Stitch & The City: Interview with Tapestry Artist Hannah Bass

tapestry_cushions_hannah_bass.jpgPut down Google Maps and start appreciating the beauty of a real one. Contemporary Tapestry Artist Hannah Bass has a lifelong appreciation for maps and colour, so after a decade spent in a day job being surrounded by neutral shades, she gave into her passion and launched a tapestry kit company where she designs colourful kits based on maps of the world’s major cities. Each one is accurately drawn and can be turned into a cushion, allowing you to bring some crafty city chic into your home.
Hannah tells CraftandTravel about her how she got into this stitchuation…

What are your earliest memories of stitching?
I come from a big family and I remember stitching away with my cousins one summer. It was a way to keep us quiet and occupied. My first ever kit was of a teddy bear holding a big, bright yellow sunflower.

hannah_bass_tapestry_artistHow did you make the move into becoming a tapestry artist?
I love colour and I love making things with my hands. I spent 10 years as an Interior Designer but found that my clients mainly opted for neutral colours, which wasn’t really me. I thought that if I started designing tapestries, I could be as colourful as I liked, just like when I did my student projects. I pondered with the idea for a while, then I just decided to take the leap, I quit my job and started designing tapestries.

What is tapestry and how does it differ to other types of embroidery?
It’s the simplest form of needlepoint. It is ‘half’ a cross-stitch. So basically a running stitch – you make just a single diagonal line. With tapestry you mostly work with chunky 4-ply wool rather than cotton or silk, so it is not as fiddly or straining on the eyes. The simplicity of the stitch is the joy to me, it’s incredibly relaxing. Just like in yoga, you turn your brain off and let the flow of the stitch take over.

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Sounds perfect, how can we try it out?
I design tapestry kits based on city maps which you can buy from my online shop or my stand at craft fairs. I love to travel and I love maps because they are both a functional tool and a piece of art. They can look quite abstract as patterns so I thought they leant themselves well to tapestry. I’m from London, so for my first design, I created a tapestry map of the capital. It was a success and people asked for other cities. Initially I sold my kits at a very small local market. The first market wasn’t a great success, but I had confidence in the product, so I went back the next weekend and tried again.

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How may tapestry kits do you currently have? 
25 at present. I hope to make another 10 this year. Everyone has a connection with a different city. I get a lot of requests for different cities.

How accurate are the designs in terms of geography?
Very. I couldn’t have them inaccurate, they wouldn’t be maps then. They do take quite a while to design for this reason, but it’s worth it. I love it when customers look at my tapestries and work out where they travelled and stayed from them. They get so excited if they fit on the map, as do I.

IMG_6338.jpgThe designs are very colourful how do you choose the colour schemes? 
Each design has a theme. Some are more obvious than others, i.e. Moscow is Soviet, San Francisco is the Rainbow.The colouring is very important though. Some people won’t buy the city they want because they can’t relate to the colours and others buy a city they have no connection to just because they want to stitch those colours.

Berlin_B.jpgHave you visited all the cities you have made kits for and what cities are still in the pipeline that you’d like to design?
I’ve been to most of them. Not Moscow though, and oddly not to Barcelona – I must fit that in this year. I’d love to see the Gaudi buildings. This year will be Cardiff, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Melbourne, Toronto, Hong Kong, Stockholm and Copenhagen. I always choose the most requested cities.

IMG_5793.jpgWhere do you like to do your stitching?
It’s usually one of three places; in front of the TV, in the conservatory listening to Radio 4, or in my bedroom listening to an audio book. They are a good holiday activity too!

How long would it take for someone to make one of your tapestry for cushions kits?
Well mastering the stitch is very easy anyone can do it. If I’m in rush to finish a design, it will take me five working days to complete one but the kits aren’t designed to be stitched like this – they are relaxing hobbies to pick and a put down like a book.

IMG_6517.jpg What has been the highlight so far in your journey of selling your tapestry kits?
Gosh, that’s a tricky one. I don’t think there is one specific moment, rather an inward feeling of self satisfaction of coming up with a concept and having the determination to see it through to fruition, and that from my own efforts and creativity I can financially support myself. It’s not been easy, but it has definitely been worth it.

Fancy stitching a city? Check out Hannah’s website to order one and follow her on social media to see kit creation stories.
Facebook: hannahbasscontemporaryneedlepoint
Instagram: @hannahbassneedlepoint
Twitter: @hbneedlepoint
Pinterest: hbneedlepoint