Maude Smith celebrates the natural world in tea towels and tiles.

Posted: January 20th, 2021

Of the many imaginative creative projects that have sprung out of Covid, Maude Smith’s range of tea towels and tiles celebrating the natural world have jumped out at me from Instagram. (@maude_made)

The beguiling tea towels have a naïve charm with a particularly English sensibility. Butterflies, grasses, leaves, mushrooms, sheep, birds eggs, British birds, British cattle are just some of the themes. Each tea towel depicts several images of the subject – for instance, bird’s eggs includes carefully painted Linnet, Snow Bunting, Yellow Wagtail and Siskin eggs along with a host of other eggs, some speckled, some in delicate shades of eau de nil. Coming soon are seaweed, pigs, ducks and geese as well as a range of fabrics inspired by pheasant feathers.

‘I am inspired by Victorian naturalists and botanists and the closer connection between science and art that used to exist. Also I like the idea of collecting and classifying things.’ Maude’s interests mirror that of a learned 19th-century rural parson but she cites Antarctic explorers such as Scott as her true heroes.

‘They went through all manner of horror and hardship (-40 degrees, sleeping in solid frozen ice sleeping bags, lying awake for 8 hours nightly shivering, the sweat on their bodies and breath freezing during the day, yet trudging on and on) all for the sake of bringing back penguin eggs, to further our knowledge of science,’ she says. ‘I admire the records they kept, painting the sunsets and sunrises, the birds, eggs, ice and plants that they discovered.’

The designs are scanned and then printed digitally on the tea towels in Burnley. Not surprisingly the first run sold out immediately.

Based in Yorkshire, for most of Covid Maude, like many others, has rejoiced in observing the passing of the seasons and the enforced slower pace of life, ‘going for lots of walks examining every blade of grass and every leaf.’

Maude’s tiles depicting plants, insects, ducks, animals and birds are equally charming. She transforms run of the mill 7p blank white tiles into highly decorative works of art using emulsion paint from little left-over tester pots.  The designs are then printed out using glaze inks transferred onto tiles and fired in Stoke-on-Trent. They have proved extremely popular on her Instagram feed, garnering orders from as far afield as Missouri in the Midwest of America.

Maude studied textile design at Edinburgh Art College and since then has done a multitude of jobs including a stint at The World of Interiors magazine, having her own stall on Portobello Market, and teaching art classes for the elderly, children and mentally challenged. ‘I believe in the healing power of art, of making and creating, as a therapy and tonic for life’s troubles and difficulties.’