Featured Artist: Characters by Julia
Today is Earth Day – a day for promoting environmental awareness and the role we play in protecting our planet from things like pollution and deforestation. From litter picking to tree planting, there’s plenty of things you can do to take part!
And today seemed like the perfect day to celebrate an artist that I’ve been following for a while now. Julia Levander Drew is a textiles artist creating beautiful animal scultpures with an important message. Raising awareness of environmental issues and animal rights is at the heart of everything she creates. I was lucky enough to speak to Julia and dive a little deeper into her world…
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Julia Levander Drew and I’m a textile sculptor and painter living in the highlands of Scotland.
Focusing mainly on animals I try to channel my environmental anxiety into sculptures that can both make you smile and think about our and their place in the world and the many challenges we face and changes we need to make to keep our wonderful wildlife.
How did you get into the world of textiles?
I’ve always been creative and my grandmother taught me to knit and embroider when I was four. I have made my own stage clothes (I used to perform salsa) and in periods focused more on soft furnishings and interior design.
I am Swedish and when I moved to Scotland in 2004 I started making art dolls. They combined everything I like to do but after about six years of making them I totally lost my inspiration.
For two years I didn’t sew. When my first daughter was born I found my inspiration again and started making quirky and colourful animal trophies.
Over the past ten years I have developed my own style of sculpting with fabric and keep pushing my abilities by never backing down from unusual ideas.
I know now that my inspiration left me as I didn’t let my dolls evolve, my work mantra is “I make what I want” and that helps me to grow as an artist and always try new things.
How long does a piece typically take to complete?
I get that question all the time and the truth is I don’t really know. I work on 10-15 pieces at any one time, letting one dry while I start another etc. I cut everything free hand and without any patterns and work tends to flow. If a sculpture hits a wall I put it aside until I can figure out the way forward. That can take a couple of hours or a year.
If you could achieve one thing, or convey one message through your work, what would it be?
I’d like us all to realise how we are pushing wildlife all over the world to the brink of extinction and to work actively to make changes to secure not just our own future but the future for all the creatures on our planet. If my work can be a starting point for any conversations about this, that’s me happy.
What’s your biggest obstacle as an artist?
Procrastination, maybe. I’m a bit of a pro at that. Oh and rules. That’s why I don’t tend to take commissions, I don’t want any rules imposed by others. But the truth is I love my job and would happily work every day of the week, I am so lucky to be able to do this for a living.
Tough question – do you have a favourite piece of yours?
I have many but I don’t tend to keep them. Finding happy homes for the sculptures and paintings is such a pleasure and knowing that they are making their new owners happy is better than keeping them.
What’s the most indispensable item in your workshop?
Maximus (Max for short), my sewing machine. He is the most paint stained and grubby looking thing but he is very loved. Oh, and my phone that plays music or audiobooks while I work as well as keep me in touch with followers and helps me research.
Do you have any hobbies outside of textiles/art?
Dancing. I started dancing salsa when I was 14 and performed and taught it until I moved to Scotland. Since then I dance on my own but that’s okay too.
I also love cooking and baking, gardening, car booting and foraging.
Do you have a favourite animal?
Frogs and hares probably. They’re my go to when I want to try new things and they have followed me through my life.
Do you have any new projects coming up?
Right now I’m just resting a bit after the last push for getting my first ever solo exhibition up and running at the wonderful Union Gallery in Edinburgh. It’s been a year in the making and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a whole body of work displayed together, a quite emotional experience actually.