Lumpy: Olivia Parsonage


Sharing the Timeless Textiles stage with Anita is Oliva Parsonage’s Lumpy exhibition. Oliva’s work reveals bold experimentation with fabric as it mixes colours, textures and patterns.

“I like to use embellishments such as buttons and embroidery and, increasingly, paint,” she said. “I love to work in both two and three dimensions, which is especially rewarding with fabric.”

Oliva gives shape and character to various patch-worked materials and objects, combining machine and hand-stitching and allowing change to occur as she creates. She has worked to create a dialogue between the Lumpy exhibition objects so that they stand alone and also work together as a group.

“I'm greedy for all aspects of art making,” she said. “I want colour, texture, pattern, contrast. I want hard and smooth and soft. I want to play with repetition and scale.”

Even when she starts with a clear idea of what she wants to achieve, Oliva often finds the outcome alter as she combines materials, cuts and sews.

“It is these constant 'discoveries' that keep the process interesting for me and, hopefully, the viewer,” she said. 

Oliva’s passion for textiles has been a lifelong affair. One of her earliest memories is raiding her mother's lowest drawer – the only one she could reach – to choose from an assortment of different coloured scarves. Putting the scarf to her ear and scrunching the fabric between her small fingers was thrilling, as she chose a different colour each time.

“I liked the way the scarves moved in the air and that I could see through them so that suddenly the world was tinted blue or red or yellow,” she said. “I was drawn to the 'life' in the fabric, the elements contained in it and the potential of what it could become.”

Oliva was also intrigued by her mother's collection of sewing boxes and jars filled with treasures – beads, buttons, zippers, coins, dice, watch-faces – that seemed random, yet perfect, a life in a jar.


Jim Henson and his Muppets were also a strong influence on Oliva as he brought fabric to life, making it talk and move and dance, and created whole worlds in which his creatures lived. She brings those playful and innovative influences to her Lumpy exhibition.


“I'm still playing with fabrics and they are still a source of comfort, familiarity, memory and excitement."


The Breath of Felt and Lumpy exhibitions run from 10 May until 4 June 2017, with the opening at 6-8pm on 11 May 2017

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