Downes, Belinda 1962-

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Downes, Belinda 1962-

Personal

Born 1962, in England. Education: Attended Loughborough College of Art.

Addresses

Office—Paper and Cotton, Ltd., P.O. Box 2723, Bristol B56 9DQ, England.

Career

Author, illustrator, and embroiderer. Worked in antique textile repair and as a costume designer; Paper and Cotton, Bristol, England, card designer. Artist-in-residence at Hampton Court Palace. Exhibitions: Work exhibited throughout the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and Japan.

Awards, Honors

British Council grant, 1995.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

A Stitch in Rhyme: A Nursery Rhyme Sampler with Embroidered Illustrations, Knopf (New York, NY), 1996.

Every Little Angel's Handbook, Dial (New York, NY), 1997.

Baby Days: A Quilt of Rhymes and Pictures, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.

Contributor of illustrations and articles to magazines, including Embroidery, Textilforum (Germany), Pins and Needles, London Sunday Telegraph, Needlecraft, World of Embroidery, Country Craft (Japan), Homes and Antiques, and Bien Fait (Japan).

ILLUSTRATOR

Thomasina Beck, The Embroiderers' Garden, David & Charles (London, England), 1988.

Thomasina Beck, The Embroiderers' Flower, David & Charles (London, England), 1992.

Thomasina Beck, The Embroidery Story, David & Charles (London, England), 1995.

Silent Night: A Christmas Carol Sampler (printed music), Knopf (New York, NY), 1995.

Juliet Bawden, Appliqué, Mitchell Beazley (England), 1998.

Annie Dalton, The Starlight Princess, and Other Princess Stories, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1999.

Joan Aiken, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2002.

Sidelights

A talented embroiderer, Belinda Downes channeled her skill with a needle into antique textile repair and costume design before turning to a task she loves: illustration. Combining textiles and embroidery fibers rather than paper and pen and paint to form her illustrations, Downes' unique style has earned her attention in her native United Kingdom as well as in the United States, Germany, and Japan, where she has featured her art in various exhibitions. As noted on the Images of Delight Web site, Downes at first worried that her ambition to create embroidered illustrations might be unattainable because of the lengthy time required. "Producing pictures isn't just a job, but a passion!," the illustrator explained.

As an illustrator, Downes has created embroidered images for well-known writers such as Annie Dalton and Joan Aiken, and her artwork has been paired with a beloved musical score in Silent Night: A Christmas Carol Sampler. "Collections of Christmas carols are readily available, but not with glorious pictures like these," wrote Ilene Cooper in a Booklist review of the holiday-themed offering. Of her illustrations for Aiken's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Gillian Engberg wrote in Booklist that "Downes coaxes extraordinary atmosphere and expression from her fabric and thread."

Along with her illustrations for others, Downes also creates unique self-illustrated books, combining traditional verses with embroidered art in A Stitch in Rhyme: A Nursery Rhyme Sampler with Embroidered Illustrations and Baby Days: A Quilt of Rhymes and Pictures. Of A Stitch in Rhyme, Cooper noted that familiar nursery rhyme characters "are executed in snippets of material highlighted with tiny stitches." In Baby Days Downes similarly combines traditional rhymes and games with questions for young readers, encouraging children to interact with the text. "Combining the looks of a sampler and a quilt, Downes's remarkably detailed artwork is a mixture of embroidery, appliqué and watercolor," explained a Kirkus Reviews contributor of the volume.

In Every Little Angel's Handbook Downes presents a host of embroidered angels, each accompanied by a short introduction. The angels watch over a group of younger angels while performing wintertime activities that range from cutting out snowflakes to baking angel food cake. "It's hard not to be charmed by the engaging, embroidered cutouts that bring individuality to each angel," concluded Cooper in her Booklist review of the work.

Each of Downes' book-length illustration projects takes up to two years to complete, and each one incorporates a unique history of its own. "I have drawers and cupboards full of fabrics, threads, wools, paint, paper and everything I need to help me design and make embroidered collages," the illustrator explained on the Images of Delight Web site. "Friends give me fabrics and beautiful clothes they no longer want and I save them until I see an opportunity to use them in my work."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 15, 1995, Ilene Cooper, review of Silent Night: A Christmas Carol Sampler, p. 169; November 1, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of A Stitch in Rhyme: A Nursery Rhyme Sampler with Embroidered Illustrations, p. 503; December 1, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of Every Little Angel's Handbook, p. 640; February 1, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Starlight Princess, and Other Princess Stories, p. 1019; January 1, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, p. 894; February 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Baby Days: A Quilt of Rhymes and Pictures, p. 54.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 2003, review of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, p. 186.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2006, review of Baby Days, p. 228.

Publishers Weekly, September 18, 1995, review of Silent Night, p. 96; October 20, 1997, review of Every Little Angel's Handbook, p. 78; October 25, 1999, review of The Starlight Princess, and Other Stories, p. 82; November 4, 2002, review of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, p. 86.

School Library Journal, October, 1995, Jane Marino, review of Silent Night, p. 41; December, 1996, Dawn Ibey, review of A Stitch in Rhyme, p. 112; December, 1997, Dawn Ibey, review of Every Little Angel's Handbook, p. 88; January, 2000, Margaret A. Chang, review of The Starlight Princess, and Other Princess Stories, p. 118.

Times Educational Supplement (London, England), December 24, 1999, review of The Starlight Princess, and Other Princess Stories, p. 26.

ONLINE

Embroiderer's Guild Web site,http://embroidery.embroiderersguild.com/ (April 28, 2007), "Belinda Downes."

Images of Delight Web site,http://www.imagesofdelight.com/ (April 28, 2007), "Belinda Downes."

Paper and Cotton Web site,http://www.paperandcotton.com/ (July 10, 2007), "Belinda Downes."

Walker Books Web site,http://www.walkerbooks.co.uk/ (April 28, 2007), "Belinda Downes."

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Downes, Belinda 1962-

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