Katherine Cowtan MA (RCA)
Compulsively creative from an early age, Katherine Cowtan achieved a 1st Class Honours degree in textile design at West Surrey College of Art & Design, followed by an MA in Woven Textile Design at the Royal College of Art in London.
After college she worked for 15 years as a freelance woven textile designer, initially producing innovative silk fabrics at the historic Whitchurch Silk Mill in Hampshire, where mixing fine yarns to create shot silks appealed to her love of working with colour. Soon she started working with fashion designers, for whom she designed bespoke fabrics and scarves in a wider range of natural materials, which were commissioned for small scale batch production runs using several British mills. However, as the emphasis of these designs was on texture, she missed working with colour.
After moving to rural Stirlingshire with her family, she was inspired by the local landscapes. Looking for a more direct response to her surroundings and freer use of colour than weaving, she turned her focus to painting. It wasn’t long before she started selling her landscape paintings, and has never looked back!
She was ‘Artist in Residence’ at Culcreuch Castle for several years and is one of the artists listed with Wild at Art, Scotland’s travel company.
After the break from weaving she recently re-built her handloom and started designing a new collection of scarves, which she now sells, for the first time using her own label.
She sells work both locally and internationally, and enjoys teaching.
Colour from the Countryside
As a lover of the countryside and having trained as a designer Katherine’s artwork is full of natural colours, light and texture.
Lucky to live in rural Stirlingshire in the heart of Scotland, she is surrounded by beautiful landscapes, which are a rich source of inspiration, as the colours, textures & moods are constantly changing with the seasons and the weather!
Inspiration can come from near or far – maybe from views of the nearby hills seen from the bottom of her garden, more distant panoramas, or details found in nature when out walking.
Hills, bluebell woods in Spring, woodland leaves in Autumn, berries in the hedgerows or reflections in water in the nearby Loch Lomond National Park are just some of the themes she explores again & again.
When designing woven textiles Katherine often works directly with colours seen from her studio and home, or from her artwork, and sometimes from photographs taken on walks.
I have worked both as a fine artist and as a weaver. Whether working with paint or yarns my work is full of colour, light and texture.
Painting gives me the opportunity to mix and play with colours directly. Compared with the limitations and discipline of weaving, I find painting is liberating as there is much more freedom to choose how much or how little detail, complexity and variety of mark making to include.
Although I aim to convey a sense of place in my artwork, my interpretations of landscapes are also a vehicle through which I can explore elements of design and composition which interest me. Some of these include contrast, connection, relationships and balance, which often relate to and reflect real life.
I enjoy the diversity of different media, and choose the style and medium that I think is best suited to explore and represent the subject. Perhaps having started out as a weaver, I have a tendancy to build layers to increase depth of colour and texture, and am often drawn to landscapes that have interesting textures, or where I find colours naturally arranged in horizontal stripes!
'Artist & Textile Designer'
Whether creating a painting or weaving, my training as a craftsperson and textile designer forms the basis for how I process and develop ideas and compositions. I like to have a clear intention of what I am aiming for, even if it is only through the creative process that I work out how I will achieve that.
I love working with colour. When painting I use a fairly limited palette, and as a weaver the fine yarns I buy come pre-dyed in a limited range of shades. I am fascinated by how much variety of colour and effect can be created using a limited palette, and how weave structures can be used to blend, highlight or distort colours and create textures.
I am now enjoying working with colour in an abstract way, and some of the themes of contrast, balance, repetition & variety etc., which I have explored in my paintings, are perfect themes to translate and incorporate in my weaving.
Each practice has its own limitations and challenges, but these can provide different opportunities and freedom. Both practices support and feed into each other.