A chance to heal: an interview with Jo Butcher

25 July 2022
Embroidery provided Jo Butcher with a therapeutic practice at a time of personal trauma. She now exhibits her work widely, inspired by the nature surrounding her at home in Somerset

What initially attracted you to embroidery?

I have always loved to sew. Creating clothes was my first sewing love when I was a teenager.  I then went on to study Fashion at college, followed by 10 years working as a Ladieswear Designer/Pattern Cutter based in London.

Whilst working I always had projects on the go whether they were tapestry kits, embroidering tray cloths or watercolour painting. And being based in central London I had inspiring shops, such as Liberty’s to visit in my lunchtimes.

In 1999, when I was eight months pregnant, I spotted the embroidery magazine with a cover featuring a hand-embroidered herbaceous garden. It reminded me of the tablecloths and linens of my grandmother’s generation which I loved. Despite anticipating little opportunity to produce needlework once my baby was born, I still bought the magazine and stored it away thinking that one day I would make something along those lines. Sadly, one year later I had all the time in the world. Our daughter Emily was diagnosed with a genetic condition and died at 10 months old. It was obviously a very traumatic time. I had empty arms and needed a therapy. As a distraction I turned to the embroidery magazine. The need to keep both head and hands busy was met perfectly with embroidery and I discovered the way I could express myself creatively using a traditional craft. 

Foxgloves & Cow Parsley

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You often combine your embroideries with hand-painted backgrounds. What led you to try this technique? 

I used to paint and went to classes after losing Emily, so it became natural for me to want to combine two elements I enjoyed to create the look I was after.

How did you come to start creating your own pieces? Are you usually working to commission or creating your own artworks?

I usually create my own artworks, with occasional commissions for weddings. Inspiration can come from anywhere, a single flower head, a garden or the way wildflowers are growing together by the side of the road, they can all make an impression on me that makes me want to recreate them.

Three Topiary Trees with Alliums

What’s coming up next for you?

More shows, after a couple of years of not being able to do many, I’m doing lots this year!
I’m also working towards a project that’s been on my wish list for a while now. And there’s always a new kit in plan too.

Summer Meadow

For more about Jo’s embroidery work and her inspirations, read our full interview in issue 138 of Stitch available to purchase in both digital and printed copies. 

Enjoyed this interview? Click here to meet Kateryna Olegivna, a.k.a. StitchyPrincess, who shares how Slavic fairy tales inspire her designs and how stitching is helping her cope with the war in Ukraine

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