‘Art to wear’ painted clothes: from exotic childhood caravan trips to my back garden in Bath: finding creative inspiration for my latest collection

Reflecting on the launch of my latest collection of ‘art to wear’ painted clothes has led me towards a rich tapestry of memories – some recent some less so. And while the immediate spark for my wearable art collections may come from everyday sources it’s when those sparks hit the melting pot of my memories that the magic happens.

Waller and Wood opened back in 2015 in Abbey Green in Bath showcasing the ceramic work of Gary Wood alongside my own painted clothes scarves paintings and glass panels. We spent our summers and autumns there in the gallery in person, taking the opportunity to travel each New Year. And these trips became the springboard and inspiration for successive collections of my painted clothes.


gary by the Duomo in Florence

The Roman City leads us back to Italy…

Finding ourselves in the heart of this so very distinctly Roman city of Bath I became fascinated by the ancient remains below my feet – and needed to go back to Italy.

I have vivid childhood memories of being dragged unwillingly around Europe by my parents back in the 60s. It was way too hot and too much time was spent in the car when all my brother and I wanted was to sit on a beach.

An unbreakable deal

Our caravan was too small for comfort and my younger brother too irritating for peace to prevail – but that would never have got in the way of these family expeditions.


venice in 1960 carole waller


My mother had lived in Italy for a year on a Royal Society of Arts bursary in 1950 and had wanted to stay…. but she had met my father who was committed to the more prosaic surroundings of Birmingham. So they made a deal: in exchange for her agreement to settle down in the Midlands there was an insistence on plenty of travel!

Creating an Italian villa in Birmingham

Mum became Head of Constructed Textiles at what was then Birmingham College of Art. At home she compensated for the absence of Italy in her life by attempting to create an Italian villa out of a red brick Victorian town house. She knocked down outhouses and built colonnades substituting Russian vine for grape and taking us to the only Italian restaurant in town for a treat now and then.

But our annual caravan holidays to the real Italy continued instilling in me a deep love of the country. So after Mum’s death in 2015 I set off with Gary, and twice with my Dad, to revisit her haunts.

Emotional themes in wearable art

My collections of ‘art to wear’ painted clothes always have strong emotional themes which I usually keep quiet about – and which are often inspired by travel. I always needed to get away from my studio to let new ideas filter into my head. Venice Rome and then Florence pre-occupied the themes of my collections for 2017 – 2019. Light architecture water and colour filled the work – which came back to our small gallery in the little cobbled square in Abbey Green.

handpainted silk dress Carole Waller Ca'D'Oro Venice

‘Ca D’Oro’ handpainted silk dress inspired by Venice 2018

And so to 2021

This year has been different of course. With travel to Italy off the itinerary where could I turn to for new themes and inspiration?

Throughout the winter I stared out of our windows at magnificent trees in our garden. My studio and showroom sit next to the house – on a country road three miles from the centre of Bath.

As I watched the sky got bluer the birds sang louder and the squirrels and I got to know each other very well. I fell in love with the huge rowan tree and the white poplar who stand side by side half way up our hillside garden – and looked like massive drawings against the sky.

trees inspiration for latest painted clothes collection

Stillness and inspiration on my doorstep

I realised I had not looked at these trees properly in the 25 years we have lived here – and the ideas came flooding in. I saw that through every window on all four sides of the house there was a different view of trees and rushed about taking photos early every morning to start working out what to do.

My new collection of painted clothes found its inspiration right on my doorstep for the very first time thanks to the stillness imposed on me. The trees appear very simply rendered from the photographs made into screens for printing. Sections of bare branches are ‘framed’ and criss-crossed by distorted rectangles.

The colours in the collection move from the soft greys of winter to the brightness of spring and summer – each garment becomes a ‘habitation’ of colour with windows and views.

colours in 'the view from here' ss21 collection carole waller

Painted clothing: a lifetime’s work

Each piece of painted clothing in my new collection is a unique item of wearable art. The process combines painting and screenprinting – the orderliness of the printed image contrasting with the energy of the brushmarks.

My clothes are slow to make and last a lifetime and I am told give great pleasure to those who wear them. They are certainly a lifetime’s work for me – bringing memories of the past and the present together in the painted mark.

I know that the pandemic of 2020 has allowed people to realise aspects of themselves that were dormant – and mine is to be still for a while to simply enjoy the trees and flowers.

I hope you have reading a bit about where inspiration comes from for my collections of painted clothes and scarves – a selection of which are here on this website.

And you can view the full 2021 Summer collection online here: carolewaller.co.uk

Come and see the collection in person at the studios just outside Bath :

Make an appointment: carole@carolewaller.co.uk