Simple landscapes dotted with felt trees, miniature power lines, and spool-propelled ambulances become twinkling nightscapes and whimsically glowing scenes in “Connecting Thoughts.” The advertisement, which was created to promote the Japanese infrastructure firm Kandenko’s “Everyone Lights up the Future” message, uses Smart-X conductive thread to send electric currents through figures stitched into gloves and around yarn-based architecture, illuminating each scenario with tiny bulbs. This short piece follows the company’s 2016 ad, which used a conductive marker to create a dazzling pop-up book.
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Fiber artist Megan Zaniewski sends delicate air bubbles rippling through her water-based embroideries that capture the momentum of ducks, turtles, and other wildlife as they dive into a pond or lake. Through a combination of knots and straight stitches, Zaniewski deftly renders the animals as they burst through the surface, using threadpainting techniques with staggered strands of cotton to depict layered feathers and fur. She’s embroidered more than 70 different species in the last two years, when she started working with the fiber-based medium:
My exposure to hand embroidery began early, thanks to my mom and grandmother, who were both skilled at needlework. A couple of years ago I rediscovered some embroidery supplies tucked away and decided to make a few small embroidered landscapes of places we had visited. It quickly became my preferred art form…I enjoy the challenge of creating animated and detailed animal portraits with just the simple tools of a needle and thread, bringing them to life stitch by stitch.
Follow Zaniewski on Instagram to keep up with her split-view pieces, including the two large embroideries and 3-dimensional stumpwork piece she’s working on now.
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Brazillian artist Ernesto Neto (previously) is known for his enormous, fiber-based installations that plunge viewers into a multi-sensory landscape of organic elements: people are encouraged to walk through canals of stretched yarn and grasp the structural weavings, while spicy scents like turmeric and cumin are often diffused throughout the room.
Similarly immersive and imposing, Neto’s latest work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is one of his largest to date. “SunForceOceanLife” is a hand-crocheted, walkable maze of yellow, orange, and green threads that stretch 79 feet across the gallery and spiral 12 feet in the air. The pliable installation centers around “fire, the vital energy that enables life on this planet,” the artist says, sharing that each polymer string utilized is burned at the end to further infuse the piece with sacred, meditative rituals. “I hope that the experience of this work will feel like a chant made in gratitude to the gigantic ball of fire we call the sun, a gesture of thanks for the energy, truth, and power that it shares with us as it touches our land, our oceans, and our life,” he writes.
Plastic balls also fill the pathway and shift underfoot, which forces those passing through the suspended structure to intentionally maintain their balance. Neto explains:
It directly engages the body as does a joyful dance or meditation, inviting us to relax, breathe, and uncouple our body from our conscious mind. The sensation of floating, the body cradled by the crocheted fruits of our labor, brings to mind a hammock: the quintessential indigenous invention that uplifts us and connects us to the wisdom and traditions of our ancestors.
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In “XXXX Swatchbook,” Evelin Kasikov (previously) explores all of the variables of CMYK printing without a single drop of ink. She catalogs primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, two-dozen combinations showing how rotation affects the final pigment, and a full spectrum of rich gradients. In total, the printing-focused book is comprised of four base tones, 16 elements, and 400 swatches of color entirely hand-embroidered in 219,647 stitches.
The original idea came from Kasikov’s desire for a reference tool, one similar to loose sheets of Pantone swatches, that she could share with potential book design clients interested in CMYK embroidery. During the next six years, though, the project evolved into the uniquely comprehensive artist book it is now.
“XXXX Swatchbook” features three-dimensional color studies in the style of precisely arranged halftone dots employed in four-color printing. “I use cross-stitch technique to replicate this. It’s a very simple idea,” Kasikov says. “I prepare the image in InDesign or Illustrator, then pierce the design onto paper and stitch with CMYK colored threads. Of course, my ‘print resolution’ is very low, about 3-4 lines per inch compared to 300 in print.”
Stitched with varying thickness, the swatches use conventional screen angles—cyan 105˚, magenta 75˚, yellow 90˚, and black 45˚—to produce a wide range of colors and gradients, all of which you can view on the artist’s blog. Each French-folded page features geometric patches of thread, alongside hand-written details about the CMYK values shown. The spine of the book also reveals a vibrant gradient spanning magenta to cyan.
“XXXX Swatchbook” is founded on Kasikov’s earlier “CMYK Embroidery,” a project that grew out of her MA studies at Central Saint Martins and was influenced by her background in advertising. Merging the two into the broader project of graphic stitching grew organically and offered an outlet to create a piece that was the artist says was “valuable, timeless, and trend-less,” in comparison to the more transitory projects of commercial work. “When you add tactile qualities to graphic design, it changes perspective. The structure of color can be touched. The printed image becomes three-dimensional. A flat page comes to life so to speak,” she writes.
Kasikov splits her time between Tallinn and London, where she’s working on a project called Small Hours. Centered around a theme of silence, the collection features still-life photographs with freehand dots stitched on top in a pointillist style. Follow the ongoing project and find a larger archive of Kasikov’s book designs and embroidered works on her site and Instagram. You also might enjoy Tauba Auerbach’s RGB colorspace atlas. (via Present & Correct)
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Brenda Risquez is deliberate in her use of texture, density, and color in her boldly embroidered portraits inspired by friends and pop culture icons. Varying patches of long, single-stitch rows and rounded tufts map onto the subjects’ faces, many of which display the textile artist’s affinity for pronounced, single-hued cheeks. Her hoop-bound portraits are expressive and dotted with playful elements, like a jaw outlined in pink or highlights stitched in bright, geometric shapes.
Textiles have played an outsized role in Risquez’s creative trajectory—she holds degrees in Fine Arts from the University of Granada and Textile Art from the School of Art of Granada—although she only started embroidering in the last five years. Currently, she teaches at Workshop Granada and is exploring a variety of techniques involving fabric painting and pattern design. Find shots of works-in-progress, along with information on commissions and other opportunities to buy her dynamic pieces, on Instagram.
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Nicole Havekost describes her towering figures as exhibiting the contradiction of “sublime embarrassment… Bodies are magical and glorious and gross and bewildering. Bodies are civilized and feral.” Through hand-sewn sculptures, the Rochester-based artist explores the ways aging affects peoples’ figures and the emotional process of adjusting to a new reality.
She stitches large anthropomorphic works from industrial felt, shaping bodies that are bulging and covered with knots and uneven seams that serve as a reminder of restoration. Havekost explains:
These are the visible representations of the making and mending, repairing and refinishing, we are engaged in as human beings on a daily basis. It shows where we have been and marks where we are going. My figures show their imperfect repairs outwardly, unlike most of us who put on our best public faces. As I have aged, I have become more of a partner to my body. To have a body and accept its imperfections is a privilege and that is what I continue to explore in my work.
Coupled with the varying stitches are the figures’ loping movements and gestures: they lean against the wall, slouch on the floor, and stretch stiff limbs, exposing their “lived-in bodies. They are soft but hold their shape and are in poses open to nurturing and comfort though they have already given so much. They are protectors that need protection,” the artist says.
Although much of Havekost’s work centers on smaller creatures, this collection is monumental in scale and a natural progression from the doll-sized pieces she’s made previously. The nondescript works loom within the 18-foot gallery at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where they’re currently on view through June 26, 2021. “The idea of these figures really owning the space, of the audience having to adjust to their size and presence is what really drove the increased scale and bulk of the pieces. I owed it to the figures to let them be as big as they needed to be,” she says.
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.