With Dogs - Jennie A McMillen

Jennie A. McMillen – Unearthing Stories in Stitch

Jennie A. McMillen is an established embroidery artist working not only with embroidered pictures, but also three-dimensional objects. Much of her work explores the “conflicts between civilisation and nature and how the two cross-over and occupy each others territories”.

As soon as I saw Jennie’s bold monochrome pieces on Instagram, I just knew I had to find out more. There is a beauty in working with black and white, the subject when removed from colour, comes into a new life.

Jennie A. McMillen - Rockets Clouds Hills
Jennie A. McMillen – Rockets Clouds Hills

How did your technique evolve? 

It was a long process, first I wanted to write stories and at the same time I loved the act to just make stitches and cover fabric with different colours. I did not feel that I got a clear course in my writing and in my art studies I felt that I needed to focus on one thing.

With these two things in mind, I started to stitch my stories.

Jennie A. McMillen - Detail with dogs
Jennie A. McMillen – Detail with dogs

At first I used screen printing to make the people in my pictures, I then worked into these with the stitches. However, after a while I felt limited by that technique and started to work solely with embroidery.

I kept some aspects of printing and I built up the pictures with compact areas of thread. Even though I love colour, I only use black and white. When I started with purely monochrome pictures when I was printing, I preferred this way of working and building up pictures. 

Jennie A. McMillen - Tempest
Jennie A. McMillen – Tempest

Jennie’s writing education really comes through in her pieces, you can see the artworks bursting with hidden stories, almost like a snippet from a film. The built up areas of bold monochrome stitches bring these stories to life, almost as if they were destined to be animated.

Where do you think your creativity is taking you? 

I love the cross over of my daily life (living with my child, taking him to karate lessons, swimming, preparing dinners), and the parallel world of exploring what will happen in each picture I am working with.

All my pictures belong together in full, not yet totally explored. I hope my creativity will take me further into the building of this narrative world I am creating, and that it also can be something my audience can explore for themselves. I like when my creativity takes me to moments of feeling that I’ve found something hidden. This is what makes me continue to work.

Jennie A. McMillen - Flood
Jennie A. McMillen – Flood

I love Jennie’s description of her daily life and her art world living in a parallel – there is a thread of reality running through her work yet it is created in what seems like a dream-like state of imagination and surrealism.

What other artists inspire you? 

I visited the American Folk Art Museum for the first time maybe 13 years ago and I get very inspired by the exhibited artists there. Artists including Henry Darger, Joseph Elmer Yoakum, and Bill Traylor. I also get inspired by 19th century narrative embroidered works from the South of Sweden skånskt yllebroderi.  

Jennie A. McMillen - With Dogs
Jennie A. McMillen – With Dogs

What is your favourite tool to use in your practice? 

My needle!

Jennie A. McMillen - Airplane Studio
Jennie A. McMillen – Airplane Studio

Can you share one creative tip with our readers? 

To follow the lust and keep on working through doubt, I think that is what I do.  

Jennie A. McMillen - 2021
Jennie A. McMillen – 2021

Jennie’s practice is incredibly inspiring for me. The way she documents stories in such a bold and animated way feels like such an innovative and contemporary way to work with embroidery. I truly feel that her work is destined to be animated – everything comes alive with her monochrome stitches.

Thank you again to Jennie for taking the time to interview with us, you can see more by following the artist on Instagram or checking out her very cool website.

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