If you’ve ever tried cross-stitch, you’ll know how soothing it is. So, it’s no wonder it has become an activity of choice for many people locked down in the UK.
Victoria Rose Richards, who lives in Plymouth, Devon, has taken her love of the craft one step further by creating “embroidered landscapes” influenced by the Devonshire countryside where she grew up. Richards incorporates wool, French knots and satin stitch to make her “colourful and optimistic” scenes.
“I get inspiration from the agricultural and natural landscapes in Devon,” says the 21-year-old artist, “the endless fields, lush forests, winding rivers and country lanes, all of which I can see from my bedroom window”.
Richards turns to Google Earth for further inspiration, combining technology and her love of nature to hone the quality of her creations. “I can go on and check out the ways other landscapes are formed,” she says. “I can see if the fields are geometric or higgledy-piggledy and look out for bunches of forest and discover new lakes. Google Earth is really useful for me to create realistic scenes.”
Her artwork, she says, is a tribute to the English countryside, sometimes going far beyond quintessential Devonshire landscapes, and always with a positive spin. “I’m inspired by other areas of England like Cornish beaches and the Norfolk tulip fields,” she says. “My pieces represent the sunny, cheerful elements of the countryside in an idealised, nostalgic kind of way.”
Each piece represents “a simplified version of real life”, and colours are very important in achieving the desired effect. “The colours I use are brighter, more optimistic shades of real life. Instead of a pale blue for a lake and dull green for grass, I use deep azure and bright emerald. I like all my pieces to feel happy, and colour is vital in that.”
A recent biological science graduate, Richards completed her first landscape, “a simple green grass, blue stream piece”, in October 2018 while studying at Exeter University, and her first aerial view came a few months later. “It was an all-green scene with geometric fields, and, with that one, I fell in love,” she recalls.
Richards now sells her work in various sizes on Etsy – prices start at £90 for a 3-inch (7.6cm) piece – along with prints, stickers and coasters of her vibrant scenes. “My business has taken off since lockdown started. I’m doing my best to keep up with demand.”
Although she plans to work in ecology or environmental science in the future, Richards hopes to keep developing her craft. “My art links nicely to my studies and the environment,” she says. “It demonstrates the manmade and natural forms in the land and how they combine. I’m keen to create more details, textures and depth to my pieces and possibly even give them a 3D element by adding hills”.
On a personal level, there’s a therapeutic element to her work. “I find making the pieces very soothing,” she says. “It’s nice to get lost in the details, colours and textures, and I often listen to music or podcasts while I’m sewing.”
And does the artist have a favourite piece? “It’s so hard to choose – a lot of them have a special connection to me. I love doing beach pieces, but I must say I prefer land-based ones – they feel more homely to me somehow.”