Cutting & Stitching Edge

The Cutting & Stitching Edge | Contemporary Embroidered Art from Mr X Stitch
Rebecca Harris is a mixed media artist from Plymouth, England.

Rebecca Harris - embroidery hand

In May 2015 the Eden Project in Cornwall will be opening their new permanent exhibition ‘Invisible You: the Human Microbiome’ supported by the Wellcome Trust. A collection of various artists have been selected to bring the invisible world of the microbes that live in our bodies to life for the viewers. Artist, Rebecca D. Harris, whose work is predominately textile based, was selected for her proposal to create a hand and machine embroidered wall hanging which explores how our microbial communities form us. In particular, her focus is on the very start of our lives when we are sterile in our mothers’ wombs and the pregnant figure portrays the body as a microbiome and its effects on our physical landscape. When we are born our bodies are 100% human, by the time we are adults our human cells are outnumber 10:1, resulting in us being 90% microbes!

“Our bodies are an enormous microbial community, which works together to keep us healthy and as such we are referred to as an eco-system. Using this analogy of the body being like a geographical area, Rebecca established a method of representing the twodimensional body with a three-dimensional effect similar to that of a topographical map’s contour lines. Using medical imaging techniques (MRI), the artist traces around each ‘slice’ of the human body and the ‘landscape’ created is the chartered area of trillions of microbes to be explored and discovered.

Rebecca Harris - Head

“In talking about the process Rebecca says “before the work even began on fabric there were many painstaking hours, days and weeks using the medical imagery software and Adobe Illustrator. Each line has to be perfect, and in many cases I drew much of the lines from scratch. I did not have a full figure scan, the figure you see is a combination scans on various parts of the body brought together. There were also none that had breasts so I had to draw these myself. Furthermore, it’s important to protect the identity of the person and so a lot more manipulation is made to obscure them.

Once this was complete I printed off the whole life-size image on many pieces of A4 paper. Using the technique I learned through a masterclass with Alice Kettle I would work from the rear of the piece, winding embroidery thread into the machine’s bobbin. This allowed me to follow my printed template which was much harder than it sounds, and required lots of editing, tidying up etc afterwards.

Rebecca Harris - Eden Project


“The first stage of the hand embroidery started with the baby, using just normal sewing thread I wanted to create a flat, drawn like image. As this area will not have any further embroidery on it I wanted it to have a stillness and lack of texture to fully represent the sterile nature of the womb during pregnancy.”

“Moving on from this stage Rebecca is currently hand embroidering many thousands of French knots. For which she wanted the ‘terrain’ of the body to have a beautiful and seductive surface of ‘colonies’ occupying the ‘landscape’. They represent the microbial communities that our bodies are covered in and are part of. They are bright and tactile, and so, enable the viewer to engage with the positive aspects of our microbial colonies. All too often the focus is placed on the microbes that harm us. Our bodies are not blemished by the microbes, but like what the artist is doing with the embroideries, they are embellishments, a way to seeing the positive side of the microbes we share our existence with, and more so, owe our existence to.

Rebecca Harris - Latest Work

“The colours and crowding of stitching is in no way random. Working with Professor Michael Wilson, from the department of Microbiology at University College of London, the pair are working as a team to best represent the different types of microbes that inhabit the surface of our skin. Using data and images from Professor Wilson, Rebecca is interpreting the best way to represent how the microbes colonise in certain areas and to what extent they do so. Rebecca adds: “it’s not that you need to have a ‘key’ next to the work or even know what, where or why, it’s just that it needs to give the idea that we have a huge variety of microbes on us and they like some places better than others!”

“Rebecca is due to spend many more hours to complete this piece, and as she has become rather experienced at creating French knots and as the majority of the work does not require a great deal of concentration she wants to get share this process with others. The artist has therefore decided to go out into the community to sit and sew, and allow interested parties to then come and enquire about the ideas and science behind the work. “I am very interested in breaking down that wall between artist and viewer and not leaving the work to the grand reveal”.

Rebecca Harris - Head (detail)

“To start, Rebecca will be in the Wellcome Trust building (next door to the Wellcome Collection) this Friday (30th January) in the morning and afternoon for some sit and sew sessions. Then on the 10th and 11th February she will be at The Core, Eden Project’s education building and the following weekend, 14th and 15th February, at her home studio in Launceston, Cornwall. This joining of science and art is by no means a new venture, as it is seen as early as the Renaissance period with Leonardo da Vinci. It is however, an exciting and interesting way to take something as domestic as the hand stitched knot, done many thousands of times over, to represent our invisible world. It engages the viewer with not only science and art, but what it is to have a human body and for us to start exploring the exciting world of our microbiome.

Where textiles are used to conceal the body, Rebecca uses them to reveal.

Rebecca Harris - Feet


I love science stitching, the use of our favourite tools to explore something that might be technical and yet at the same time quite personal. Rebecca’s pieces give us a new insight into the shapes and composition of our bodies, reminding us what a precious ecosystem we are. It’s great to see this project grow and big props to Rebecca for getting embroidery into such prestigious establishments.

eden-project-logo wellcome-logo only




If you’re able to join Rebecca on 30th January or any of the other dates, I would encourage you to do so. It can only be a good thing. Visit her website to keep up with this fascinating project!


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

Erica Gray is a mixed media artist from Queensland, Australia.

Erica Gray - Angry Phone


Initially influenced by garment design and construction processes, Gray utilises similar principles to produce soft sculpture and installation art. Her art is often a reference to personal experiences as well as concerns for humanity, our environment and the treatment of animals.

Erica Gray - Deflated Skin

“The pieces often translate into works comprising a blend of human and animalistic form that is often layered with meaning, through to pieces designed to play on emotions; works that toy with childhood memories and growing up, spending time on farms, disjointed family connections, empathy for the lost, a love of animals as well as the fun times amongst a family full of plumbers.

Erica Gray - Benders Pipes & Elbows

“Her goal in life, as in her art, is to produce works that represent her moods and ideals, from bright and cheerful, through to a representation of other expressions.”

Erica Gray - I'm Waiting For You

I love a good soft sculpture. There’s something amazing about people that can produce large scale pieces that challenge our ideas of form and function. Working with soft materials presents a different set of structural challenges, so anyone who creates sculptures in this format is already a winner with me. Erica’s work not only ticks those boxes, but her explorations into what can best be described as techno-anthropomorphism really impress me.

Erica Gray - Animal Within

Some of her work is scary, some of her work is strange, but all of her work challenges you. It takes the familiar and makes it strange, gives it bite. There’s a real creativity at play here and I’m looking forward to see what future creations will burst forth from Erica’s imagination.

Erica Gray - Rock Anemone

These sculptures are just part of Erica’s remarkable portfolio of work, so get yourself comfortable and spend some time in her website. It’s worth the trip!


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

Bárbara Salazar is an embroidery artist from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Bárbara Salazar - Fragmento De Atlantis


“My pieces evoke the magical side of life forms. I want to transform that idea into an embroidery. From matter that floats light years ago over our head to a tiny creature in the deep sea. I like to create something that look like a mineral or a sea being but actually it’s both things. Something that could be water and the sky at the same time.


Bárbara Salazar - Cell

“I like to work with different types of beads and sequins, that allows me to create high-relief. I also work with metallic and holographic papers and with the reflection of light when it meets the translucent beads. I like the idea of creating a sense of movement from something static. With threads I specially enjoy working with tiny stitches to make patterns that ends up looking like a microscopic vision of these little worlds I create.”


Bárbara Salazar - Cell (detail)

Bárbara’s background is in fashion embroidery and her work is an evolution away from this arena into something more organic. The use of beads and sequins retain the connection with her roots, but she applies them in new ways to create depth and perspective within a relative flat space.

Bárbara Salazar - Valle (2014)

Bárbara’s pieces are abstract yet there is a familiarity in the work – we could be looking at scientific samples or images from an interstellar perspective, rather than embroidered art. It reinforces the way that nature repeats patterns on a grand and tiny scale, and that we should remain in fascination of the world that we are a part of.

Bárbara Salazar - La Fusión

I’m always pleased to see when artists use beads to push at boundaries. I’ll be interested to see where Bárbara’s journey takes her. For now you can enjoy her existing body of work at her website.

Bárbara Salazar - La Fusión (detail)


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

Niki Havekost is a mixed media artist from Rochester, USA.

Niki Havekost - Pin Cushion

“I am currently making three-dimensional figures that are doll like in form.  These stitched and painted bodies, with fragile limbs of sewing and cooking tools, began as an experiment with materials and found objects.  The first doll was a gift I never intended to keep.  She had me excited about the potential of the process; the process of making figures I had never seen but knew so well. I made another and then another, and somewhere along the way I started making myself. 

 Niki Havekost - Spool

“This work of making oneself is on going and a part of a tradition of “women’s work” that is integral to the feminine identity.  I find this work both satisfying and difficult.  We make and tend with sewing needles, seam rippers, spoons and measuring cups.  These instruments are some of our tools, but so are our bodies. 

Niki Havekost - Pin Cushion & Measuring Spoons

“My body is a site of comfort and discomfort, desire and disgust that I share with my partner and children.  The act of becoming a mother was an experience of profound undoing and transformation of my body.  These sewing and cooking tools are, for me, deeply intertwined in the experience of my body and its functions.  In the making of these bodies, I hope to come closer to understanding my own. “

Niki Havekost - 12

Niki’s dolls are enchanting, but in a really eerie way. They have a homemade quality to them, but to me they feel as though they made themselves. It’s not hard to imagine them coming to life at night and making more dolls from things lying around the house.

Niki Havekost - Bird Doll

As well as the dolls with found objects, Niki’s website contains a wealth of other creative output, including animal dolls and some pretty awesome beadwork.

Niki Havekost - Beaded Work

It’s worth taking time to enjoy Niki’s creativity at her website. Tell her Mr X sent you!


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.

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