Sheila’s future in textiles was pretty much sealed as a child, when she saw her mother making so many of her clothes. However, absolutely no promise was shown in school needlework classes, when the teacher was heard to describe one seam as ‘like a scenic railway’. But maybe she had the gift of prophecy…! You can’t get that excited over sewing an apron, after all. Once Sheila started design classes as part of Higher Art, and discovered a talent for embroidery, it was the start of a long and happy relationship with the needle, and latterly with the sewing machine.
After various flirtations with embroidery, needlepoint, cross stitch etc, she found herself unconsciously tending to work with blocks of colour in all these crafts, and a chance visit to a quilting exhibition showed her the way forward. Some classes at Purely Patchwork in Linlithgow taught her the basics, and introduced her to Pat Archibald, who was at that time tentatively trying out some basic design classes. Sheila was lucky enough to be in right at the start of these classes, which eventually developed into Pat’s well known ‘Creative Journey’ courses. These, plus the strong background of design from school days, which gave her a strong ‘originality’ ethic (you don’t want to work anyone else’s designs except your own, was instilled in everyone at school) soon sent her on the way of designing her own pieces, and gradually growing more confidence.
The start of the Loch Lomond Quilt Show was another impetus, and helped her to take the scary jump into exhibiting her work, which was much encouraged when she was the overall winner of the Scottish competition in 2007. Forming Freewheeling, with a group of like-minded friends met at various classes, and the series of exhibitions with which this group has been involved since its formation has been a great incentive to continue developing and producing new work.
In November 2011, Sheila held an exhibition jointly with Mairi Wheeler in the Loretto Gallery in Musselburgh. It was called ‘Parallel Lives’. This was the first time either of them had exhibited in this way, and it worked very well (and they are still friends!). Closely following that, Freewheeling had their own exhibition in the same location in April 2012. You can see the work exhibited then at www.freewheeling.org.uk. In 2013, Sheila and Mairi took the plunge again, and booked another exhibition for November. This time they joined forces with Mairi’s husband Ian, who produces the most beautiful turned wooden pieces, so the exhibition was called ‘Branching Out’. Sadly the Loretto Gallery is no longer available for exhibitions, so this took place in Whitespace, off Gayfield Square in Edinburgh city centre.
Sheila’s major inspiration for her work has evolved over these years to be landscape in all its forms. As a graduate Geographer, a love of landscape has always been inside her, and it is now coming out in her work! She looks for patterns and shapes within the landscapes, and enjoys the small detail as much as the grand panorama. A dream would be to be able to fly in a small plane over almost anywhere, looking for the patterns and taking photos to use in her work. There are so many unsuspected patterns which can only be seen clearly from above.
In March 2015, Sheila was thrilled to win the Gold award in the ‘Northern Lights’ competition at the ICHF exhibition at the SECC in Glasgow. She also won Bronze in theArt Quilt category.
In September 2015, Sheila went solo for the first time, with an exhibition called ‘North’, again in the Whitespace Gallery. This was a leap into the dark, but the exhibition looked great and was well supported. Sheila had such fun doing it that she is tentatively planning a second solo exhibition, possibly for autumn 2017. However, a lot of new work needs to be produced before then……
Sheila has many other interests, such as tai chi, travelling, photography, meditation and swimming, all of which compete for her time, and all of which, in some way, complement the textile work.