Stacey Chapman is a Margate-based Artist and Freehand Machine Embroiderer. After studying illustration, she worked as a designer of interiors for events and corporate launches. But in the early 2000s she developed M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) – a chronic neurological condition with symptoms affecting many body systems, in particular the nervous and immune systems). Tracey was bed bound for the most part of 7 years and unable to work.
She was just starting to notice improvements in her condition when saw a feature on Freehand Machine Embroidery on Kirstie Allsopp’s Channel 4 show. Inspired to give it a go, Stacey discovered that she loved it. “Having a creative outlet is great for the soul, and finding this and a focus really helped my recovery,” says Stacey.
From her own experience, she strongly believes that crafting is one of the best things we can do for our wellbeing. She is a strong advocate for its mental health benefits and believes that it was hugely influential in helping her to overcome her long-term illness.
“Mental health issues often stem from unhappiness, discontent and lack of fulfilment. To find a passion, a that thing that motivates you, that makes you jump out of bed with enthusiasm, that you consciously strive to make time for, invest in, that occupies your thoughts positively, and detracts from the movie in your mind – on a loop, of how difficult everything is – and then to take these creative ideas, projects and passions and actually create a ‘thing’ from a mere thought – that is alchemy.
“If you look back to cave men, I am sure they didn’t need to produce drawings from mud and pigment, they did it because it is a natural thing for humans to do. And because it makes all of us feel better.”
There’s plenty of research that backs up Stacey’s belief. An international survey into the wellbeing benefits of knitting, published in the British Journal of Occupation Therapy found that knitting “has significant psychological and social benefits, which can contribute to wellbeing and quality of life. As a skilled and creative occupation, it has therapeutic potential…”
Following her recovery, in November 2013, Stacey founded her business, Art Sea Craft Sea, creating pet portraits to commission. Her unique application of the freehand machine embroidery process and background as an illustrator, enables her to create strikingly life-like thread paintings.
“Along with the health benefits, finding this creative outlet has brought me more purpose, freedom and creativity than I ever knew would be possible in my life,” she says.
Stacey’s work is now exhibited around the UK at events ranging from Crufts to Countryfile Live and Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Fair, where she returns to exhibit this year from 14th-16th September at The Green at Hampton Court Palace. Meet Stacey and nurture or discover your passion at this year’s event.
The Fair, now in its fifth year, features a wealth of hands-on workshops with some of the best craft talent in the business.
This year, you can try your hand at a variety of crafts, from willow weaving and needle felting to lino cutting and brush lettering, plus all the painting, sewing, paper craft and other handmade artistry both beginners and more experienced makers could wish for.