When nature meets stumpwork embroidery: an interview with Pippa Haynes

01 April 2022
Pippa Haynes' stumpwork embroidery & 'Hope' framed Pippa Haynes' stumpwork embroidery & 'Hope' framed
Meet Pippa Haynes, a.k.a. Lemon Pepper Studio, who gives us a glimpse into her world of stumpwork embroidery and the influences that shape her intricate work…

Pippa loves the idea of tricking you into thinking something is real when it isn’t. But what does it take to create perfect replicas of nature in thread?

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I run Lemon Pepper Studio from rural Wiltshire where I live with my partner, Barney, and two dogs – Olive, a miniature dachshund, and Evie, a cocker spaniel with more energy than any dog I’ve ever known. 

After an art foundation in Brighton, I studied performance design at the University of Leeds and was destined for a career as a set designer, building sets for editorial photoshoots and window displays. Embroidery was a hobby – it was a lot of staying up until midnight and carrying it with me everywhere (which I still do!). 

Aside from embroidery, gardening is a big passion. I love growing flowers, and there’s nothing better than eating veg grown by yourself. 

All these influences – design, gardening and the countryside – have combined to place me where I am now. Without each step, I’m not sure the result would have been the same! 

Sketched flowers by Pippa Haynes

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Working on a bio-organic farm back in 2016 was a pivotal time. What was it about that experience? 

At Apricot Lane Farm in California, I really learned to appreciate nature – the influence we have on it and in turn, the influence it has on us. I grew up by a river in Norfolk. So I was attuned to things growing and changing and I’d got very interested in and was studying bees. But the farm took that relationship with nature to another level. On returning to London, I realised it wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted. The farm gave the impetus to move to the countryside and really start developing my practice.

How does countryside living compare to busy city life? 

I can explore the nature-loving side of me, and I feel much calmer here. Being outdoors gives you time to reflect as well as being active. Things change daily, not just in the wider environment but on your doorstep – in the garden, greenhouse and veg patch. The flowers I grow amaze me, particularly the dahlias and I’m fascinated by the detail. 

So, the garden has been a huge influence on what I make and the direction of my artistic practice. I notice the changes in the seasons much more keenly and am continuously learning new things about the plants I grow. This steadier pace of life benefits my art – there’s time to let ideas nurture themselves. 

Embroidery in progress by Pippa Haynes

As an embroiderer you’re self-taught, but what resources did you use to learn? 

When I first began embroidery Google and YouTube were my best friends. There are so many amazing resources and embroidery channels that teach the basics about specific stitches and techniques

But if I’m honest, it was a lot of experimentation. I wouldn’t have arrived at the style I’m currently exploring without being willing not to do everything perfectly. It was more about making the thread work to create my ideas rather than restricting myself to what I can create within a certain format. I learned not to worry if I didn’t get a stitch perfect every time because sometimes the mistakes are what makes it.

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What was your route into stumpwork?

I’ve always been intrigued by 3D artwork, even at school very little of my work was flat. I think it encourages you to interact and move around it which is really exciting. There’s always a new angle or detail hidden from view which, in turn, makes you look closer. I also love the idea of tricking someone into thinking something is real when it isn’t.

Stumpwork embroidery 'Hope' by Pippa Haynes

Has your set designer background influenced your embroidery development? 

It taught me how to think about things from a different perspective. A set would have human or objects interact with it, whether it was for fashion or products. You build it with that as a reference in mind. What angles might it need to be shot from? What perspectives could create an interesting composition? These were all things to be considered.  

As a result, I’ve always thought of my pieces as miniature worlds, like Alice in Wonderland. I imagine a tiny Alice running around amongst the embroidered flowers and it becomes just like a (much) smaller version of building a set. 

Your work involves pain-staking detail. Does this mean you’re a patient perfectionist?!

A perfectionist? Definitely. Patient? It’s a constant struggle! I love a quick and visible result, which I’m never going to get with embroidery and something I’ve had to learn to deal with the hard way. I embroider in sections, often with more than one project on the go at once so I don’t feel too bogged down by the same piece. There’s always a point, usually just before finishing, where I think it’s never going to end. Embroidery has taught me to appreciate the journey and not just the outcome. 

Collage of stumpwork embroidery flowers and mushroom by Pippa Haynes

Left – ‘Lilies of Kings Meadow’, top right – ‘Down to the Woods’, bottom right – ‘Lily of the Valley’.

What approach do you take to developing a piece? 

The key to anything creative is imagination and not being scared to not follow the ‘rules’. My imagination is my most important tool. It’s not a physical object but without it I wouldn’t be able to create what I do. 

  1. The majority of pieces start life in a sketchbook, so I have a visual record of what I want to achieve. 
  2. Next I gather photographic references and begin to create a paper maquette. If it’s a more complex piece often I will construct it in full. The embroidery is so time intensive I want to be sure it will fit together perfectly before starting. 
  3. Then it’s the process of wiring up and embroidering. This takes the longest time and is where all the thread painting and ‘colouring in’ happens. My favourite threads to work with are DMC and Anchor – I nearly always work with a single strand! 
  4. The final step is fitting it all together. This is always the most satisfying part but can sometimes be quite complex as I like to use as little glue as possible. Most of my pieces are mainly held together using thread.   

Part of your approach is about ‘democratising hand embroidery’. What does this mean?

My long-term aspirations for Lemon Pepper Studio are for it to become a hub of embroidery resources – homewares, haberdashery items, kits, workshops. Embroidery has become a really important and recognised way of practising mindfulness because of its slow and quiet nature. I want to share that with as many people as possible by ‘democratising’ it and making it accessible – not just by making the handmade side more widely available, but also by making people aware of how buying or creating handmade goods over mass-produced consumerist items makes life so much richer. 

Where did the name Lemon Pepper Studio come from?

From the farm I worked on! Overlooking the orchard there was a track called Lemon Pepper Lane. It had lemon trees growing on one side and pepper trees on the other. I used to sit on a hammock between two of the pepper trees. In the evenings, it would be blanketed with the most amazing golden light. It reminds me of feeling happy and close to nature, so it was a perfect fit.

Do you have any top tips for beginners?

  1. Start simple. You only really need three or four different stitches to make wonderfully textured pieces. French knots, bullion knots and Turkey stitch are three of my most used stitches when creating moss effects with thread. Master the basics and then you can begin to explore the ways in which you can use them.
  2. Use the right materials. For wired stumpwork I use either a voile material for very fine petals and leaves or felt for pieces that need something a bit sturdier. I nearly always back my non-3D pieces onto cotton fabric as it’s the easiest to work with. Using the right fabrics will make your life so much easier and help to achieve the desired effect.
  3. Take your time with the planning. Planning a piece can be frustrating sometimes as all you want to do is get on with the actual making but there’s nothing worse than spending hours embroidering only to realise it doesn’t fit together or look the way you imagined. Spend some time sketching your idea or even making little paper models to see how it will look 3D.

Find out more

Website: lemonpepperstudio.com
Instagram: @lemonpepperstudio
Facebook: facebook.com/lemonpepperstudio/

Learn more about this spectacular technique in our stumpwork embroidery guide featuring Carol Leather and Georgina Bellamy. 

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