Brooklyn-based artist Elana Adler uses the traditional craft of an embroidery sampler to outline the crude things said to her by street harassers. The series is titled You Are My Duchess, and features small, decorative pieces of needlework (which historically feature bible stories or other imagery) that say some negative, disgusting things. Adler stores each saying in an elaborate frame, and writes in her artist statement:
This series of thirty-two (plus) samplers is intended to be provocative and evoke emotion. It is a contemporary feminist interpretation of women’s work and an objectification of my personal experience. Each captures a moment, giving these words a visual presence, a power, and a state of concreteness. These words were hurled casually and heard quickly but required hours of time-consuming, careful stitching.
The physically delicate, traditionally feminine, form of the piece engages the viewer and confronts him/ her with a sweetness that may mask its crassness and vulgarity.
She goes on to explain that the strength of this series comes in numbers. While you might read one and be amused, the more you read will change your response.
The inherent filth emerges. It is a beautification of an assault. Perhaps in the moment these statements are meant to compliment, but most don’t find vulgar, highly sexualized statements whispered or screamed at them by random strangers complimentary. Rather, they are an invasion of personal space. (Via Got a Girl Crush)
Sally Hewett is a UK-based embroider who gives new meaning to a sculptural approach to the craft. Instead of stitching subject matter like flowers, puppies, and generally happy scenes, she fills embroidery hoops with butts, breasts, and genatalia. The circular compositions rise from the surface and Hewett uses well-placed stitches to give form to these bulbous shapes. In addition, she’ll use dangling threads to simulate public hair, both trimmed and natural.
In her artist statement, Hewett states that she’s interested in ideas of beauty and the things that people do because of it. She writes:
Men and women almost ritualistically shave and remove hair from their bodies – beards, underarm hair, pubic hair, leg hair etc, whereas other hair – hair on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes – are valued and encouraged to flourish. But there is other hair which not everyone has. Sometimes this special hair seems to be reason to feel ashamed. A large number of women and men submit their bodies to extraordinary procedures in the name of convention or beauty – liposuction, implants, scarification, surgery, laser treatment, electrolysis etc.
Embroidery is often see as an innocuous craft, and part of the reason that Hewett works this way is to see how the medium affects how the content is seen. Is it more shocking, amusing, or beautiful simply because it’s portrayed with a needle and thread?
Alaina Varrone is a embroidery artist who, according to her, was born to a family of weirdos and storytellers. She uses this natural inclination to tell tales using thread which are often explicit and erotic in nature. We see naked men and women, sexual acts, and general kinkiness stitched into cotton fabric. Sometimes, Varrone will use delicate-looking floral patterns that add to the delightful absurdity of her work.
Typically, embroidery is seen as a craft, and an activity that’s a favorite among grandmothers (although it does have a thriving community of younger folks). It’s content is generally seen as inoffensive and family-friendly. Varrone has turned this convention on its head by sewing scenes that that are anything but. Her characters go after their desires and fantasies, creating an amusing juxtaposition between how we’re used to seeing embroidery versus all of its possibilities. (Via Juxtapoz)
Artist Nastasja Duthois creates large installations and small-scale embroidered artworks that explore aspects of shadow and negative space. Though composed of thousands of straight sewn lines reminiscent of crosshatching, the final pieces are generally organic in form from the silhouettes of dogs and animals to more complex landscapes.
“My work is done ellipses, gaps and assembled fragments that attempt to re-transcribe experiences and encounters. It restores daily annotations that one way or another have caused me a surprise, empathy, an indistinct disorder, rebellion or indignation choked. I contemplated steps, stopped movements, noted the words of anonymous … I approached … I immersed myself until disappearing collecting many snapshots of collective life that my readings were converted. Cross existences are mixed with reminiscences and personal obsessions, while retaining their opacity and mystery. They reactivated real memory and imagination. What thoughts and feelings aroused places, objects and people became especially experiences of encounter with oneself. I want to watch the world with the attention of the traveler who discovers a country; I’m looking for simple and fleeting wonders.”
At first glance, it looks like these embroideries by artist Sula Fay pair thread with your average stitching techniques to depict body parts, words, and ancient sculptures on circular vintage Victorian-era doilies. That fact alone makes them unconventional in the traditional sense of the craft. But, the artist adds one more special touch to make these works all her own – strands of her hair. Fay threads a needle with her locks and passes it through the aged fabric. She describes her reasons and process:
As an adolescent, I struggled with my hair. Being of half African and Puerto Rican descent I inherited very naturally curly hair. Alongside my white skinned, long straight haired friends, I felt different and unattractive. I went through many gruelling hours brushing, combing, and straightening. That process was very difficult and tedious, just like the process of my embroideries. To embroider with my hair I have to straighten each piece separately. (Via Booooooom)
Artist Hilary Fayle uses embroidery techniques to create delicate suspended designs in dried leaves. She first cuts shapes like circles and mimics the contour of the actual leaf, and then stitches thread into a variety of intricate patterns. The complex designs mimic the veins of the plant in their twists and weaves.
Fayle first began stitching on unconventional materials while she was studying embroidery at the Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester, England. She started with found materials and fabric and later moved onto leaves once she returned to America. The choice to use them was a logical extension of Fayle’s desire to use renewable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly materials for her artwork. Photos by Natalie Hofert Photography. (Via Colossal)
The embroidery artist Ana Teresa Barboza, previously featured here for her arresting renditions of the human body, is at it again with her series of intricate, deconstructed landscapes. Turning her gaze outwards towards the vastness of the natural world, she celebrates the materiality of her craft, allowing her thread to spill from the boundaries of the embroidery hoop like wild nets wrenched from a tumultuous sea. Here, calm seascapes, serene pastures, and chaotic, rocky waves adopt the same sense of inexhaustibility, refusing to commit solely to embroidery and extending into the realm of the sculptural.
In this series, titled “Suspension,” Barboza’s medium mirrors her content. Like the art and craft of embroidery itself, her visual narratives are composed of iconography historically associated with the female: nature’s rolling hills, curved waves, and fluid, moonlit water. As her pieces unravel, they express something powerful and inevitable in female desire and spirit. No longer contained by the neat frame of the traditional hoop, exuberant colors and textures spring forth from a two dimensional realm into three, interrupting the comfortable barriers that normally exist between art object and viewer. These labors of love are not meant for pillows; instead, they proudly hang on a gallery wall.
Each of Barboza’s suspensions evoke folktales like those of mermaids, selkies, or sirens, woman creatures of the sea who are as frightful as they are alluring. We are presented with delicate illusions, mirages of landscapes, only to witness their dissolution into thick, tactile thread that invites our incredulous touch. Take a look. (via Colossal)
Alaina Varrone‘s embroidery is bawdy, playful, and especially considering thread is the medium, astonishingly technical. Each piece of Varrone’s tells an absurd, humorous, and/or eroticized story. She draw her inspiration from subcultures such as furries, heavy metal, and BDSM, but she’s also inspired by her own life, sometimes inserting herself directly into her work, producing pieces that are part fantasy, part memory. Though some of her work is deeply personal, Varrone executes it with a sense of humor, transforming the serious into the comic. Of her overtly sexual work, Varrone says,
I’ve been doing this for some years now, and this past year or so I’ve noticed more people doing blatantly sexual work, and I actually roll my eyes! I feel like a jerk for admitting that, but I feel like we’re past doing erotic art for shock value.
I still get stupid comments about my work because I’m a woman who does erotic art, I still get men who assume I’m easy or promiscuous because I’m open about this subject, and it doesn’t help that I’m buxom either, so some more ignorant folks just see a big titted woman stitching coitus and get a jolly from it.
I’m trying to capture moments, I’m not just stitching a vagina to be “edgy”, and I like to think my technical ability and sense of humour help to garner respect. I just keep doing what I want to do, I just trust my instincts, so far it’s worked out pretty well!