Ros Wyatt (née Wortman, 1988)
Ros Wyatt (1988) tells us what she has been doing since leaving St James
I am a studio based freelance artist with a specialism in text and textiles. My first degree was in calligraphy and bookbinding and then I studied textiles at the RCA so my work brings these subjects together. Mostly I am known for my stitch work which involves what I call – ‘writing with a needle’. This is where I stitch by hand and by eye the handwriting of an individual onto a garment. Handwriting is as unique as our DNA so when it’s stitched, it’s like painting a portrait of someone – you get to discover a lot about them. It becomes about the narrative of that person and all the colour that brings, so I also see myself as a story teller in cloth.
Most of my work is to commission – involving words, writing, text and applied lettering but I also exhibit art with galleries and travel internationally to deliver workshops. Commissions come from a variety of sources and I work across media including fashion, film and TV, interiors and corporate branding. I feel very fortunate to work with amazing, talented individuals and teams. For instance, last year I did artwork lettering for a branding company for a new architectural building; training leading cast members of ‘The Favourite’ (released this year) in how to write with a quill, and collaborating with Burberry on an artwork for their archives.
Obviously there’s a huge amount to learn in how to run a small business and survive but, for me, this is so much more than a business. As we dive deeper into the tech age, there’s a huge need for the arts to ground us back to our humanity and restore a simple sense of purpose.
St James was the beginning of this journey – now I realise we had the best art teachers.
Art was my sanctuary – break duty which involved tidying up Mr Barber’s art room, with its smell of paper and pencil shavings...heaven! Sometimes I still get that feeling when I walk into my studio. We’d spend long afternoons drawing at the V&A, being taught the rudiments of art, drawing and perspective alongside a jovial Mr Barber who always gave you the confidence to have a go and keep going; and those A level days spent at St Oswald’s Studio where you could really get immersed in a project with Mrs Shedden (herself a brilliant artist and colourist who taught us watercolour) – it was a great start!
My advice to budding artists (and indeed anyone interested in creativity) is to give yourself time and space – it takes time to create something good. Never be rushed into compromise – if you believe in your work then it will carry an authenticity that others will come to recognise. Being an artist is unlike any other career. It’s personal – it’s about you – you have to discover yourself, what you love, what makes you tick then find the connection and express that in your chosen medium. And that’s not something that can be learned, it comes from inside.
I’m always willing to help new graduates and share any advice I can. It can be a hard and solitary path in the arts, but I found my way by asking lots of questions from the right people, to whom I’m now indebted. By the way, I’m always on the lookout for studio assistants – some of the best I’ve had have been St James alumni so do get in touch....
My biggest ambition is to finish a project called The Stitch Lives of London. It’s like a modern day Bayeux Tapestry about Londoners told through the medium of text and textile. I’ve completed 10 garments already so it’s an exhibition poised and ready to go. Garments include a t shirt that belonged to Stephen Lawrence, the shirt worn by Jude Law when he played Hamlet, a t shirt belonging to mental health campaigner, Jonny Benjamin, and a Burberry trench coat bringing together the adventures of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and Thomas Burberry who invented gabardine – all hand stitched with their words and ‘voices’. I can’t wait to put them all together and see the dialogue begin. Now I just need a sponsor and a venue and it’ll be done.