Olisa Corcoran is a stitch artist and blogger living in Durham, NC. Her artwork focuses on text, self-portraiture and experimentation with texture, which she writes about at her fantastic blog.
Olisa is particularly interested in the use of social media to unite artists from around the world and juggles her artwork and her advocacy for her adopted hometown of Durham, North Carolina, with a career in the biotech industry.
A proud New York City Puerto Rican, Cocoaeyes also has a passion for dogs, travel, baseball and cooking. She speaks fluent Nuyorican and always keeps her dial turned to 11.
How long have you been involved in the world of stitch?
About five years. Unlike many needlework artists, I don’t have a family legacy of sewing or other textile-based making. No great aunt taught me how to make lace or grandmother embroidered table linens.
I was a fairly serious amateur photographer and writer for many years. During a difficult time in my life, a friend taught me how to knit. I found making things with my hands immediately satisfying but, given my background of writing stories and shooting photos, I sought a medium that allowed me to make items with my hands but also tell stories.
Through various knitting blogs, I found my way to hand embroidery and fell in love with the creativity and the narratives the artwork captured. I signed up for a beginning embroidery retreat at the John C. Campbell Folk Art School in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. I remember the crazy magic I felt learning the chain stitch.
What is your favourite thing about stitchery?
Playing with the textures of threads and fabric, combining colors and experimenting with design and story are all addictive.
For me, nothing is more fun than looking at everyday objects – everything from maps to random bits of text to a knot of weeds by the mailbox – while thinking about translating them into stitch with fabrics, threads and colors.
In particular, I’m attracted to transferring sharp, simple designs into soft, wonky stitch. Hazard and prohibition signs (both real ones and that I’ve made up with oddball meanings of their own) are very appealing to me. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with stitching into watercolor sketches and embroidering my own poetry fragments.
I also like playing with self-portraiture. I’m a constant and ready subject for my own photography and stitching and I can tell myself what to do.
What do you make of the modern craft scene?
I’m conflicted. I may be overly sensitive to language, but for me, “craft” is about technique and process. To improve your craft you, practice and experiment. Craft is at the service of art making and design.
So, if you’re referring to the amazing resources available online and at workshops, I’m a huge fan of the modern craft scene. But I’m not a fan of the big -box store, commerce-driven idea of “crafting.” Glitter, cheap acrylic yarn and Teddy bear stamps are not my thing.
I do, however, find many aspects of the modern craft scene exciting, especially in terms connections with other artists around the world, via blogs, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with two artists whose work I’d long admired online, Aubrey Longely-Cook and Iviva Olenick. Those real world meetings would not have been possible without the online venues.
Do you have any unusual talents we might not know about?
Hmmm, well I can identify almost any dog breed, even the obscure ones, from that friendly Landseer to the powerful Komondor to the mischievous little Dandy Dinmont terrier. Also, I can do sit-ups by the hundreds!