Hearts of Absent Women - Ema Shin (image of all hearts together)

Ema Shin | Heart and Heritage

Hearts of Absent Women - Ema Shin (image of all hearts together) - Image courtesy of the artist)
Ema Shin – Hearts of Absent Women – Collection for exhibition, installation view

Ema Shin is a Narrm/Melbourne-based artist born and raised in Niigata, Japan. She studied printmaking at Tama Art University, Tokyo and completed a Master of Fine Art Degree at Aichi University of the Arts, Aichi. Over the past fifteen years, her work has been awarded high esteem, with an impressive collection of solo and group exhibitions worldwide. We caught up with Emma to discuss her soft sculpture hearts.

Ema Shin Hearts Matthew S
Ema Shin – #1 – 2022 (Photography- Matthew Stanton)

How did the Hearts series begin?

It started with the curiosity of simply wanting to make a three-dimensional heart using the hands-on medium of embroidery.

I have a strong attachment to the shapes of organs especially the heart as a symbol of life and as amulets filled will healing emotions. I started to make them like a talisman as support for myself and my family during lockdown.

Ema Shin #5 Hearts (Matthew Stanton)
Ema Shin – #5 – 2022 (Photography- Matthew Stanton)

The word “absent” has been in my head for several years. I was saddened by the fact that there are many unknown and unrecognized women who have been active throughout history, and my series is dedicated to them.

I was born in Japan but grew up in a traditional Korean family. My grandfather kept a treasured family tree book for 32 generations, yet it only included male descendants’ names, not daughters.

Ema Shin #6 Hearts (Matthew Stanton)
Ema Shin – #6 – 2022 (Photography- Matthew Stanton)

The concept of creating physical depictions of the “heart” as Ema does, is particularly poignant as an artwork created in lockdown. The stillness of the time meant that the artist had the opportunity to reflect on family, reflecting on what keeps us safe and anchors us to home.

As Ema describes, the women in her family have been hidden in history, the hearts are also a call out to them, and to the women throughout history whose stories have not been told.

Ema Shin #7 Hearts (Matthew Stanton)
Ema Shin – #7 – 2022 (Photography- Matthew Stanton)
Ema Shin #8 Hearts (Matthew Stanton)
Ema Shin – A last heart from the collection. #9 2022 (Photography- Matthew Stanton)

How do you create each heart shape, is there a particular process you follow each time?

The fabric was made in flat embroidered form, then built to form the heart shape. Like a real heart, each composition is individual. For me, variety is key. I use satin stitching, beading, couching, and tufting to ensure a tactile quality to each piece.

Ema Shin WIP Hearts - artist image
Ema Shin – Hearts in progress #5 – (image from artist)

If you would like to see more of Ema’s work, make sure to follow her on Instagram and check out her website here.

Has Ema Shin inspired you? We often feature artwork and articles focusing on personal textile art and the repair process. Why not read on, and discover The Healing Nature Of Quilts as written by Julie Rodgers, or our book review of Slow Stitch, a beautiful Textile Art book focusing on the therapeutic nature of hand stitching?

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