Sheila has been involved in some form of textile work for as long as she can remember. She was a child in the days when your mother made your clothes, and early memories of this involve standing very still with her arms straight out, to avoid being scratched by all the pins! No early promise was shown at school where needlework lessons were the norm, but things looked up when Sheila decided to study Higher Art. She was incredibly fortunate in her teachers, especially in the design and embroidery side of the course, and this influenced much of her future work.
After dabbling in various textile art forms such as cross stitch and silk painting, Sheila discovered quilting after a chance visit to a show in Perth, and she instantly knew this was the direction she wanted to take. Lessons with Pat Archibald at Purely Patchwork, in Linlithgow taught her the basics, and also taught her that she was never going to be one of those clever quilters who could match perfect points. However, she soon discovered the world of art quilting. The start of the Loch Lomond Quilt Show, which ran for ten years, gave a gentle introduction into exhibiting, as everyone was encouraged to enter the competitions they ran. Sheila won the overall competition in 2007, which was definitely a turning point for her, and gave her the confidence to follow her own whim in the work she did.
Through the classes in Linlithgow, Sheila met a group of like-minded friends, and eventually they formed the exhibiting group now known as Freewheeling. Over the years, Frewwheeling have been incredibly supportive, putting on several exhibitions. When there was a lull in exhibiting, Sheila joined forces with Mairi Wheeler, and together they put on two exhibitions, first ‘Parallel Lives’, followed by ’Branching Out’, with Mairi’s husband Ian, who was a runaway success with his beautiful wood work.
When Mairi wanted to take a break from exhibiting due to family commitments, Sheila had to decide whether to go it alone or not. She took the plunge with much trepidation, and her first solo exhibition, ‘North’, took place in 2015. She had an incredible amount of support for this, from the quilting community and beyond, and felt brave enough to do it all again two years later, in 2017, this time in the Dundas Street Gallery, with ‘North and South’. This move into the gallery quarter of Edinburgh was an interesting one, and opened up Sheila’s work to a much broader public.
Sheila’s major inspiration for her work has evolved over all these years to be landscape in all its forms. She is as interested in the fine detail as in the broader picture, and one particular pleasure is to do a series of small pieces each year about a place she has visited. 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 landscape, a dream would be it 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.
Textile work with landscape has now become so much a part of Sheila’s life that she cannot imagine life without it. So it was a natural progression to plan a further solo exhibition. This was ‘North South East West’, and it took place in the Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ from 8th to 15th February 2020. It was sheer good luck that the exhibition ran just before lockdown, hopefully everyone enjoyed it. Plans for a future exhibition have, of necessity been delayed, but the gallery has been booked for 4th to 11th February 2023, in the hope that by then life may have returned to a better form of normal. The title will be ‘The Frustrated Traveller’, reflecting all the travel opportunities that might have been but couldn’t. It is a chance to look for enthusiasm and ideas much closer to home, and to look back at travelling done in previous years.