Welcome to the Ailist, where we look inside the world of textile arts with artist profiles, real life experiences at shows and workshops to help you plot your own path in this creative sector! I’m Ailish Henderson, thank you for joining me!
The world of embroidery and textile art can be a hard one to crack, so when Ksenia Semirova got in touch with me about her M.A. project, I just had to find out more.
What is your training/educational background?
My academic background is pretty diverse, but still related to the design field. My B.A. is” Product and Industrial design”. Mainly, this degree helped to form my design values and work approach. Above all, such training helps to treat any problem or challenge as a complex project that can be decomposed on a range of specific easy-solved tasks. My M.A. is “Textile Design” which encouraged me to focus on problems such as preserving heritage and adaptation of traditional craft embroidery techniques in contemporary fashion.
She sent us the project handbook and I loved observing what had inspired her…
Stages of her work in progress help us to understand how the final pieces came into fruition. Personally I have had little beading x embroidery experience so its interesting to see how she develops her ideas on a paper or card base.
Do you remember the moment when you first thought of picking up this craft?
While studying “Industrial design”, I discovered I am more interested in creating one kind and conceptual pieces rather that mass-production. While working on a personal design manifesto, I’ve decided to make an embroidered clutch-bag as both a symbol of my ideas and a cover for a physical copy of text. At that time, I had no professional craft training, only attended entry-level workshops. I fulfilled my project out of sheer enthusiasm, but determined that I start to study embroidery as a craft one day.
I have used the image above to illustrate this section as its a really great example of how one of piece of embroidery can be used within a fashion setting and work as a part of a fashion x embroidery shoot.
To be honest, I think this craft has chosen me. Looking back, I see that embroidery has presented in my life all the time in one way or another from the early childhood. I just stopped pretending to be someone else and started to do what I really dreamed about.
When and how did you actually start?
For several years, I had treated embroidery more than a hobby rather than a profession. I enjoyed attending entry-level workshops and create simple brooches or bags just for fun. In 2018, during my BA studying, it was the first time I thought about craft as a potential career. At that time, I haven’t thought about that seriously, since the plan to be an Industrial designer seemed more rational. And then COVID has started and life has turned upside down. So, I finally came to the idea that it is best to follow my own dreams rather than “think rational.”
In what way is your craft linked to the territory?
If my work is dedicated or referred to the specific place, I try (if possible) to use both visual references and apply unique embroidery/ craft materials of that territory. In general, I believe that in the modern global world, the anchoring to the place is limiting an artist. Moreover, my origin differs completely from the place I’m currently living in. To me, the real question is how might I combine and connect my cultural and craft heritage with my present place of living?
How would you define what you do?
I’m defining embroidery as a kind of magic. When you attend magic show, you know that it is only manipulation, but still want to ask: HOW? I’ve heard the same question about embroidery. I observed how people want to touch embroidery simply to figure out is it just beads and threads or something else. Such reaction is really precious!
Do you master any specific techniques?
Currently, my major techniques are Luneville embroidery (the French interpretation of tambour embroidery) and traditional Russian pearl embroidery (a type of needlework that mainly focused on applying beads or pearls to cotton sitting). My MA thesis is dedicated to studying, researching and interpreting this type of embroidery to contemporary fashion. Additionally, I’m kin on Goldwork and plan the further professional development in this technique.
What are your sources of inspiration?
The term “Environment” describes my inspiration the best. I prefer not to focus on any specific field, but observing around and to mix ideas from everywhere. I admire art and design in general, adore to communicate with nature. People, or personality, are great the source of insights as well. Also, I often look at political and social context and reflect what I feel about that in my projects. Above all, I aim to combine a variety of inspirational sources in on project to present complex concept and outcome.
What do you love most about your profession?
I love I can make an object that makes a person happy. And this happiness is not about consumerism: someone bought another bag, a nice embellishment or pieces of décor. It is about that feeling from the childhood, when your most desired dream came true. Such emotions motivate me to keep going.
What does “well made” mean to you?
Above all, it is a balance between the level of craft and the attitude of the creator. It is really important for both a maker and a customer to recognize that hand craft products are not industrially manufactured. So tiny imperfections are possible and acceptable. And here is the dilemma. On the one hand, a creator invests a lot of time and resources to show the best level of craft as possible. On the other hand, there is always a customer who will not be happy with the level of production. That is why I offer products I’m using in my daily life. To me, such an approach helps both to test what I’m doing and looks distinctive.
Looking at her work and focus, I really liked her drive to prove that embroidery is magic and her desire to showcase how to dress with embroidery, how it can be made to fit in a somewhat practical world environment.
If you are a fan of Beadwork, we have lots more content that you’ll enjoy!