Donya Coward

Textile taxidermy artist.

Donya Coward is a ‘Textile Taxidermist’ who’s artwork is about preserving the craftsmanship of embroidery as much as it is about the animal imagery.

“I am an artist based in Nottingham. All my artworks are made using Victorian, antique, Vintage Nottingham and French laces, embroideries, fabrics and haberdashery. All works are hand embroidered by myself and each artwork is bespoke and one off due to the rarity and one of a kind nature of the materials. The emphasis of my work is about preserving the materials as much as it is about the animal forms being imitated. My work takes inspiration from the imperfections and histories ingrained in the materials.

It is important to up-cycle and preserve the craftsmanship and skills of days gone and give them a new identity. Other inspiration for the work comes from the collections of curiosity museum such as the Horniman, Hunterian, Calke Abbey, The Wellcome Trust and the V&A, religious curios, Catholic iconography and rituals, stone carvings from the Medieval renaissance movement, nature and our ever growing distance to it, flower folklore, Elizabethan paintings, masked festivals from around the world, naivety and other peoples rubbish is certainly my gold.

Since graduating from Nottingham Trent University in 2004, I have been building a National and International practice that has successfully meant I have exhibited with Paul Smith, Toronto, San Diego and Paris Art fairs. I have had work commissioned by Hove and Brighton Museum as part of an 18 month touring show titled ‘Precious’, Winner of ‘Visitors choice’ as part of Brighton Open house festival 2011 and had two collections of artworks purchased by Anthropology as part of their One of a Kind range.

I will regularly scout around for materials and can be regularly found hunting at Newark Antiques Fair, Swinderby, Portobello market, Montreuil in Paris and any Antiques centre in every town I visit. The character of the work is very dependent on the materials and sometimes it can take a while to find the correct piece that completes an animal’s personality. My favourite material to work with is Victorian Jet Appliqué embellishments that were popular during the latter reign of Queen Victoria, these materials are getting rare and harder to find but when appliquéd together they simply glitter and amaze you by the quality of craftsmanship that has gone into making them.”