Abigail Brown Textile Sculptor - London, UK

Originally you were introduced to textiles by your grandmother, was this what lead you to becoming a textile artist?

From a very early age I was surrounded by fabric, threads and the sound of the sewing machine they became very familiar to me. As I grew and developed an interest in making and drawing, cutting and sticking, fabric would often find its way into what I created. When I got to Art College I felt happiest in the textiles room. Combining my interest in drawing with stitch and fabric; so going onto study a degree it was obvious to choose Surface Decoration which would allow me to work with both.

I enjoyed my degree but longed to be on the Decorative Artefacts course with my housemate. She would come home with all kinds of wonderful experiments in fabric, clay, and latex… all explorations into finding the medium she would use to create her final body of craft pieces. I learnt from her that that whole world existed and that it was possible to be part of it so coming out of university I started to explore what I could make myself and that’s where it all began.

Great Tit

Can you explain how studying for your BA in Surface Decoration and Printed Textiles lead you to make bird sculptures in textiles?

It was through explorations in fabric that I brought drawings of animals to life, more as little characters, stylised illustrations that became plush toys. A friend asked me if I could make her a bird to go in a cage she’d been given and that was the first one I made. It wasn’t any more complex than that!

Since moving to London you have a studio at Cockpit Arts. How important is this location to your work and success?

Cockpit Arts has a wonderful reputation for housing some of the best designer/makers the UK has to offer, so instantly being in here gives you stamp of approval. Having a central London location is helpful and the twice yearly open studios; opens us up to the public which in turn brings success.

There is a business mentoring system in place here which is covered by our rent and that can be invaluable help for makers getting started in business. It’s tough, so it’s great to have help at any step of the way.

Can you take us for a peek into your studio space?

It’s usually very messy; I can’t tidy as I go so until I’m finished with an order it will be chaos in here! I like to surround myself with work I’ve made and inspiration from wherever I’ve found it. I’m enjoying building a little plant collection too so I can see some green when I’m working long hours.

My fabrics are all categorised by colour which helps me locate what I need quickly. The plastic boxes that house them aren’t very pretty but it’s the only way to do it really.

I share my room with 3 other makers and enjoy their company hugely. We share ideas, help each other through tricky patches and share tea rounds! I’m very lucky to be where I am.

How do you go about preparing a new bird sculpture?

I start with internet research, pulling off photos of the bird from all different angles from this I can get an idea of its form in full.

Grey Wagtail

From that I sketch out my body template and sew this in fabric. The body has a wire insert to form the beak and legs and around that is the stuffing, toy stuffing packed very very tightly so that it creates the body shape. The rest is a process of cutting, sticking and layering the fabrics, constantly referring back to the photos to get the colours and patterns as close as I can. Finally I stitch in the detail, which secures the fabrics a little better and really brings it to life.

Birds are recognizable by their shape and colour, can you expand on this?

I research new birds all the time and unless I have a theme to work to, will just make whichever most appeals at the time.

Blue Budgie

How do you decide on the size of each bird you make?

I research new birds all the time and unless I have a theme to work to, will just make whichever most appeals at the time.


Why birds?

I do make other animals but in recreating as true to life as possible, birds allow me to use so much colour and vibrancy which I love. Animals don’t generally venture past grey, white, black and brown. Also the forms are so much more complex and would be far more costly as finished pieces, I doubt I’d sell that many if I made them with the same techniques!

‘The Flock’

Do you do commissions to customer’s specific request of a bird?

Yes, a lot of my work is recreating a customer’s favourite bird. It’s nice to do that, they’re often very excited to see the results and it’s more of a surprise as they can’t yet imagine how it will be.

Do you have a time limit for each bird?

I work to time limits reproducing species I’ve already made so that they come out at the same time and cost, but making new pieces it takes what it takes and if it’s too expensive for anyone to buy I get to keep it for myself!



You do workshops. Can you explain how these operated and details for places?

I don’t do this very often and it’s not something that will become a big part of what I do. But it’s nice to pass something onto somebody and see them enjoy it.

I have run a series of small workshops from my London studio and it’s been very enjoyable if a little exhausting!


Contact details.

Email: Abigail@abigail-brown.co.uk

Web: www.abigail-brown.co.uk


Abigail Brown, London, UK

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, June, 2013