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Cognissart – Sunday Artist Interview

Over the next coming Sundays I shall be posting my own artist interviews with some of my favourite people who reside in this multitalented world of art… Today we have the the wonderful Alison Wake to answer a few questions… over to you Alison!

First of all, who are you?

Hi, I’m Alison Wake, aka Cognissart, a textile artist living in the heart of the Peak District National Park. I specialise in hand stitched landscapes, predominantly using locally sourced, hand dyed wool. I’m not a professional embroiderer – rather a fine artist whose chosen medium is stitch – I paint with thread and yarn. I live with my husband, 11 year old son and chocolate Labrador in a little known village in the Derbyshire Dales. Maybe one day I will put Flagg on the map.

When you were asked (all those years ago!), “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  What did you answer?

Whatever my big sister was doing at the time! At six I wanted to be a nurse, by the time my sister had changed career and was at university studying fine art I wanted to be an artist. Life, and a penchant for STEM subjects got I the way however, and I ended up with a varied career in laboratory science (I trained as a haematologist), followed by scientific sales and marketing. Now it seems I’ve finally realised my dream and have been a professional artist for just over 2 years now.

What is the funniest thing as an artist that has ever happened to you?

I can’t think of anything funny “haha” but the strangest thing that happened to me was getting an Instagram message from the Tate (yes THE Tate!). I didn’t believe it to begin with and nearly deleted it as I thought is was a hoax. But they did really want to speak to me and I ended up doing a takeover on their Instagram feed for one day in February 2018. Getting my work seen by the 2 million Tate followers – and responding to all the comments – has to be the most surreal experience of my life.

What is the hardest part of being creative?

Self doubt. Sometimes I look at a piece and think is this right? Working alone who can I turn to? I can’t ask my husband’s opinion – he doesn’t have an artistic bone in his body! That’s where the online community comes in – if it’s working my friends will tell me, if not I get constructive criticism, and then comes the unpicking…

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Produce the work that moves you and that you want to create, not simply what you think people will like. If your art comes from deep inside you it will move others too.

What subjects inspire you?

Living in the Peak District National Park I have endless inspiration on my doorstep.The natural beauty of this area is obvious to many but I am also influenced by the impact of humanity on the landscape. Very little of the Peak District landscape is truly natural and not man made in some way, created through agricultural and industrial practices over many centuries: Stone walls, green fields, weirs, managed woodland, viaducts, quarries the list goes on. My work rarely features people but their influence is always visible.

Who are the 3 greatest living artists in your opinion? (they don’t have to be famous!)

For a 2D artist I am surprisingly drawn to 3D work – always gravitating towards sculpture and ceramics at fairs. I love the idea of recycled materials and find the metalwork of Nigel Connel Bass @themetalmorphosis fascinating.

I’m proud to be a member of Peak District Artisans, a prestigious association of artists and craftsmen based in and around the Peak District. Everyone in PDA is a great artist but I do like unusual media and Giles Davies’ work is great. He creates amazing images in collage using just magazine clippings.

Alison Holt is a textile artist who creates wonderful images using free hand machine embroidery. Her work has inspired me and although we have very different techniques and styles I have a real affinity with her work. 

Who are the 3 greatest dead artists in your opinion?

I am heavily influenced by the impressionists (as might be obvious) and Monet has to be my favourite. 

However, the artist who has had most impact on me would have to be my own paternal grandmother – Eveline Hartley nee Straker. She was a prolific embroiderer and I inherited a tiny picture by her (only 35x50mm) of bluebell woods near her home in Yorkshire. In emulating her technique I found the perfect medium for my own work.

As I mentioned sculpture is a love of mine. I lived in West Bretton, home of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, many years ago and walked my dogs in the park most days. I love the Henry Moores, they are so tactile and imposing. I would lay down in the middle of this one and feel part of it (don’t tell anyone, you’re not really supposed to touch them)

What is your favourite work of art you have ever produced?

Difficult as I have a few favourites. However, Tidewell Dale is an image I use a lot in my marketing, the autumnal colours are my favourite palette. This was one of my first pictures using hand dyed wool and was created from just one skein (apart form a tiny bit of blue for the sky). The breadth of colour and tone I could get using this type of thread, compared with single colours, amazed me and this picture launched on my textile art journey.

What was the last piece of art you sold?

A very special commission for a former colleague, I Can See You – gorgeous autumnal shades of, again, Tideswell Dale.

And finally… Because this is really important….

What’s the best type of cheese?  (haha)

I adore goats cheese! It was the one thing I craved during my pregnancy and one of the things I couldn’t have of course. I make up for it now though.

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