This story first appeared in Cross Stitch Crazy magazine issue 232.
Living in the Irish countryside is perfect for Clare’s creative life – surrounded by fields and flowers, she has plenty of places to look for new ideas. In particular, she loves sketching the birds who visit her garden, which is why Crazy asked her to design the beautiful hoop projects on page 28. We take a moment to step behind the scenes…
Did you enjoy your first project for us?
Designing the bird hoops for Crazy was really a dream commission for me. Birds are one of my all-time favourite subjects and they frequently appear in my work.I loved the whole process, from creating the initial watercolour sketches, combining the different foliage with each bird, to digitising the final designs. I love how the final versions turned out! It’s amazing to see them in a collection together as finished cross stitch. They’d really brighten up any wall in your home!
What makes you so interested in birds and animals?
I’ve always been inspired by nature. As a child, I had this great big book of the British countryside – it was packed full of all kinds of illustrations of birds, butterflies, insects and plants. I think everything was in there! I used to practice drawing different things from it. I found it totally fascinating! Now I like to work from life as often as I can.
You can see so much more when studying something in real life. I just have to take a walk around the garden and something will always catch my eye. The colours, shapes, textures and forms in nature provide endless inspiration.
Can you tell us a little about your everyday life?
I live in the countryside in the south west of Ireland in Limerick. It’s a couple of miles to the nearest village and we’re surrounded by fields and forests. I love it! I work from home and I’m lucky enough to have my own little studio. It can be difficult to juggle work and family life sometimes, but I try my best to keep a balance.
We have a dog called Woofles (my daughter Isabelle named him!) – being a Collie cross he’s a bundle of energy and keeps us all busy. He has his own area in the garden, so the birds and my plants can live in peace! I like to get out to the garden whenever I can. It really clears my head when I’ve been stuck inside for a while.
Do you enjoy being a craft designer?
From a young age drawing, painting and crafts were my main hobbies, so I always knew I’d work in a creative field of some form or another! I do a variety of creative work, including commission work for craft magazines – mostly paper crafts.
I really love the diversity of projects that come my way. I’m never bored! I love cross stitch and embroidery, and in the past year I’ve discovered needle felting, which is an amazing craft and the first time I’ve really worked in 3D. It’s very tactile. I mostly make wool sculptures of birds, but I do like to experiment with 2D needle felting, as well as combining it with embroidery. I still take on painting commissions from time to time – when I can fit them in!
What’s your own experience of stitching?
Most of the cross stitch projects I’ve worked on have been fairly small scale. I love making little pieces of jewellery. I can get bored working on a project if it’s taking too long, so I like working on smaller projects that don’t take too much time. I have more experience with embroidery.
I love the amazing variety of stitches there are and the freedom you have with embroidery. I’ve just recently learned how to make pretty three-dimensional roses using a combination of stitches.
How did you learn to stitch?
My mum had the complete set of Golden Hands magazines from the 70s – they were like an encyclopaedia of crafts. When I was a child I used to flick through them and experiment with the different types of embroidery stitches. These days I’d look to YouTube if I wanted to learn something new, but I do still buy books and magazines too.
What’s your favourite type of project to work on?
I love the design process, so I do enjoy getting a brief, coming up with ideas, refining a design and seeing the finished project. I also like variety in my creative work and often I just like to make things with my hands. Recently I made a life-sized needle felted Barn owl. It took quite a while but I love the finished piece!
What exciting plans do you have for the future?
I’m opening an Etsy shop called Mossy Meadow. It’s going to be a mix of my illustration work and things I make, but it will all be inspired by nature.
Visit Clare’s brand shop at themossymeadow.etsy.com, or follow her on Instagram @buswellclare