Embroidery is something that I wanted to do ever since I was little. My grandmother had crocheted the edges of my pillowcase and there were little birds embroidered along the side of it. I have beautiful embroidered linens from my family, but they can be sort of old fashioned. There are a lot of rules and necessity for tedious perfection when it comes to needlework, and that isn't my strong suit; I've always needed to embroider outside the pattern.
Embroidered linen from my grandmother.
The first time I saw embroidery in a different way was during my first visit to that mecca of all creative types, Portland, OR. It was in a coffee shop, and an artist had made delightful pieces of creatures hugging, embroidered with a hoop for a frame. I loved the work. Here was a type of embroidery I could really get into.
The artwork I saw that changed everything.
Around that same time I began to see more artists using traditional crafts in new ways. Drawing with embroidery became one of my favorite things to do. There's a lot of heft and weight to something as light as needle and thread; fabric carries history and ideas of women and domestic space. Family linens or pieces found at the flea market have a presence of time and diligence that other items such as pictures and books just don't.
One of my embroidery drawings, Blue. 4". 2009.
Recently I read an article about Chilean artists using embroidery to create pieces of memory and protest. Before I read it, the embroidery of others had always been about the past to me, my embroidery inconsequential. The Chilean women who make arpilleras work in the present. They make pieces about remembrance that affect change for the future. That's the kind of embroidery I can really get into, and that's the kind of art I want to make.
Part of an arpillera. Image taken from Revolution in the Southern Cone.