Delaney Conner – Abstract Portraiture


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Welcome to the Cutting (& Stitching) Edge, where we showcase people whose embroidered creativity is fresh and new!

Delaney Conner is a New York City based artist who uses punch needle embroidery to create visually arresting geometrically abstract portraits.

Delaney Conner - Femme 2
Delaney Conner – Femme 2

I was instantly struck by how Delaney used colour and basic shapes, yet was still able to capture emotion in her pieces. She wields the punch needle with elegant confidence, but in many of her pieces she resists the option of using the stitch to create contour and textile, choosing to let the colours do the work.

Delaney’s work focuses on people and portraits, and while her abstract pieces might be considered her trademark, she’s not afraid to produce more literal pieces with equal skill and style. I sought to find out more.

Delaney Conner - Twiggy
Delaney Conner – Twiggy (from the Noir series)

Did you start with the Noir series and move towards abstraction or has it all happened at once?

I actually started with the geometric abstraction style of my Visage and Femme series. My Noir series started as sketches that I thought could be really interesting in punch needle, and developed into a little side experiment working in a much more limited palette.

Delaney Conner - Jackie Onassis
Delaney Conner – Jackie Onassis

How did your technique evolve?

My technique and process have progressively been focused on examining the human form in greater detail. My Visage series was my first attempt at stripping a subject’s recognizable features to create more broadly relatable pieces. From there I found myself inspired to work on a larger scale and in greater detail in terms of both geometric abstraction and color palette.

Delaney Conner - Visage 5
Delaney Conner – Visage 5

Where do you think your creativity is taking you?

To be honest, I have no idea. It’s funny because before I began punch needling, I was always afraid of using color in my artwork. Looking at my creations now, I can’t imagine not using bright and striking colors. I think continuing to work with bold color palettes is the one thing I’m confident about in terms of artistic direction.

Delaney Conner - Femmes Du Vent
Delaney Conner – Femmes Du Vent

What other artists inspire you?

Where to begin?! I find myself very drawn to abstract expressionism, particularly works by Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell. I also love engaging and playful art, so artists like Brancusi, Calder and Magritte really inspire me to have fun with whatever I’m working on. I also continually find myself inspired by so many contemporary artists such as Benjamin Shine, Paul Kremer, and Bahk Seon Ghi as just a few examples.

Delaney Conner - Femme 4
Delaney Conner – Femme 4

You make punch needle look easy – what are your top tips for punch needle beginners?

Finding the right materials is so important! I get so many questions about what combinations of needle/thread/canvas that I work with, and I understand the frustration with the trial and error process when first starting out. The best thing about punch needle is that it’s very easy to fix your mistakes while working – you just pull it out and start over on the same canvas. My advice is to have fun with it because it really is such a versatile medium that lends itself well to both beginners and more experienced stitchers.

Delaney Conner - Clint Eastwood
Delaney Conner – Clint Eastwood

Can you share one creative tip with our readers?

I’ve never personally worked with kits, but I relate to the stress of staring at a blank canvas, having no idea what to do with it, and therefore wanting some sort of blueprint in terms of creative direction. My best piece of advice is to sketch out designs beforehand – either on paper or on a program like Adobe Illustrator. I always fine tune my designs on the computer before starting to stitch, and find that working out all the kinks beforehand makes the stitching process much more rewarding and stress free.

Delaney Conner - Solitude 3
Delaney Conner – Solitude 3

It’s great to see punch needle being used in such a dynamic way, and I’m fascinated to see how Delaney’s work evolves. You can enjoy more of her process on her Instagram and buy prints and original art at her website.

Are you at the Cutting (& Stitching) Edge? Do you know of an artist that we should feature? Get in touch!

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    Mr X

    Jamie Chalmers, aka Mr X Stitch, aka the Kingpin of Contemporary Embroidery is the founder of the Mr X Stitch site, the world's longest running embroidery blog, the curator of PUSH Stitchery and the author of the Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch. He is also the founder of XStitch, the game-changing cross stitch design magazine which launched in Summer 2017.

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