Welcome to eMbroidery, a series of interviews with male embroiderers. This month, Eran Inbar.
Name: Eran Inbar
Main embroidery medium: Hand embroidery
Noteworthy projects or pieces: Settlement (the Hebrew word, Hityashvut, means both ‘settlement’ and ‘sitting down’) is one of my personal favorites, and has been in a number of group exhibitions.
How did you come to be an embroiderer?
I am an artist that works in multiple disciplines, and about ten years ago I started collecting old embroidery and crochet pieces to use as found objects in installations and sculptures. I was fascinated by their relationship with their makers and environment. The women who made them lived through some pretty challenging times and their flowery doilies silently witnessed some terrible events. There was a point where I felt I couldn’t just use them as materials in my work anymore, since I had too much respect for them, so that’s when I started experimenting with embroidery myself.
What does it mean to you?
A whole new medium to explore, with its baggage of old traditions and folk art, and that quiet act of defiance of being a male embroiderer. For me, it’s the right balance between craft and image, beauty and harshness, and a way to be subversive in a subtle way.
Where do you like to work?
I mostly stitch at home, but I love that I can carry my projects with me and work on them whenever I have some time to pass. My favorite place to work outside of home is on the train.
How do people respond to you as a male embroiderer?
Jaws drop, shock and amazement. They have never seen a guy do that before. I used to enjoy it at the beginning, just to be able to open people’s minds to this incredible new notion, but I’m very much over it now.
Who inspires you?
Illustrators like Jessie M. King and Harry Clarke. Kara Walker, Eva Hesse, Jhonen Vasquez, Melora Creager of Rasputina. It’s a strange list, but I think it sort of sums up where I am at the moment.
How or where did you learn how to stitch or sew?
I was interested in embroidery for a long time before I actually picked up a needle. There was no one around to teach me, so, after closely studying some embroidered napkins I inherited, I just sat down and taught myself some basic stitches. Then I found Mary Corbet’s needle ‘n thread and learned the rest from her tutorials.
Are your current images new ones or have you used them before?
I rarely use the same image twice, and everything I stitch was sketched specifically for embroidery. It’s the only thing I make that is 2d, I think it’s the closest to drawing or painting that I came since my first year of art school.
How has your life shaped or influenced your work?
I’m very domestic, and I carry a backpack everywhere when I’m not at home, and ever since I started stitching, there’s always a hoop in there. I was always drawn to the subject of gender, and the very first course I took in art history was about feminist artists. I think that my interest in folk art and fiber art – which is usually marked as a female-only medium – comes from that and from wanting to learn the history of art in a way different from the mainstream, which is very male dominated. Being creative, for me, was always about being an outsider and having the freedom and power to make something that is a projection of my individuality and my choices, something that has its own gender and shows a different way of viewing the world.
There are also a lot of autobiographical elements in my work, like my love for animals, my childhood experiences and the country I live in.
Do formal concerns, such as perspective and art history, interest you?
No, not really. When they do come up it’s usually in the form of doubt, and I do my best to push them away.
Do you have any secrets in your work you will tell us?
I usually stain my work on purpose, mostly because I enjoy torturing the fabric. Also, there’s usually some cat fur left in the stitches that I failed to pick out.
How do you hope history treats your work?
There’s a feeling I get sometimes when I see an image or art piece and I just get it, and it puts a smile on my face and gives me some hope and a drive to create something new. Maybe that’s called inspiration? I think it’s more complex than that. It’s about realizing someone else sees the world in a similar way and there’s a kind of bond that connects through the image. Anyway, I’m hoping to make others feel that and, I guess, inspire others to create.
Where can we find you and your work?
eMbroidery was created with the support and wisdom of the magnificent Bascom Hogue.
If you are, or know of, a male embroiderer that we should interview as part of this series, contact us!