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Chelsea Fever

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

We are working at fever pitch in preparation for the Chelsea Flower Show in May. For the past few months we have been making lists, completing forms, wrestling with the minefield that is Health and Safety, writing articles, press releases and sourcing props, from the sublime to the ridiculous. When kitting out a 3x3x3m stand you are required to think of everything, from flooring, lighting and furniture, to the positioning of the plug sockets!

Working each day into the small hours, Amanda is disappearing behind a steadily growing tower of boxes. She has now stitched, sculpted, mounted and framed more than 80 pieces of work and they are stunning. Headphones on, she has listened to a whole series of podcasts (catching up with The Archers after a two-year gap) and devoured entire audio books whilst her machine races through thousands of metres of thread, spools spinning wildly on their pins. Free machine embroidery can be likened to rubbing your tummy and patting your head – the needle travels quickly but the embroidery hoop is moved slowly and steadily. It requires a certain amount of concentration and you have to remind yourself to breathe every now and then! It’s advisable to stop, stretch and release shoulder/neck tension too - particularly crucial when stitching 130,000 individual stitches per day!

Outside the studio window, the patio is decorated with a configuration of white gaffer tape – a mock-up of the stand. Periodically, we play with pieces of furniture, visualising how it will look, testing whether an idea will work. All that’s needed are the walls…!

Meanwhile, I am nurturing plants – watering, spritzing, snipping and generally trying to keep them in tiptop condition until May. It’s quite a task – how on earth do these talented garden designers manage to produce pitch perfect gardens, with the planting at its peak for one extremely precise week in May? There’s little room for error! I am only dealing with a small number of plants, but each one must be perfect – I don’t want them to grow too quickly, neither must they be too slow. It’s a balancing act - moving them from sun to shade, constantly starting and checking their growth. Crucially, I don’t want them to flower… not yet. Any flowers that dare to appear are snipped off – not yet, not yet! Poor things. The neediest is the moss, requiring daily caressing, talking to and misting with rainwater. Mosses are one of the oldest living organisms and survive in the harshest of conditions, and yet they are quite particular about their growing environment. The house is too dry for them really but leave them in the garden and the birds will have a field day, especially at this time of year. I love the idea that mosses breath, purifying the air by taking in toxins and dust from the environment to store within themselves. It’s a remarkable, enriching plant to have in the house if you have time to spray it every few days – it will pay you back in spades.

Amanda continues to walk daily in the forest with the hairy beast, Frank, but she was recently spotted one evening, not with a dog trailing her heels, but a drone. She wasn’t being stalked, this was actually a filming session - a new video showing Amanda’s working process will soon be up on the website. It has been shot and produced by the brilliant photographer, Richard Lewisohn and what I’ve seen of it so far, is beautiful. Equally stunning are the stills that have been taken of Amanda’s new collection by talented young photographer, Fraser James. Some are already available to view on the website, with more to follow soon.

It is a nice twist of fate that Amanda studied at Chelsea (UAL) and now, 25 years later, she returns as a professional artist with a fabulous collection of work to show at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. We would love to see you there – 21-25 May 2019 on Eastern Avenue, Stand No. EA508.

Richard Lewisohn

Fraser James

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