, and cotton fabrics from designers such as Martha Negley, Philip Jacobs, Kaffe Fasset, Michael Miller, and Liberty of London.
Where to find me in 2018
Throughout the year I will be teaching workshops at an Art Center near my hometown in Clearwater, Florida. I will also be traveling to Italy in June to teach two textile embroidery workshops. One in Assisi, which is remarkable as it happens to be home to the patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi; the other in La Spezia. The rest of my time I’ll be busy creating art for exhibits in hopes of raising funds for endangered animals.
We’d like to thank Lorraine for taking the time to chat with us! Stay tuned for new posts tomorrow and Sunday, detailing more about Lorraine’s process and how you might get started on your own creative journey!
As a young girl, motivational speaker and author/illustrator Lorraine Turner was told she would never make it as an artist yet went on to become a two-time Emmy winner for her work as one of the lead designers for a professional sports team in the US. The National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers.
Lorraine has created award winning children’s activity books and is a multiple Eisner Award Nominee in her role as Art Director for the Library of American Comics – a company she co-owns with her husband Dean Mullaney.
After surviving years of abuse she became a team leader for the first community Domestic Violence Response Team in New Jersey and helped the Attorney General’s Office form the police guidelines which are still being used today.
Lorraine uses her own life experiences and travels world-wide as a motivational speaker encouraging all ages from teens searching a career to seniors desiring adult education.
Today, with the help of meditation, she happily writes, illustrates, and teaches others to follow their dreams.
She is a living testimony to the power of moving thoughts into action.
*All images and text courtesy of Lorraine Turner (with exception to the intro!)