Karen Jinks's picture

MEET: Kirsty Anderson of 'A Wooden Tree'

Catriona McLaughlin meets Edinburgh-based artist and designer Kirsty Anderson of 'A Wooden Tree', to learn what inspires her to produce her beautiful textiles.

Please tell us about yourself and what made you decide to become a designer.

I grew up in Burntisland, a seaside town in Fife, I then moved to Aberdeen. I've been involved in making, teaching and showing art and textiles ever since graduating. After a few years in London, I am now working and living in Edinburgh which I love. It's a fantastic city.

Having grown up in a creative environment it was never really a decision, it's been in our family for generations. My gran always talks about her mother recycling bits and bobs around the house to make trinkets. My mother studied printed textiles at Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee, my Dad is a chef and Lucy, my sister, is a fashion designer so it was always on the cards - I can't imagine doing anything else. I have a drawing from primary school where we had to draw the past, present and future. The future was me sitting at a big drawing board designing dresses -  so I am kind of close.

Do you have any formal training which applies to what you do?

I studied textiles at Gray's School of Art, graduated in 2003 and I did two fantastic work placements with Timorous Beasties and Jessica Ogden.

Photographer: Garry Maclennan

Your work has a very vintage feel to it. What do you feel accounts for your aesthetic?

Mainly because I like to use mostly old and pre-used fabric, which, when I was at Art School was not really being used that much. However there is now a massive market in vintage fabric. Certain fabrics, mostly the bold Marks and Spencer florals, evoke a lot of memories for customers or passersby at craft fairs.

Photographer: Garry Maclennan

Who or what most inspires your work?

My work takes inspiration from the past and from eclectic items which hold some history. I like to take objects apart – objects that I find randomly, mostly fabric. I then make them into something completely different while retaining some sense of their previous function. I use a lot of linen in my pieces, the kind of stuff your granny would keep in her cupboard. Tablecloths, napkins and pillowcases feature highly. I utilise a lot of embroidery and appliqué in my work as well and the forest, the sky and animals are great sources of inspiration. I also love digging around in Edinburgh's amazing range of charity shops and tatty markets give me lots of ideas too. The window of the antiques shop in St. Stephen Street is fantastic and I'm intrigued by old buildings and taxidermy exhibits. Old books are great to flick through for ideas too, I have amazing bird and countryside books.

Photographer: Garry Maclennan

Can you tell us a bit about your creative space?

We turned the living room into a studio, so it's a shared space. It is not as big as I’d like but it does the job for now. It’s a lovely space to work in, wooden floors and clean walls with a super mantelpiece to photograph my work on. My shelves are crammed; I have a lot of stuff and not enough shelves.

Mr Stag

UK Handmade loves your Mr. Stag pieces. What is your favourite piece of work and why?

I love them too and  it took a while to get him right. He had to be different from the other fake taxidermy stags and I wanted to make him my own way. I made animal heads for a "The Needles" video, which was fun to do. I have also started making Narwhals, which I love. They are so cute.

Are there any special projects you’ve been working on lately? And if so, can you tell us a bit about them?

Yes, it involves a wolf but that's all I can say.

How do you get the word out about your work and where can we buy your work?

This is the hardest bit for me and I am still learning but it is the most important. You have to get your work out there and not hide inside hoping someone will find you. I have a blog and use Facebook quite a lot. I love instagram as I find it easier to post pictures as everyone shares images and it's a fun way of showing what you’re working on. I also get involved in giveaways on craft blogs, a really good way of getting more exposure and feedback, as blog followers love to leave comments. You can buy work from my site, The Red Door Gallery and Hannah Zakari, or by email.

Photographer: Garry Maclennan

What advice would you give someone starting a creative business?

This is another tricky question as there are no set rules and everyone has done it differently. I still feel like I have a lot to learn too. Make sure you like the work you make and it shows a reflection of you as an individual. Getting your branding and name right are really important. Have an online presence, blog, facebook. I started on Etsy and Made in the Shade found me there. Research everything, you can find out pretty much anything online. Good clean photography, this is super important and something I am still trying to build on. Price all your work for profit. Work hard and then work some more. If you have faith in your work don't give up and don't be scared to ask for advice but don't bug anyone in the process. Book a few craft fairs and spread them out, make sure they’re good ones, and don't be disheartened if you don't sell anything (I have had many with poor sales) and talk to the other vendors.

What would be your dream commission?

To make a piece for a Wes Anderson film, even if it was just a stag above the mantel in one of his pan shots, would be amazing.


For more information on Kirsty's work, please visit:

Website/Blog: www.awoodentree.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/wooden-tree/1142166564267

Twitter: @awoodentree