Cutting & Stitching Edge

The Cutting & Stitching Edge | Contemporary Embroidered Art from Mr X Stitch

Deborah Simon is a mixed media artist from Brooklyn, USA.

Deborah Simon - Ursus maritimus

“My work walks the line between taxidermy, toy and sculpture. Each sculpture is meticulously fabricated to create an unnervingly accurate but slightly off version of the natural animal.

Deborah Simon - Ursus maritimus - back

“Evolution has always held a particular fascination for me, informing how I create and group the animals in my work. As I’ve read and dug through museum collections to research my pieces, western science’s mania for labeling, codifying and collecting has stood out. Most of this categorizing bears little resemblance to how animals and plants exist out in the natural world and I find this disconnect fascinating.

Deborah Simon - Ursus americanus

“The Flayed Bears play with ideas around stuffed toys, taxidermy and classification.  Bears especially interest me as they are the ultimate stuffed animals; both the iconic plush toy and the prized taxidermy specimen for hunters. Most of all the sculptures deal with vulnerability. A stuffed bear is the enduring toy of childhood. The fierce predator declawed and defanged to become a child’s beloved friend and sense of security. The pieces explore the tension between the reality of the animal and the vulnerability imbued in toy.

Deborah Simon - Ursus americanus - embroidery

Their fur is removed on the body, leaving a linen skin, as if they’d been flayed or like undressed porcelain dolls, with the hard sculpted fur covered head and paws connected to the soft linen body. On the linen I’ve embroidered different organ systems that I felt best represented each species.”

Deborah Simon - Ursus arctos horribilus

I find these pieces incredibly powerful. Not only are they physically large, and therefore a feat of technical expertise, but the characterisation of the bears and their subsequent flaying is really quite moving. Reminiscent of bad circuses from the past, you can feel the pain of the animals, their stance suggesting captivity.

Deborah Simon - Ursus arctos horribilus - embroidery

The removal of skin and embroidery of their inner workings elicits a response akin to that of traditional taxidermy – despite how cool small bits of taxidermy might be these days, there’s something haunting about seeing big beasts turned into trophies. Deborah’s work is simply clay and fur and stitch, but her execution is so well done that I feel like crying at the demise of these beasts. It’s wonderful work.

Deborah Simon - Ursus maritimus - face detail

Connect with Deborah via her website.


The Cutting & Stitching Edge is brought to you in association with PUSH: Stitchery, the must-have embroidered art book by Mr X Stitch !



The Cutting & Stitching Edge | Contemporary Embroidered Art from Mr X Stitch

Louise Saxton is an embroidery artist from Melbourne, Australia.

‘Maria’s Saturn 2011 – after Maria Sybilla Merian c1700’ Reclaimed needlework, lace pins, nylon tulle 55 x 71 cm

Louise Bourgeois’ said about her art practice; “I do, I undo and I redo”. This resonates with me, but in the case of my reclaimed textile works it’s more like, “I pin, I unpin and I repin”. Sewing pins are intrinsic to my work with reclaimed textiles and, over the past seven years thousands of them have been subsumed into my artworks. The more I use them, the more intrigued I am by their meanings and history – a very practical and useful object they also have the ability to draw blood!

“I began dissecting cast-off domestic textiles, such as embroidered doilies and lace tablecloths and skewering the extracted motifs to swathes of tulle in 2006, after returning from an artist residency in Malaysia. I have long been intrigued by the cross-cultural nature of domestic art traditions such as needlework, which I also found to be an abundant, yet diminishing, resource when I returned home – my neighbourhood is host to no less than seven charity shops, where I source the bulk of my material.

“Textiles that is, not pins, as these have to be purchased brand spanking new from the haberdashery wholesaler.

Louise Saxton - Doiley Case (2014)

“When I first began deconstructing the humble doily in early 2007, it was as if the redundant functional object was crying out to be transformed into something new – something of an entirely different, and sometimes even sinister nature.

“And, it was as if the original anonymous needle-workers were also asking for recognition, anew.

“The exotic garden of my Malaysian residency must have also seeped into my subconscious, as the doilies very quickly became a collection of fantasy insects. The redundant table linen had grown legs, walked off the dinner table and climbed up on to the gallery wall!

‘reCollection – specimens 1-67’, 2008 Reclaimed needlework, silk, lace pins, nylon tulle

“Since 2007 countless embroidered and lace motifs, painstakingly extracted using embroidery scissors, have been skewered upon a sheer support of nylon bridal tulle, by glimmering stainless steel or brass pins. These are used for their archival qualities, but I’m also partial to the gorgeous glass-headed sewing pins, which can’t be guaranteed not to rust, but will add the perfect glint to a bird or insect’s eye.

“My fingers are callused from thousands of pinpricks and my shoulders often ache from the repetitive process of cutting, pinning, unpinning and repining. But, the joy of seeing the final transformation – of the many disparate fragments into the whole – is worth the blood, sweat and tears.

‘Queen Billie 2010 – after Sarah Stone 1790’ Reclaimed needlework, lace pins, nylon tulle 127 x 95cm


There’s a lot that I like about Louise’s work. From a technical standpoint, each piece is filled with design detail that draws you in and can keep you exploring her pieces for quite some time. The recycling and repurposing of materials is elaborate, helping you to rethink the concepts of decoupage and collage. It’s easy to see the starting point of the idea, but Louise raises these techniques to high levels indeed.

Louise Saxton - Halcyon & Ceyx (2010)

The pieces are beautiful and yet many of them have the slivers of darkness that this kind of work needs. Older materials come from an less cynical era (perhaps) and Louise melds them into new works that celebrate death and fear almost as much as their original creations may have celebrate happiness. It works for me.

Louise Saxton - Right Place Wrong Time (2011)


Visit Louise’s website to find out more about her and enjoy more of her work.

Photos by Gavin Hansford, Andrew Wuttke and Louise Saxton. Copyright Louise Saxton


The Cutting (& Stitching) Edge is brought to you in association with PUSH: Stitchery, the contemporary embroidered art book curated by Jamie Chalmers. Featuring 30 textile-based artists from around the world, it’s a must have for needlework fans.


The Cutting & Stitching Edge | Contemporary Embroidered Art from Mr X Stitch

A bit of a diversion for the Edge post this time as we share a video about the Li Textile tradition from the Hainan Province in China. A big thanks to Abi Nielson for sharing this with me.

Li Textile from the Hainan Province - Image courtesy of Hainan Provincial Mass Art Centre

The Li textile tradition is an integral part of the Li cultural identity, with the techniques being passed down through generations of Li women and, as is the case with all too many traditional textiles, is under threat from mainstream globalised processes, so much so that this method is included on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

“The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, as follows:

  • U1: Traditional Li textile techniques, transmitted from mothers to daughters, are skills essential to the personal identity of Li women and to the cultural identity of the Li ethnic group, employed to create cloth that is both practical and richly imbued with symbolic meaning;
  • U2: Widely practised as recently as three decades ago, the Li textile techniques are today mastered by fewer than a thousand women, mostly elderly, and certain techniques such as the double-face embroidery count only a handful of experts; industrialization brings mass-produced goods that displace the traditional textiles, tourism introduces new styles and tastes, and universal childhood education leaves little time for learning traditional skills;
  • U3: The State and textile artisans have together elaborated a set of safeguarding measures giving first priority to the transmission of textile skills, but including as well efforts to provide raw materials, to introduce legal protections, to raise awareness and to document the rich diversity of textile techniques and designs;
  • U4: Li artisans and civic leaders have taken the initiative to propose inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List and have participated actively in the preparation of the nomination, enlisting the support of national and local authorities for the nomination effort, and giving it their free, prior and informed consent;
  • U5: In response to initiatives from the authorities of Hainan Province, and by decision of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Li textile techniques were included on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage administered by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture.

Including explanations of traditional dying and weaving techniques – the backstrap loom is amazing – as well as a section on the Li embroidery (both single and double face techniques), the video is a great insight into an example of how this craft we love is an essential part of Chinese Cultural Heritage.

Get yourself a cuppa and take ten minutes out to connect with this fascinating subject. Find out more at the UNESCO website.


The Cutting (& Stitching) Edge is brought to you in association with PUSH: Stitchery, the contemporary embroidered art book curated by Jamie Chalmers. Featuring 30 textile-based artists from around the world, it’s a must have for needlework fans.


The Cutting & Stitching Edge | Contemporary Embroidered Art from Mr X Stitch


Amy Fredman is a textile artist from Kansas City, US.

Amy Fredman - The Frogs - Machine Embroidery

“I practice a form of thread painting using a non-computerized home sewing machine. My intention is to approach the use of stitch placement from the perspective of a painter. With the careful distribution of sewn color gradients and layers, I am able to express depth and what appears to be color “mixing” as well as achieving texture through directional changes and stitch strokes. I emphasize that I do not use a computerized sewing machine because my goal is to create something a computer, or programmable machine, is not capable of.”

Amy Fredman - Anna - Machine Embroidery

I love to see sewing machines being freed for work like this. Over on Gear Threads we’ve featured plenty of machine embroidered art, but I decided to keep Amy for myself. Her portraiture isn’t a million miles away from Cayce Zavaglia, however the technique behind it has great merit.

Amy Fredman - Taco Cat - Machine Embroidery

Amy makes this work look effortless, as though it was a simple process to build the layers of colour and depth. I really enjoy her choice of content as well, as the fresh approach is a great tool for removing those all-to-familiar intellectual barriers.

Amy Fredman - Rita - Machine Embroidery

It’s great stuff and I’m grateful to Amy for reaching out and sharing her work. Find out more about Amy at her website.



The Cutting (& Stitching) Edge is brought to you in association with PUSH: Stitchery, the contemporary embroidered art book curated by Jamie Chalmers. Featuring 30 textile-based artists from around the world, it’s a must have for needlework fans.


Mr X