Welcome to the Cutting (& Stitching) Edge, where we showcase people whose embroidered creativity is fresh and new!
Manoela Grigorova of Mojo & Muse in her own words has been drawing, making and creating since she’s known herself! During every low point in her life and every gap between jobs, the only way to fulfil that void was through creating, whether it be fibre art, jewellery, or simply learning to use new mediums.
Following the stresses of 2020 and eight months of being furloughed, Manoela took the time to strengthen her skills with this creative output helping to make sense of the ever-changing world. What fascinating grounds for an interview!
Fascinated by the contrasts and contradictions of life, my work mirrors this in different ways; the fast processes of mark making with alcohol ink compared to the slow process of stitching with fibre, the smooth nature of Yupo paper and defining lines of alcohol inks, versus the soft and tactile feel of the fibre.
It’s sometimes intuitive and sometimes methodical but almost always meditative. Working with fibre is a slow process, it allows me to be completely present and in the moment, working through my emotions with each French knot.”
How did your technique evolve?
I originally studied fashion design, many years ago, though funnily enough, at the time I never tried embroidery and even more ironically, I found out that I don’t like embroidering on fabric, I find it too floppy, with no rigidity or integrity.
My technique evolved through using a mash-up of using different mediums, that’s why I would call myself a mixed-media artist as opposed to a fibre or textile artist.
I’d been experimenting with alcohol inks for a while. In parallel, I was making rope-wrapped necklaces using embroidery yarns with major influence from the beautiful colourful necklaces of the Massai people.
I was also making jewellery from old broken-up pieces, re-imagining it and giving it new life; mainly because I couldn’t face throwing it away.
So, I had a large collection of beads and findings. A few years later, during furlough, 2020, all of a sudden, I had a lot of spare time, so I started experimenting.
I started embroidering, first in the traditional sense, on fabric. But I wasn’t happy with it, so I took out some of my alcohol ink pieces, which I thought looked quite flat on their own. And so, I started poking holes!
The jewellery finding and beads I’d collected over the year added even more texture. I always found contrast and contradiction interesting and so all of these things came together in a mishmash of textures and contrasts.
I love how the beads, fibre textures and the smooth flowing lines of the alcohol ink come together in a contrasting way.
It’s surprising to hear that Manoela doesn’t enjoy embroidering onto fabric when to the viewer the embroidery is such a poignant feature of her work. What I Iove is the vision the artist sees for the work and therefore combines and adapts many different techniques to produce truly unique outcomes. These artworks are as a result, not necessarily defined as textiles but rather, mixed-media.
Where do you think your creativity is taking you?
I don’t know and that’s so exciting! I’m enjoying letting the journey take me to unknown places. My technique evolved quite accidentally, there was never any planning and I do prefer to work intuitively, rather than plan – I work in events as my day job, so being able to escape from meticulous planning is wonderful!
I’m keen to keep discovering, learning and using even wackier materials. For example, there’s an unwanted shower curtain in storage that’s just waiting to get the Mojo and Muse treatment. It’s a rigid material that would, I imagine, create great structures on a canvas.
What a great answer! Often beauty is found in the not knowing.
What other artists inspire you?
I’m very much inspired by the old greats of Surrealism, Pointillism and Abstract Expressionism. Artists like Jean Michel-Basquiat, Gustav Klimt, Alfonse Mucha, Salvador Dali, and William Morris but I would say, only a couple of those have direct influence on my work. Then there are the more recent greats, Banksy, Guillermo Lorca, Kaws, Alexander McQueen and Karen Nicol to name but a few.
There are lots of textile artists and designers that I’ve discovered through my embroidery journey that should be mentioned like Kathryn Marchenko, Stacey Jones, Michael Birch, Sophie Standing, Danielle Clough, and Liss Cooke.
Then there are the direct influences on my work; the natural world, the oceans and jungles, micro-organisms, corals, plankton, David Attenborough programmes (always on when I’m embroidering). I’m spurred on by upcycling and using materials that would otherwise go to landfill.
Sometimes I might be given a set of yarns or materials from a deceased relative and think, how can I put this to good use, show respect for their previous owner, stop them from going to landfill and create something beautiful with a message.
For example, this happened in the last couple of years, when I was given my sister-in-law’s grandma’s threads after she passed away, I used them to make an embroidered heart dedicated to Ukraine, blue and yellow, which I raffled away for donations to the DEC and their emergency response when the war broke out.
I was also recently given a large stock of beads, sequins and other embellishments from a couture house that would have otherwise thrown them away. Why? Because of course, the next season would be different in colours and style, so all brand-new stock would be purchased and old stock rubbished!
This, by the way, is one of the many reasons I fell out of love with the fashion industry and did not pursue it. Colour-wise, white, and silver, this stock of materials will work perfectly for my next series of works planned about the effects of acidification and bleaching of corals due to climate change. Corals, climate change, plankton and nature, in general, are all recurring themes in my work.
I understand why Manoela fell out of love with the fashion industry, it is a whole world away from her beautiful slow craft. You can see in the delicacy of the paints and careful use of beading and embroidery, how she treasures her materials and transforms them into timeless pieces.
What is your favourite tool to use in your practice?
Honestly, I would say my needles, canvas and table clamps! I can then weave through any and all materials to create something beautiful, unique and deliciously touch-worthy and with those tools, I could probably embroider wherever I am!
Because of my love of nature and the environment, I try to limit excess waste and this leads me to use a variety of preloved and upcycled elements weaving in and out of my pieces. Using materials that would otherwise go to landfill, I aim to give them new life within my artworks and jewellery.
Can you share one creative tip with our readers?
Just experiment! Lots! You’ll only find your style by trial and error and lots of experimentation. And the other thing is, don’t be afraid to change your style, you never arrive at being an artist with a particular style, you are always evolving and are allowed to change direction, which is OK, and sometimes necessary.
Thank you so much to Manoela for taking the time to interview with us! It is always special to have reminders of how valued our materials are and how you can combine many different skills (and interests) together to invent your own unique style.
I am looking forward to what the future holds and what materials she will find intertwining into her practice!