Cindy Lass has been creating her own exuberant art for more than twenty years now. Entirely self taught, her work hangs in the homes of some discerning collectors – she’s been bought by the Beckhams and Elton John. She’s recently moved into the world of needlecrafts, with some of her paintings – including the famous Queen’s Corgis – being transformed into needlepoint kits.
When did you start painting and what inspired you to start?
I started in 1994 and my Mum asked me to do a painting. I went and got paints and a pad from WH Smith; it was a rainy night and I got a vase of flowers. The vase was yellow and black, but I made it blue and white and I started painting and I loved it.
You are self-taught – how did you know where to start or did you just dive in?
I just dived in, but my luck was that the painting I did for my mother needed to be re-mounted in a frame. This lovely woman Barbara Grundy who used to have a framer in Ebury Street, Pimlico said “Who did this?” I was all embarrassed and I thought she was going to say it wasn’t good enough to remount in a frame and she said “You’re very talented”. The next day I went back to get it, she handed me three empty frames, and I asked, “What’s this for”, She said, “Well if you’re in the mood paint”. I took them back and finished them three weeks later; she then told me she had a massive gallery up the road and there was a show on in a couple of weeks’ time, to which I was invited. My three paintings, all out of perspective, colourful and joyous flowers and plants, were hanging and were sold on the first night – and I never looked back.
Tell us about the Queen’s Corgis and how this ended up hanging in Buckingham Palace.
Having done the Celebrity ‘Pawtraits’ paintings for Battersea Dogs Home, which raised a lot of money, and painting celebrity’s dogs including Elton John’s, I was then asked to do Celebrity Pawtraits in America. When I got back I had a phone call from The Queen’s Lady In Waiting and she said: “It’s Her Majesty’s Birthday and would you be so kind as to paint her Corgis and Dorgis?”.
As I was busy with commissions at the time they kindly sent me photographs, so unfortunately I didn’t actually get to meet the Queen.
However whilst painting I noticed there was an unusual looking corgi, so I rang up the Lady In Waiting and said what’s this? And she said, ‘It’s a Dorgi’ and I said ‘What’s a Dorgi? And so she said “It’s when a Dachshund has a relationship with a Corgi” and I said “Of course it is.” When I’d finished the painting I was working with terminally ill children in UCH hospital and as I’d promised them, I took them to meet the Lady in Waiting and the Queen’s butler at Buckingham Palace. The next day I rang the Lady in Waiting to see if her Majesty liked it. And she said ‘Yes, she loves it, it’s hanging in her private quarters and it made her smile this morning. It makes her very happy’.
We love the idea that stitching and creativity can calm the mind and make you feel satisfied and happy: can you tell us more about this?
I have a very racy, sensitive mind where I pick up a lot of information. When I actually turn to colour and I have to visualise using my hands to create – to see something emerging from what I’m doing – it’s a part of my brain I use that switches off the ‘chatterbox brain’ which, unfortunately unbeknown to everybody, is making us all very very ill. Most of my friends have very sleepless nights and they don’t realise that while they’re on their smart phones and computers they’re over-running their brains; they’re fraying their brains.
I recognised this earlier on, I used to love it when I was 5 years old, doing the blanket stitch and making stuffed toys in kindergarten, and it brings me back to being calm, it calms my heartbeat. When my mind races, my heart races and actually caused me to have a very bad thyroid problem, and now I’ve taken that stitching, I call it stitch to the beat.
You believe in the importance of creating directly from the heart – what do you mean by this?
In life, there are very few times you can be honest. We look in to the mirror to see who we are, but do we really feel how we are? When we switch from our ‘chatterbox brain’, we go to the naivety of the feeling of our true self and what we really feel. That’s why I’ve never studied anything and why my heart is true and I think people see the joy in the colour, as it’s straight from the heart.
How did you come up with the idea of needlepoint kits?
There’s two prongs to this, the first one is a lot of people wanted to come on my journey and come to my studio and paint with me. But being very open, that’s the time I find my inner peace and the time I do my commissions and work. I found it difficult inviting people in and also, in the nicest way, very time consuming. So I wanted to share the wonderful impact of creativity, using your creative side of the brain with people on my journey, and people think it’s fantastic that I can create and paint, and I think everyone can do it. By doing my paintings in needlepoint, people feel that they’re part of that journey of creating. That they’re making the stitch, the colour, the vibration, the energy – they’ll have that feeling of completion as I do when I do a painting.
Which is your favourite kit?
That’s ‘All Our Hearts Beat as One’ because I want to make that an International Day. Everyone around the world, from children to elderly people, to all sorts of people, will sew little hearts and hang them on trees in major parks.
For more information check out Cindy’s website: