The Manchester Craft and Design centre can be found at the heart of the city’s Northern Quarter. Housed in an old Victorian market building, the centre is home to 19 boutique studios where local artists and designers make and create bespoke craft items. When painter Lily Greenwood graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2005, she was determined to avoid the 9-5 routine of an office job. In this interview with The Poplar Tree, Greenwood discusses her career as an artist and how she creates her still life nature collages with their intense bursts of colour.
High on the second floor of the Manchester Craft and Design centre you will find Lily Greenwood’s studio, which she shares with fellow artist Kathryn Edwards. The first thing you’ll notice about this particular studio are the butterflies; there’s literally hundreds of them, all swirling about in mid flight, but where are they all coming from?
Lily Greenwood loves painting butterflies, she also loves painting birds, insects and the occasional cat. Originally from Cumbria, the area instilled Greenwood’s passion for nature from an early age: “I loved growing up in the countryside. Our house was amongst only four others and a few scattered neighbouring farms, so very rural. We often went out walking in nearby woodlands, and although my parents would probably say I complained a lot at the time (as small children do!) I wouldn’t go back and change anything. Growing up in such a quiet area has made me appreciate time alone or away from crowds – hopefully not to the point where I am reclusive or precious about it, but I certainly don’t shy away from those quiet times in the studio or at home when it’s just me and the painting.”
The canvases which hang in her studio are a stark contrast to the city outside which is famed for its industrial past and grey skies. But not even Manchester’s skyline can put a dampener on Greenwood’s passion for painting: “since adopting a city life even just the thick verges and hedgerows around there are fascinating to me. Manchester certainly has its grey skies, but then Cumbria probably has just as many, and there is no lack of colour in an area as vibrant as the Northern Quarter where I am based. My artwork certainly isn’t true to the gritty reality of nature – more like I’ve picked out a bit of its beauty and run with it! I am surrounded by my paintings in the studio most days, so having that element of nature (e.g. the butterflies) taken to an extreme – maybe it’s my way of bringing a bit of nature into the city. Not that there is a lack of nature in the city, it’s just a different kind.”
So what is it that Lily Greenwood finds so alluring about the butterfly? In Japanese culture butterflies carry a number of meanings such as symbolising joy and happiness, but for Greenwood the motif doesn’t symbolise one specific thing as she explains, “I don’t really have any grand symbolic explanations for the butterfly work. They are whatever you would like them to symbolise. Continue reading