Rosalind Wyatt initially trained as a calligrapher, but textiles are in her blood (both her grandfather and great-grandfather were Savile Row tailors, while her great-aunt did fine embroidery for couture) so she always knew that text-based work would only ever be a part of her professional practice. The idea of writing with a needle – or “transewing” as she calls this self-taught technique – came about as a result of some research she had undertaken while studying at the Royal College of Art. Having spent several days immersed in old letters in the British Library, she became fascinated by the handwritten ones and so decided to try to replicate them in stitch.
Since 2001, Wyatt’s exquisite and moving artworks are bringing her international acclaim. She has recently completed a two-piece commission for the Fortnum & Mason boardroom, while in 2012, a gallery in Zurich staged an exhibition of her fabric, paper and stitched collages. But she is still determined to find time for private work.
Commissioning Wyatt can be straightforward – the actor Jude Law asked her to stitch his children’s and siblings’ signatures onto a scarf as a gift for his mother – but for most clients, the first meeting at Wyatt’s southwest London studio marks the start of a journey of discovery. For example, one gentleman arrived wanting a present for his wife to mark their 10th wedding anniversary. Several months later, Wyatt presented him with an antique tin box (tin being the material that signifies a decade’s marriage) containing six Irish linen napkins monogrammed with the initials of each member of his family, and a celebration napkin bearing a letter to his wife, hand-stitched by Wyatt in replica script (first picture). Another client arrived wanting a stitched jacket and left with a silk pashmina stitched with petals and quotes from Anaïs Nin (second picture).
“There are no set rules,” Wyatt says, “and I will do my best to stitch onto anything. But I do always say to people that we won’t end up where we think we will when we start. It’s all about making connections and finding resonances.” And creating beautiful, intimate works of art that will last a lifetime.