Spotlight on: artist Maude Smith of Maude Made

Every so often we discover a creative whose originality stops us in our tracks. Through the cosmic power of Instagram, we came across the truly ethereal decorative work of Maude Smith of Maude Made and Maude Smith. Numerous in her skills, from dressmaking to ceramics, it was her illustrated tiles that caught our eye, featuring flora and fauna. Fascinated and keen to learn more about the artist, we sat down with Maude to find out what inspires her work.

Maude, thank you so much for taking the time to join us on the McQueens blog. Your decorative work spans lots of media; how did your creative journey start?

I have always loved making things. I suppose growing up in the countryside and being left alone a lot as a child, I had time to think and dream and invent and play and amuse myself with drawing and creative projects. We grew up frugally, we made and mended, rather than bought things, I suppose this makes one more imaginative and creative. I think being creative is incredibly important, for mental wellbeing, satisfaction, purpose in life, community – I would be lost without it.

Tell us about the influences behind your work. We particularly love the regular occurrences of the natural world…

The world around me is my constant inspiration, trees, flowers, birds. The beauty of God’s creation is extraordinary and overwhelming. I find the work of children’s illustrators Emily Sutton and Beatrix Potter very inspiring, the playful and charming way they look at the world. I am also constantly inspired by my two best friends and fellow artists Lily Irwin and Agnes Treherne. We go on regular drawing trips together, which feed and encourage the imagination. I am also an enormous fan of William Morris and Vanessa Bell; I love the way they both turned their hands to anything; furniture, fabrics, domestic interiors, fine art…

A collection of Maude’s designs

You’ve decorated lots of different surfaces – are there any that you are keen to experiment with that you haven’t tried yet?

I love decorating anything I can get my hands on – ceramics, tiles, paper, fabric, wood, furniture – but I would like to experiment more with clay and pottery and glazes. I paint tiles, furniture, murals, print fabric, make and design dresses, and stitch samplers and embroideries. Variety is the spice of life, and I don’t think we need be restricted to one specialism. I don’t like fashion, industrialisation, mass production and disposable consumerism. I think homemade things have a unique beauty not found in modern digital life. As with the tradition of folk art, my designs do not claim to be original or better than that which has already been thought of, but I hope to produce a new version of the past and reopen people’s eyes to what has been forgotten.

What has been one of your most interesting commissions?

I enjoy going to people’s houses and getting a sense of their taste and style. It’s fun to go and paint people’s furniture, in situ, in all sorts of different locations. I work for interior designers, individuals and organisations. My painted furniture can bring something unique to any house. My clothes are made for women to look sweet, feel good and to be able to do practical things in: climb ladders, ride bicycles, and look after the home. I like the idea of beauty combining with practicality and everyday life. That is why I prefer craft to fine art; it is useful, as well as beautiful. I prefer furniture, pottery, clothes, quilts and architecture to a painted canvas on the wall.

Does your home act as a canvas for your work?

My home is definitely my canvas. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by things I like and have collected and made, and to be free to decorate it in my own way. I think the home is the woman’s sphere, somewhere one can relax and unwind, away from outside pressures and stresses. I don’t think it’s always necessary to spend lots of money decorating, it can be done cheaply with car boot sale and thrown away scrap yard finds, recycled materials and home made things. It’s extraordinary what one can find in bins!

We’ve particularly fallen in love with your series of tiles. This might be an impossible task, but do you have a favourite design?

I’m always painting different tiles; probably my favourite is the pheasant, I think pheasants are unbeatably beautiful, particularly the unusual ones, Reeves and Lady Amhurst. The colours and the feathers are exquisitely beautiful, a joy to the eyes! I like to be always making new things. Drawing with others is also very interesting, how different people’s work turns out, even looking at the same view we all see things so differently. Something homemade is an expression of the maker, their personality and character.

An examples of Maude’s decorative tiles

Flowers recur repeatedly in your work. Do you have a particular favourite variety?

I love all flowers, but perhaps my favourites are delphiniums, apple blossom, wild roses and forget-me-nots. I have recently illustrated a flower book, A Gospel of Wild Flowers by Bishop Anthony Foottit, which was a good way to learn more about flowers and their names. Being in a bluebell wood in May, jumping in a river or a lake or the sea, picking wild berries or apples or walking through meadows or fields is my idea of heaven!