Cayce Zavaglia’s Incredibly Real Embroidered Portraits That Look Like Paint

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American artist Cayce Zavaglia considers herself a painter.  “Although the medium employed is crewel embroidery wool, the technique borrows more from the worlds of drawing and painting”, the artist comments on her statement.

Manipulating color, especially paint with a brush, is obviously easier than manipulating color with varying wool strings and needles. That seems kind of impossible, don’t you think? Zavaglia makes it looks like a seamless process, laborious but not too difficult to actually achieve.

“Initially, working with an established range of wool colors proved frustrating.”

Painterly portraits demand for loose brushstrokes and intermingling colors, varying tones, and contrasting hues; creating a technique that would allow her to do this with wool strings was something that Zavaglia struggled with. However, with time, she came up with a system of sewing the threads in a sequence that would ultimately give the allusion of a certain color or tone. The system allowed for the threads to mimic the depth,volume, and form that we are familiar with in paintings and color drawings.

My work unabashedly nods its head to the tradition of tapestry and my own love of craft. Using wool instead of oils has allowed me to broaden the dialogue between portrait and process as well as propose a new definition for the word “painting”.

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