There is something magic about Fleur, her ability to make you feel like a dear friend you haven’t seen in for a long long time paired with her insanely creative stitched artwork. We were so fortunate to collaborate with Fleur on a limited edition collection for our Spring / Summer collection, titled SOUL SISTERS after her artwork.
Fleur has a deep understanding of the vibrancy and subtly of colour, paired with her intuitive touch, enchanting presence, and strong sense of style we couldn’t help but be drawn to her work. It’s a privilege to feature Fleur in our Women In Business series as we chat creativity, embroidery and contemplating life.
Fleur, tell us about yourself, and what led you to become the woman you are today.
Wow…weeelllll, in a nutshell. I was born in Brunei and spent my early years there & in Hong Kong before moving to New Zealand in the late 80’s. As a child of the 80’s my priorities were Reebok high tops, Minnie Mouse sweaters and stone wash denim along with perfecting a kiwi accent which I managed swiftly thanks to the kids at Cashmere Ave Primary.
The rest of my childhood was spent in Arrowtown riding ponies and dancing to Kylie & Jason with my buddy Lucie. Dunedin was the place of my teens where I learnt to dress inappropriately for the weather and master the art of a good house party.
It was also the place I found the high school art room which was a haven.
Our family was the fam that did city trips and museum and gallery visits, I have no doubt that being exposed to cultural institutions around the world helped form my connection to the arts and inspired my career. Another strong connection made in my early life was nature, southern New Zealand. Riding horse’s through the lupins at the river, picking wild rose hips, the native bush, deep lakes & wild rivers, the rugged high country, wherever I was immersed in nature I felt at home and having moved around a bit and not quite a ‘local’ I realised that home wasn’t just one place but a feeling.
After dabbling in Uni, Australia called me as my family was now based in Brisbane. So a few years were spent making friends with gorgeous Aussies and eating fresh prawns at the beach, it was tough. Weirdly, I longed for the seasons, and was drawn back to Wellington and met my future husband Cam, a bit of art school before a 5 year stint at The Dom Post Advertising department. During that time I had my first ‘solo’ show at Thistle Hall Gallery and despite my first sale being to my Mum and most of the rest to friends it was a taste and I felt encouraged to continue. Just as I was starting to explore making art regularly I got pregnant with our first daughter Lily and moved to Nelson to be closer to family and cash in on some sunshine. Shortly after our second Bub Saffron arrived and I was knee deep in Mum life while occasionally making terrible art during their avo naps.
What was the deep burning motivator to turn your artistic vision into a fully-fledged business.
During my teens / 20’s I was really unwell with Crohn’s Disease (IBS unglamorous type condition) and anxiety / depression. I knew that I needed to be well to raise my kids and enjoy life so it felt very essential to write my own script and I guess as a mother and a creative I figured I just had to give it a try. Luckily for me my husband Cam has always believed in me as an artist & my parents helped a lot in those early days to support me to create.
How did it go from a dream/idea to present day enterprise?
Slowly as the kids grew there was more space to create and to help me along I joined the 100 days project, that was such a great experience that taught me a lot about the power of making a lot of art before you make ‘good’ art.
Just prior to that I had started a successful handmade Christmas market with some creative friends and I guess that taught me that I didn’t really want to organise things I just wanted to make things. Problem was, I was only really making average things.
The thought of going back to the corporate world just felt unsustainable for everything but my bank balance so I guess it was the idea that I just had to make it work if I wanted to live a creative life. So I just kept making and exploring new work in the studio, exhibiting almost anywhere that would have me and eventually in 2016 I opened a gallery space, the realities of paying rent were great for learning about business and very humbling. I was now exploring stitch and I really believed in the work I was starting to make but most other’s weren’t feeling it (like basically everyone) so I decided a gallery would make me seem like a real artist.
Meanwhile being regularly rejected by galleries still, but learning so much from having my own. Thankfully, Kina Gallery in New Plymouth gave me my first solo show and 12 of the 14 stitched pieces sold, quickly and without me having to convince anyone of anything. Such a brilliant feeling! Then, I started to explore other revenue streams like prints. But even after the success of my show, I was excited but the market wasn’t so…two steps forward, one back.
Just as I felt like giving up two wonderful things happened. Jessica Hanson, then Style Editor of Inside Out Magazine contacted me to work on a piece for a mag photoshoot, I had a tiny timeframe to create it & get it to Sydney to the shoot but I dropped everything and did it.
Thank goodness I did because the piece ended up being the back drop for a 6 page spread and Pip from Jumbled in Australia contacted me shortly after seeing the Mother’s Day edition to commission an artwork for their amazing store. That was Autumn 2017 and since then things have flowed in lots of interesting directions and I have enjoyed working with lots of wonderful people across NZ & Australia.
Talk to us about your stitched paintings, what inspires them and where do you find inspiration to create these masterpieces.
Nature, colour, textiles, texture, feminism, environment. Embroidered textiles have always held a special nostalgia. I have a beautiful green linen table cloth stitched with white flowers by my great grand mother, having never met her I still feel incredibly attached to it and I guess as my practice has deepened I’ve come to realise that it is my creative DNA.
The inspiration just exists in every day moments, ginkgo leaves on a grey day, a tiny ball of left over wool at the op shop, patterns in everyday objects et al…I honestly think I will keep creating for the rest of my life and never ever run out of inspiration
We are so impressed by your many collaborations, is there anything you’re particularly proud of, or a moment in your career that you’re particularly proud of (a fave, or maybe the one you learned most from?)
It’s so hard to choose a favourite but the Saben collab is very high on the list as I’ve always felt such a beautiful synergy between art & fashion. Working with women lead creative businesses brings me a lot of joy. We’ve had so much fun and I feel really proud of what we’ve created and grateful for the opportunity to combine our talents.
I think I enjoy each collab for different reasons and learn something new each time.
The biggest learning from the early days of collaborating is that in order for a collaboration to feel like a true success everyone involved needs to be remunerated, supported, connected.
Honest conversations about what you both want out of the experience are so important.
I probably say no to as many collabs as I say yes to because they don’t ‘feel’ right or we can’t reach an agreement, it’s totally fine when that happens, I’m learning to trust my gut.
Your work has such a distinct style, have you always had a super creative brain?
I think my brain is just as creative as the next persons but I have always been super sensitive and alert to the tiny moments, the vibes, the details and I think that sensitivity is a super power.
We had the privilege of visiting your home studio in the Moutere Hills outside Nelson and it’s fair to say we’re obsessed with your sanctuary. Can you tell us about your space, how does it foster creativity and inspire the art you create?
So lovely to have you girls visit! I love working from home. Our home is a farm cottage on the Hyatt family farm in Upper Moutere that we are lucky to rent. It feels like a batch, the vibe is relaxed, eclectic, country rustic.
It’s beautiful and inspiring being surrounded by nature, from the flowers in the garden to the rhythm and hum of rural life, growing seasons, life cycles. Most of all it’s just a beautiful community here so home is this place but also this area.
I’m a peace seeker so for me to be able to live with my gorgeous wee fam in this peaceful spot makes for a perfect recipe to foster a creative life.
The work you create must take time and pure concentration. What do you love most about the time it takes you to create your artworks.
Every tiny stitch …gosh it takes forever.
Genuinely I think it is a gift because aside from all the reasons why the world is already too fast it gives me time to allow ideas to grow. I’m not a planner so the works are like a working sketch but because the process is slow it allows for reflection and that helps me to articulate the works more clearly and take time to observe the nuances and details that make the subject magic.
How do you ensure your creative tank is full (or as full as it can be)
Time to play. When you’re busy trying to earn a living as a creative it is really important to value the time you need to grow as an artist, for me that is about playing with paint / clay / thread / textiles / flora without purpose or just to scratch an itch. Walks & yoga are amazing fuel too plus a good city culture fix from time to time.
The design you created for ‘Soul Sisters’ is so eye-catching (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun). What was the inspiration or creative thought behind this piece?
So many layers of thought behind this piece, one strong influence was song called Bela Luz with Hollie Smith & Apollo Nove that I was listening to as I was creating the concept. There’s a part of the song that really resonated “…you’re my soul sisters, oh your light’s so bright, I’m so inspired when you shine, shine on me, what a beautiful light…”
Listen here: https://loopcrew.bandcamp.com/track/hollie-smith-apollo-nove-bela-luz
It’s a piece about celebrating each other, seeing into our souls and sharing our truth. Shining our light I interpret as sharing your inner light, your purpose.
I think my soul is flowers and my purpose is to share the pure joy and ethereal beauty found in flora. Blooms bursting from the eye is like a window into my soul that emphasises the concept of sharing our authentic selves and being connected to our souls purposes while supporting and lifting each other.
Wow, that's beautiful. We’ve got to make a special mention to your pooch George. Does he help around the studio?
If by help you mean snore loudly at my feet or take balls of wool out to the garden, so helpful! I do love his company though, he’s my 40th birthday mid-lifer fur baby.
A little birdie told us you might be hosting a workshop in Auckland to celebrate the partnership with Saben. Can you share some details about that?
Yes! It's on August 28th, and you purchase tickets via my website here.
We’ll spend the day at The Ponsonby Community Centre in a private space filled with abundant supplies and inspiration where you’ll learn how to create your own Soul Sisters floral eye embroidery using my Soul Sisters kit.
This workshop suits any ability level from complete beginner to advanced as our small group size allows me to support you to achieve your creative goals.
The cost for the day is $380.00 pp which includes the following:
All embroidery supplies including plenty to take home
Light refreshments and treats throughout the day
$50 Saben voucher to spend at your leisure in-store or online
We can't wait! Have you got any pivoting business moments, or lessons / advice you can share with someone who is thinking of taking a chance on their dream?
I’ve learnt that just when things seem the hardest, hold on, just when things are at their most dire is usually when a shift is about to come. I think often people give up just before it’s about to arrive. I have to remember this regularly as I ride the rollercoaster of creative small business.
Ask people to help you, it’s great to learn from others about what works and what doesn’t and most people will be so helpful. When you’re a small business you can’t do it all to your best ability so work with others who do what they do to perfection so you can focus on your specialty.
Value your time, other’s might see what you do as less important because you don’t have to clock in to the office at a regular time. It’s so great having the flexibility but it’s ok to tell people your working even if that doesn’t look like what they think work looks like.
What is your Saben style? Either now, or on your wish-list and why.
Genuinely use my Tilly in Ivy daily, sometimes as an over the shoulder or other times inside my shopping basket / tote as a large wallet.
Wishlist includes… All of the Saben x Fleur Woods pieces, obvs….but also I’m into the tiny like the Nikko (would be so handy for dog walks) & the big Roma Carry All with the Kondo insert and a key chain or 5…can you tell I’m a fan?!
What values/ mantras you swear by or new ones you’ll be striving to adopt in 2022?
I choose a word each year. My word this year is Hope…feel like that was a good choice already.
Striving this year to learn to rest, it doesn’t come naturally to do absolutely nothing, I’m an active relaxer, walking, gardening, stitching and a total work-a-holic so I think being able to rest would be a wonderful skill to embrace. It’s possibly going to be a long term project.
Where can we find you and your beautiful work?
@fleurwoodsart on socials and online at www.fleurwoodsart.com