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Mister Finch - Leeds textile artist launches exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 August 2018

Jaunty squirrels created by the marvellously eccentric Mr Finch (is it just us or do they look like they�re doing the Time Warp?)

Jaunty squirrels created by the marvellously eccentric Mr Finch (is it just us or do they look like they�re doing the Time Warp?)

JONTY WILDE

Yorkshire Sculpture Park welcomes a magical menagerie of new fabric friends

Mice-in-the-making – a squeak preview of what’s on offer on the Bretton Estate in West YorkshireMice-in-the-making – a squeak preview of what’s on offer on the Bretton Estate in West Yorkshire

Mr Finch is not averse to flights of fancy. Badger postmen and hedgehogs ringing tinkly little bells – nothing is too eccentric or whimsical for his sharp eye (and sewing needle).

The self-taught Leeds textile artist has created 75 intricately hand-sewn fantastical creatures for The Wish Post, his largest solo exhibition to date at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (until September 23rd), using a combination of new materials and upcycled bits and bobs like discarded wire, steel, wood, vintage tapestries, cross stitch samplers, antique silverware and rescued cloth.

The inspiration for his Gothic menagerie of woodland animals, who collect wishes breathed into envelopes and posted in toadstool post boxes, comes from British folklore and the landscape of the Bretton Estate, home to the sculpture park.

Through his beautiful crafted pieces, he reveals the story of The Wish Post which, for one night each year, makes dreams come true for badgers in blue jackets, hedgehogs playing brass bells, thimble-sized rats, elegant swans, long-eared rabbits and dapper moles.

The Mister Finch installation – the artist’s largest to date – at Yorkshire Sculpture ParkThe Mister Finch installation – the artist’s largest to date – at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

‘Humanising animals with shoes and clothes is something I’ve always done,’ said Mr Finch (he has a first name but it broke free of its original stitching years ago and he hasn’t used it since). ‘I imagine they come alive at night.

‘Most of my pieces use recycled materials, not only as an ethical statement, but because I believe they add more authenticity and charm. A story sewn in, woven in.’

All the works in the sculpture park exhibition are available to buy, along with a special range of merchandise including hand-embroidered tea towels, tote bags, fabric patches and a self-published book full of behind-the-scenes photography of the whole creative process.

Mr Finch – or Finch as he is known to his friends (both human and fantastical) – began his career as a jewellery designer, only later starting to dabble in textiles, where he discovered his natural flare. He soon garnered a worldwide cult following on Etsy for his constructions and his debut collection was launched at the flagship Anthropologie store on Kings Road, London, in 2014.

This very ap-peal-ing pair are ring-a-ding hedgehogs (courtesy the artist)This very ap-peal-ing pair are ring-a-ding hedgehogs (courtesy the artist)

His business is called Mister Finch (‘so it’s clear from the start that I’m a man who sews’) and, though based in Leeds, he likes to venture into the Yorkshire Dales for inspiration.

‘Flowers, insects and birds really fascinate me with their amazing lifecycles and extraordinary nests and behaviour,’ he explained. ‘British folklore is also beautifully rich in fabulous stories and warnings; it never ceases to be at the heart of what I make. Shape-shifting witches, moon-gazing hares and a smartly dressed devil are always ready to invite you to stray from the path.’

His skilfully crafted creations emerge from the detritus of life – velvet curtains from an old hotel, a threadbare wedding dress, a vintage apron – taking flight or scuttling into dark burrows as fantastical birds and beasts.

‘Making things has always been incredibly important to me and is often an amazing release to get it out of my system,’ he said. ‘It’s a joy to hunt for things for my work. The lost, found and forgotten all have a place in what I make; my storytelling creatures for people who are also a little lost, found and forgotten.’

Toadstool post boxes – well, where else are you going to post your wishes? (courtesy of the artist)Toadstool post boxes – well, where else are you going to post your wishes? (courtesy of the artist)

You can find out more about Mister Finch (and, indeed, Mr Finch) at mister-finch.com. Full details of his Yorkshire Sculpture Park exhibition are also available at ysp.org.uk.

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