Sunday, 15 February 2015

Ilustrative Embroidery

Yesterday, my walkabout the Web left me cheering “yessss" so loud that a worried voice, from two floors below, called up to my attic studio to inquire "is all was well up there”.  And indeed it was. Not just with me, but with embroidery too.  Hence the unrepressed joy.   

I had stumbled across two new – at least to me—embroiderers whose works show that embroidery is finding a place and voice in our techno centric world even as renown painters like David Hockney abandon pencil and pad to sketch with an iPad.

Embroidery by Teresa Lim

Teresa Lim, a Singapore-based illustrator, embroiders as she travels around the globe, not to while away time in flight, but to document her journey. Hooped calico becomes her sketch book, needle and thread her pencil. As her fellow travelers photograph sights, she stitches them, and then photographs her embroidery with its inspiration in the background. Understandably Teresa’s work, a sketch after all, is quick and imprecisely executed. So what, I say to the classical embroiderer in me. That Teresa can stitch so quickly and convincingly is impressive. That she wants to is heart-warming.

Even more heartening than Teresa's verve is her age and background. Just 24, an honours graduate of LaSalle School of Art, she endeavors to meld  interests in embroidery, fashion, and textile design. She is well on her way, I would say. So here is a trained illustrator who approaches embroidery as a form of illustration rather than “handwork” or “craft”.  That gives embroidery a twist, a new lease on life. What’s more, Teresa offers to create portraits for clients. Wow!  That validates my own conception of needle and thread being full-fledged artistic media. So along with needle-painting, we now have needle- illustration!

This week Teresa has put embroidery in the spotlight big time. Her “Sew Wanderlust” series has been picked up internationally by Yahoo (USA) , Daily Mail (UK), La Repubblica (Italy) and (Brazil). How’s that for bringing embroidery to the attention of a non-stitching international audience! That in itself is quite an accomplishment.

Meanwhile, around the globe in Oxford, UK, yet another university-trained illustrator under 30,  is  translating her pencil and pastel sketches into thread drawings.  Chloe Giordano  maintains she has learned to embroider by trial and error. You would never guess that from her charming animals and flower embroideries or her striking book covers. She prefers to work with spooled sewing threads rather than embroidery floss.  Chloe supports herself primarily with her embroidery, selling her creations on Etsy. Now that is an accomplishment.

What makes these two stories so exciting to me, a sedate seasoned stitcher? Here we have two more young people beginning to rediscover the ancient possibilities of needle and thread as 1)  a means of artistic expression and 2) a way of earning a living. They are not pursuing a hobby. They are serious. These are young people with professional training and an ambition to succeed.  They clearly have caught the scent of something in the wind and are following it. Good for them. Good for embroidery. Are we about to witness a renaissance in stitching?  Will these creative spirits go on to produce the designs that will keep the embroidery fresh and engaging for their generation? There is reason to be optimistic when computer-literate  graduates in design take to embroidery! Let’s hope their enthusiasm --  and mine--bears fruit.  Our needles and floss depend on them.