Through a luxuriant series of embroideries, Litli Ulfur translates thick landscapes into lush entanglements of brown and green stitches. The abstract forms consider the intricacies of nature through an aerial perspective, contrasting micro- and macro-views in every inch. Each piece is created organically and uniquely, ensuring no two are alike.
The textured works are inspired by natural sources, like jungly forests and the human nervous system, that are reflected through French knots, tufts, and flat patches. “I was struck by certain similarities between the two—some of the trees in these forests (including oaks and beeches) were confusingly similar to the structure of human neurons. Their branches and roots bent in various directions creating a huge endless network,” she writes on Instagram about creating “The Inside.”
In a note to Colossal, Ulfur says her process begins with immersing herself in natural settings for a full sensory experience. “I celebrate this moment—being completely aware of it is crucial. I open myself up so I can consciously connect with it. I smell the scent, color. I feel the texture, experience the sound and taste,” she says. “Being alone with nature is really important to me. It gives me space to reflect on why I do what I do and feel what I feel.”
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Alberta-based artist Simone Saunders hand-tufts bold, colorful portraits with themes of identity and Black history woven throughout. Crafting vibrant patches of fibers that form eyes, lips, and garments, Saunders casts her earnest subjects against austere backgrounds, which sometimes are marked with “Black Lives Matter.”
The textured artworks serve as a site for conversation, prompting questions about race relations and societal injustices. “Textiles engage upon a search for belonging: studying the Black female body, personal identities, and a connection to Black history,” the artist tells Colossal. “I create colorful portraits of Black people who are leaders within their respective disciplines: the arts, music, sports, advocacy. It’s important to carry forward their message and have their legacy move through different channels, like my textiles.”
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California-based artist Windy Chien began her career with macrame before becoming frustrated with its limitations. “I gave myself an assignment to learn one new knot every day for one year, and thereby increase my vocabulary of knots and become fluent in what I now recognize to be a language—the universal language of knots,” she says. The year-long exploration spurred her more recent series of Circuit Boards, large wall hangings of winding rope with gold, red, and white thread wound around the strands’ ends.
Spanning up to 24 feet, the fiber pieces resemble conductive pathways and tracks made from metal. While broadly inspired by electronics, Chien also is influenced by Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 redesign of the New York City subway map and fashion editor Diana Vreeland’s belief that “the eye has to travel.”
I find the metaphor of the journey to be potent and relevant here. For me, the visual pleasure derived from the Circuit Boards comes from choosing one rope end and following it to the conclusion of its journey through the work. Electronic circuit boards connect and conduct power; subway maps (maps in general) provide a kind of simulation of a journey, a guide to choices and paths.
The artist tells Colossal that by examining the inherent tension in knots, she hopes to consider both their physical function and aesthetic value. “The neurosurgeon Leonard Shlain pointed out that art interprets the visible world, while physics charts its unseen workings. I think of my work as a fusion of the two,” she writes. “Art matters because it voices the unvoiceable—it is human experience distilled.”
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England-based artist Helen Ahpornsiri (previously) presses delicate flowers and plants into wondrous artworks that depict the colorful diversity of the natural world. By foraging botanics from her garden, Ahpornsiri pieces the dried natural matter together in a manner that’s similar to constructing a jigsaw puzzle. “I prefer to use fern and common wildflower species as I like the idea of giving something unassuming, or thought of as a weed, a new narrative—and they are relatively easy to grow!” she says. “The marine algae I use is foraged from beaches on the south coast of England. I search for loose pieces of marine algae along strandlines and in rockpools, especially after stormy seas, to avoid being disruptive to the surrounding ecosystem.”
The artist’s collection features mammals and insects from across the animal kingdom—ranging from peacocks and bees to elephants—some of which are aligned with tiny pieces of gold leaf that reflect the sparkling color and vibrancy of the species she creates. Upon close inspection, the flowers’ color appears faded from the drying process, similar to the way watercolors dry and bleed into their canvas. In one of the artist’s most recent pieces, a comet moth is mounted on black board, with its antenna crafted from a minuscule leaf that elegantly depicts the fragility of the insect’s anatomy.
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Stitching lengthy, varicolored rows around found twigs, Natalie Ciccoricco juxtaposes the organic forms of nature with her meticulous embroideries. The California-based artist has been crafting her Nesting series on white, handmade paper with unfinished edges. The stark backdrop complements the precisely laid thread that seems to suspend each twig, while the natural borders offer an additional organic element.
An extension of her stitches on vintage photographs, Ciccoricco’s lastest series was born out of her time quarantined at home. “While being under quarantine at home, I started creating embroidery artworks using materials found in our yard, on our deck or nature walks,” she writes on her site. “Exploring the juxtaposition between geometric shapes and organic elements, this series is an ongoing exercise to find beauty and hope in challenging times.”
Although each piece from Nesting is sold out in her shop, some prints of her other embroideries are available on Society6. Follow Ciccoricco’s progress and see her latest works on Instagram. (via Jealous Curator)
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Sydney-based artist Mechelle Bounpraseuth crafts life-sized ceramics that explore her identity as a first-generation daughter of Laotian refugees. Her small and glossy ceramic artwork, which ranges from drink cans to widely known sauces, explores her connection with her past and how branded ingredients are rooted in culinary culture and rituals.
Bounpraseuth was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and despite many fond memories of her family and childhood, her religion discouraged her from pursuing artistic pursuits. She left the religion in her 20s and got married, realizing that her dream of becoming an artist was possible and that she didn’t have to succumb to the person her religion had wanted her to be.
Her creativity initially began from drawing and creating zines, before Bounpraseuth enrolled in a ceramics course and began crafting functional objects. Noticing her talent for the medium, her tutor encouraged her to pursue work with more artistic flair. She began to expand on her drawings of household objects by recreating them in clay and glossy bright colors.
One of Bounpraseuth’s ceramics is a Heinz Ketchup bottle, a condiment found in many family fridges and cupboards throughout the world. For the artist, the sauce represents the memory of her family eating pho together, a ritual in which they would come together and make the recipe from scratch with a dollop of ketchup. These sculptural forms are meaningful symbols to Bounpraseuth as the pho was a labor of love and would take her family all day to make.
Through the creation of these domestic objects from her past, Bounpraseuth uses her artwork as a way to reflect upon and process her childhood memories and as a way to navigate her old and new identities. These pieces illustrate how some values remain passed down from generations, like Bounparseuth’s reference to her family’s shared domesticity, while some core aspects of family, like religion, are not always.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.