What originally got you into grabbing a needle and thread to create these works?
Ever since I can remember I've been very into crafts and making things with my hands. I was always the kid in school who took macaroni necklaces a little too seriously. My grandma taught me how to cross-stitch when I was six, but because the design patterns that she gave me didn't interest me, I didn't take a lot of interest in it. It wasn't until I was studying design in college that I realized I could use a needle and thread to create textile art that I wanted to make without any rules or kits from the store. Once I started doing embroidery everything clicked and I developed a passion that allows me to do it every day without getting tired of it.
Lately social media like pinterest and tumblr are filled work different kinds of cross stitching and embroidery. What's it like to see this being use with youth?
I love knowing that this art form, despite being around for thousands of years, can still be reinvented in new ways. While my grandma has never stitched something that says, "That Shit Cray," when I do it is indicative of the world we live in today and the way that we can embrace traditions of our ancestors but bring them into 2015.
Do you find yourself referencing any particular themes within your work? Is there something that you always enjoy showing off more than others?
I get the most requests to do embroidery pieces with phrases from TV shows and song lyrics. I enjoy making these, but I get really excited to stitch things with a lot of texture and colors. I'm in the process of doing a series of iconic female portraits, like Marie Antoinette and Dolly Parton. I love to see them come to life through the stitches.
What is your process like? Typically, how long does it take to get the finished product that you want?
I get a lot of inspiration from things around me. After I get an idea, I'll usually make a rough sketch in my notebook to figure out what elements I want to include in my design. From there I take the design into Adobe Illustrator where I finalize the design, determine spacing, and play around with colors to get an idea of how the embroidery will look when it is finished. Once I start actually stitching, the amount of time can vary – sometimes an hour, sometimes five or six, depending on how intricate the design is. I listen to a lot of podcasts and watch documentaries as I stitch to keep my mind busy and get into the zone. Once I'm there I don't need to think about what my hands are doing; they start to go and it feels effortless.
“Pop culture meets grandma's favorite pastime” is found on your etsy, and on your instagram you state that you are hand-stitched embroidery for the 90s child. Would you say you are mostly influenced by the time of the 90s? What are your favorite pieces of pop culture, as well as what aspect of pop culture do you find most interesting?
With the advent of the Internet in the 90s, I have been lucky enough to have grown up with a global society where you could communicate with people anywhere in the world and share ideas. I think that's what I find most interesting about pop culture - people in Indiana and people in Brazil can be obsessed with goofy things like the left shark from the Superbowl or debating whether a dress is black and blue or white and gold. I think people that grew up with this phenomenon have a tendency to not take things too seriously and request things like gangster rap lyrics on pink floral fabric. The 90s were also a great time because I grew up watching X-Files and reading Eerie, Indiana books. I was really into the idea that the world was more strange and interesting than my parents wanted me to know. I love stitching evil eyes and crystals, occult pieces that remind me of how mysterious the world around us can be if we allow ourselves to look at it that way.
On one of your pieces you played around with fabric paint. Is there any other alternative process that you are interested in trying out?
Embroidery is such a beautiful tradition because of the way it allows you to mix mediums. I've stitched on sweatshirts, tank tops, pillow cases, necklaces and there is so much more that I want to do. It's sometimes hard to find a balance between keeping up with orders from clients and allowing myself to try new things because there's no limit on what can be done. In the next few weeks I am going to do a series of wall hangings that I'm going to watercolor by hand and then embroider on top of so I'm really looking forward to that.
You've studied Visual Arts, and it greatly shows in how your instagram images use complimentary elements to the embroidery. Has there ever been a time where you've wanted to put the computer-based practice and the embroidery practice together?
I'm constantly integrating my design with the art training I received in school. After sketching out an initial idea I almost always finalize my designs in Illustrator. It helps me to figure out color schemes and composition layout. It also helps me to keep an organized file of the designs I have because they are all saved if I ever need to pull them up. There's a designer named Briar Mark who stitched some beautiful embroidered typography pieces that say "I could have done this on my Mac." It perfectly represents my feelings toward embroidery. Since I do all of my designs on the computer I could just print them and hang them on my wall and be done with it. But when I'm sitting down with a thread and needle in my hands, spending hours to make something textile, it makes it seem more special. It's not just an image on my computer screen.
Is there a difference between imitation and inspiration?
I think there is a line between imitation and inspiration although it can get pretty blurry at times from an outside perspective. It's all about knowing your intent and putting your own unique spin on things. While you may not be the first person to embroider a flower, you can find a style and voice that is indicative of your own aesthetic and find your place as an artist.
Flesh & Bone Magazine, Vol. 13