I work with—is a representational pastoral, usually a single
solid color printed on a cream or white background. By far,
the most prevalent motifs of the pastoral toile are variations
on a “pleasures of the four seasons” theme—there are literally
hundreds of different iterations of it. This toile depicts people
working in the fields, dancing around a maypole, being pulled in
a sled, etc. It’s practically begging for embellishment. As far as
new patterns go, most new toiles are cheeky riffs on tradition.
At least three toiles that appeared in the past few years take
the same pastoral theme and place it in a very urban setting.
My own SIDESHOW! print debuted last year at Future Perfect in
N YC, and depicts various freaks from the history of the carnival.
What sort of floss do you use? It usually depends on the fabric
content of the toile I’m working with, but the DMC line of flosses
is the one I’m constantly returning to because of the wide range
of their products: cotton, linen, rayon, metallic, etc. I’ve fallen
in love with a glow-in-the-dark floss they introduced a couple
of years ago, and I recently purchased a case of the stuff. I’m
looking forward to doing some larger-scale wall pieces with it.
Can you give us any trade secrets or useful technical
embroidery tips or time savers? The one thing I notice most
often is that people feel compelled to use all six strands from
a standard floss. Split them up! It makes the embroidery look
finer and better executed—even for beginners. With embroidery
there are absolutely no time savers. It’s completely labor
intensive and any shortcuts are apparent at once. That being
said, it’s also a completely meditative process and a richly
rewarding one at that.
Do you have any tips for budding embroiderers and fiber
artists out there? The one thing I’d like to encourage is
originality in themes. It’s okay to start out aping other peoples
work, but at some point I’d like to see young embroiderers
forge ahead into new territories rather than recycling the
same few motifs over and over. I don’t think of myself as a
technically accomplished stitcher—I’m more interested in the
conceptual aspect of my work. I keep going back to the same
few stitches time and again: satin, split, bullion, and my favorite,
the French knot.
Your art encompasses more than just embroidery on toile.
What other mediums or materials do you work with? I have a
gig doing a graphics piece for every issue of the McSweeney’s/
David Chang magazine Lucky Peach. I’m happy about this
project because it allows me to keep my graphics skills honed.
I’ve also been exploring the capabilities of digitally processed,
machine-woven textiles, and I’m completely excited about
their possibilities—I just debuted three different lines at Future
Perfect this past May.
What’s your creative process? Do you start with an end
product in mind or do you just see where pattern and floss
take you? I always sit down with a blank piece of toile and just
go with it… unless it’s for a specifically commissioned project. I
just finished a piece for the Hudson Valley Seed Library, which
is a great project. I had to include embroidered morning glories
in the piece (a flower that I was able to choose). I never take on a
project where a client requests specific imagery. Get a nimble-fingered monkey to do that for you!
Where and when do you work best? I only embroider at night,
seated in front of a gigantic TV, tuned into whatever reality show
is on at the time. It’s usually something on Bravo. Reality TV
doesn’t demand the attention that other programming does,
so it’s perfect for needle work. I just look up when something
particularly grotesque or offensive is happening.
Where can we buy your work? You can buy it through me or at
Future Perfect here in NYC.
What do you have in store for the future? Big toile tapestries
embroidered with wool. Tents of tapestry. Immersive
environments of embroidery. Gigantic. My fingers are itching to
get into it already!