People and Places

Frankie Meaden’s embroidered art is beautiful and environmentally friendly

Textile artist Frankie Meaden is not only blooming in real life, but on canvas too

Frankie Meaden has taken the time to develop her artistic voice. Her life has always been about creating, from having her work displayed in one of London’s prestigious Tate galleries when she was 18 years old, to making and selling colourful jewellery, Halloween costumes, handmade bags, denim embroidery pieces and everything in-between.

Now living in Auckland with her three young children and a springer spaniel, Frankie finds herself “squeezing in time to create giant, colourful, tactile embroidered artworks out of recycled materials in my home studio whenever they’re at school or sleeping”. Her pieces are vibrant acts of floral joy, creating movement out of swathes of texture that hang in her studio or above the bustling streets of Tāmaki Makaurau.

Her brand Beautifully Frank, she says, “Is the place where I fulfill my desire to create, and as much as possible, do so without being part of the pollution problem. I aim to create beautiful things while repurposing and reducing waste.”

What got you into the wonderful world of embroidered botanicals?

A love of nature and a desire to bring more beauty and joy into the world. I think it’s important to raise environmental awareness by talking about how we rely on, and are intricately connected to the plant world around us, and to draw the viewer’s attention to the rich biodiversity of New Zealand. I also think it’s valuable to be in an environment that aesthetically brings peace and joy. I make pieces that I think are beautiful and will bring peace and joy to people’s spaces and lives.

How long does it take to make one of your pieces?

My two-metre pieces take 50 or 60 hours. My newer pieces, which are closer to one metre, around 20 hours.

Can you talk us through your process?

I collect banners that would be going into landfill and street pole flags. After a lot of washing and cutting, I embroider them into large colourful artworks. I also source colourful recycled rope from the Netherlands. Fun fact: it’s the only place in the world that I know of that makes recycled plastic rope, which I incorporate into my work too.

Who are some of your influences?

I have quite a long list – a sketchbook full, actually. A few artists come to mind: Raquel Rodrigo, Annie Quigley, Fleur Woods, Tritoan Ly, Ana Teresa Barboza, Ana Martins, Hannah Jensen and Gio Swaby. I’m also inspired whenever I go outside, or by fashion. The piece that I’m currently working on, Just Joy, is inspired by floral fabrics and colours that I loved as a little girl.

A lot of your work touches on sustainability, how do you incorporate that through your art?

By repurposing as many materials as I can into my work. About 80 percent of the colourful rope that I embroider with is recycled plastic, and pole banners that would otherwise be in landfill are given new life. I really hope that my work encourages and inspires other artists and aspiring creatives to take waste items and make them into art. It’s always been an important part of my work. We can make a difference together, we can reduce our community’s contribution to landfill.

What has your progression as an artist been like?

Slow? Gradual? Being a mum of three may be a factor in that. I started Beautifully Frank in 2016, and it was just where I shared the things that I was creating. At first it was anything from jewellery to kids’ Halloween costumes, then embroidered denim jackets, but slowly I’ve developed my art style into these giant embroideries from recycled materials. I’ve only been brave enough to call myself an artist for a couple of years. The negative connotations around being an artist were off-putting, like starving or tortured were my only options, as well as not feeling good enough to actually sell anything. All this is probably a common worry when starting out. Keep going and putting yourself out there if you relate.

You run Beautifully Frank with your friend Jody Stewart. What’s that partnership and collaboration been like?

It’s been brilliant. Jody joined me at Beautifully Frank in 2019. We’re business besties. Right now our collaboration looks like me supporting Jody with her dance endeavours, and Jody helping me with large embroidery public art projects. Jody and I creatively bounce off each other, pray together, and keep each other accountable. We support each other as we grow into our callings.

Last year you covered Auckland’s Vulcan Lane in a mesmerising canopy of embroidery. What was that experience like, from start to finish?

Brilliant. Heart of the City commissioned me to make that piece, and it meant so much that they saw my vision. Their support and this opportunity helped me to experiment with the materials in a way that I had been dreaming of, but hadn’t been able to commit the funds or time to before. I will be flying Flourishing over to the US where it will be suspended above Colorado Springs this month.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m so excited to be creating some new joyful works for a gallery group show. Petal opens 27 April to 7 May at The Frame Workshop and Gallery in Herne Bay, Auckland.

What does a perfect day in the studio look like for you?

My favourite studio moments are when Jody is over, we have music playing, chat, dance around, laugh and create. We get a lot done, and it’s a lot of fun. Other than that, I love the quiet sunny days. Kids playing around me, outside, or off at school, creative podcast or music on.

Any exciting projects in the pipeline?

Yes, apart from Flourishing in Colorado Springs in May, I have a large botanical public artwork that is going up much more locally in Ōtara at the end of June. I’m really enjoying pushing the materials with these larger artworks and experimenting with them in new ways. I’ll be at Ōtara Town Centre on 29 April from 10am, making this piece if you’re interested in seeing me work, or learning more about my techniques.

How can people view and support your gorgeous work? Do you take commissions?

I’ll be opening up some calendar space for commissions from July. I’m also represented by the beautiful Turua Gallery in St Heliers in Auckland. So that’s a lovely way to see some of my pieces in person. They’re so much better in person.

To see more of Frankie’s work head to her website or instagram page @beautifullyfrank

Words by: Caroline Moratti. Photography by: Kate Battersby.

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