New work has emerged that has revolutionized the concept of embroidery as a traditional handcraft. Gone are those little blue “x”s printed on cloth for following an embroidery pattern. These new artists have transformed the basic concept of this craft and have elevated it to an exceptional art form.
Shizuko Kimura is 75 years old. Born in Japan, she studied painting and then received a degree in textiles from the Royal College of Art in London. She uses thread like a pencil to explore the human form and create portraits that are both exquisite in detail and mysterious for missing detail. There’s excitement to her work created by the movements of her threads to capture images that are so extraordinarily graceful that they appear drawn like an old master with pencils and charcoal. Fabric backgrounds are quietly small and solid or elegantly thin transparencies as long banners of organza.
A Yale University and Brooklyn College graduate, and now about 70 years old, Elaine Reichek’s work is in the 2012 Whitney Bienniale. She studied painting when it was a predominantly male centric circle, and then began to explore changing her media to express her art and, as she says “translate information from one form to another”. Using the computer for printing, for Photoshop, for pixilation as well as the computerized embroidery machine, much of her art is technology driven and Elaine explains “The idea of using the computer isn’t incidental to my work, it’s not just a technical shortcut; it’s part of the work’s hybrid character.”
Abstraction that expertly plays with color, form and stitchery thrives in Bette Uscott-Woolsey’s art “With a painters eye I approach textile materials (using mostly heavy silks) incorporating historic textile techniques as well as contemporary painting” says Bette who holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin and New York University. Never hesitating to incorporate different techniques and media, Bette, now in her 60’s, professes that she “loves to work with silk and thread”. This is evident in the splendor and range of her work which has been shown in numerous galleries and featured in many fiber art books.
Another approach to redefining embroidery is the art by Daniel Kornrumpf. He’s a young artist with a MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and has honed his visual and technical skills to create modest sized and extraordinary embroidered portraits. Using natural linen fabric stretched across a classic painter type frame, he expertly commands a full palette of colored fibers (believed to be the classic embroidery floss) to depict faces that are so densely stitched and complex in tone that one has to look closely to see that it is created with thread and not paint. The subtleties and nuances of both texture and color elevate his art to extraordinary.
These artists are also renegades in their approach to integrate embroidery to the world.
Clyde Olliver “started stitching and making objects in paper and cardboard at around age 6” but it was not until he was in his 40s that he enrolled in art classes and then stone carving and life drawing. Now in his 60s, Clyde says “Much of my work lies between the disciplines of sculpture and embroidery, since typically it consists of stitched slate or other suitable stone.
Laura Splan created a series of “traditional” doilies using computer machine embroidery to depict biomedical complexities.
Christa Maiwald whose embroidered portraits are socio-political commentaries.
Trained in art, many as painters, these fiber artists have utilized the traditional craft of embroidery as a new language in their art. As fiber artists, they have explored, created and launched new approaches using age old embroidery techniques.
Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.
I don't paint things. I only paint the difference between things.