Long seen as the genteel hobby of the maiden aunt, embroidery might not seem like the obvious choice for emerging artists – it’s more WI than YBA. However a new generation of artists are turning towards the slow, intricate work of needle and embroidery silk to express themselves. And while you could argue that Tracy Emin’s Tent – featuring the names of everyone she’d slept with embroidered on it – was the first flash of embroidery’s resurgence, that work had a punky, subversive, DIY feel. What these younger artists are creating is more akin to traditional painting, with close attention paid to colour and form. The results are delicate and delightfully beautiful. Here we meet three of these rising stars of the needle and thread.
Sensitive portraits, abstract splashes of pure colour, fun and funky sketches – Lisa Smirnova’s embroidery work covers many subjects. Ironically Smirnova started out as a black and white graphic artist, confessing that she felt at the time that she didn’t understand how colour worked. Her studies in Art and Theatre meant that she had a background in both sewing costumes and academic drawing, and with embroidery she found a way to merge the two disciplines. Working with embroidery, she says, let her come to understand how line and colour work together. “Now when I do these embroideries, they are like drawing in colour, but with threads instead of pencil hatch. Moreover, these colourful threads influence my perception in general, and now even if I’m painting or pencil sketching, I do it using the colour as the most important method.”
To see more of Smirnova’s work as well as lots of images of her working process, visit her Instagram, here.
Sketching in thread seems to be the closest explanation of Danielle Clough’s bright, witty work. Her subject matter and something in the immediacy of the colours she uses remind you of quick pen drawings done on a school exercise book. Her work mixes traditional motifs from nature – a glorious, detailed hummingbird for example – with images from popular culture that you’d never expect to find embroidered. Chewbacca, doughnuts, emojis… details of our modern, media-heavy life are also rendered with painstaking stitches in her images. Given the vividness of her work, it’s not surprising to learn that colour is her passion. “Its the thing that dictates my subject matter and keeps my interested,” she told us. “If ever I get asked what my favourite colour is, my answer is alway a pair. Currently its forest green and bubblegum pink. Initially it started that I would simulate these combinations while editing photographs. I slowly developed a love of embroidery when I almost accidentally stumbled on it, drawing a rabbit on a scrap piece of felt when I had no pen and paper to occupy my idle hands. It was going into shops and seeing the variety of colours that turned this ‘accident’ into a passion.”
To see more of Clough’s work visit her website, here.
Stephanie K Clark
Portland-born Clark sees herself as a painter in thread. Her adorable works focus largely on homes, a neat twist on embroidery as being an art of the homemaker. Instead she makes art from homes, stitching miniature scenes of American homes and trailers, the brightly coloured houses seemingly adrift in a much larger empty canvas, giving the images a touching poignancy. Like many of the new embroidery artists, Clark’s original training is as an artist, a set of skills which she now brings to thread. She says, “My background in painting has allowed me to explore the material using techniques that derive more from the worlds of drawing and painting. The embroidery floss is my palette and the needle is my paintbrush. I create a method of embroidering the threads in an arrangement that would initially create value, color, depth and as I lay the colors down they instantly blend themselves.”
See more of Stephanie K Clark’s work at her website here.