Painting With Thread by Helen Adams

If you live in the part of the hemisphere where the nights are drawing in, there is no better time to start a project. Out of all the different genres of textile art, hand embroidery is arguably the most accessible. Whether you do basic or more complicated stitches, cover your canvas with thread or incorporate the background as part of your design, the sky is the limit when it comes to your creativity. If you’re looking for inspiration or simply want to see some amazing contemporary embroidery, here are some of my favourite artists who use hand embroidery to paint with thread.

Victoria Potrovitza, Magnetic Fields, hand embroidery with cotton threads on canvas

Born in Romania and now settled in California, Victoria Potrovitza studied architecture and was involved in fashion before creating her abstract and geometric bursts of colour. The results are balanced works of vibrant hues and shapes. 

Victoria Potrovitza, Shutdown, hand embroidery with cotton threads on canvas

Empty space plays as much of a role as the densely stitched configurations where curves and straight lines give a sense of movement and energy. 

Tilleke Schwartz, Feathers, hand embroidery with various threads on linen

Dutch textile artist Tilleke Schwarz describes her work as the oddities of our modern society. She is another artist who prefers to leave parts of the backdrop exposed, the result of which she calls a kind of visual poetry.

Tilleke Schwarz, Found, hand embroidery with various threads on linen

It is not always necessary to fully cover the cloth with stitches, Tilleke explains. However, when you do you need to (just like me) use a lovely kind of linen. So no Aida, no canvas etc. but 45 to 50 count linen.

Chiachio & Giannone, Lyonnais. Hand embroidery with cotton threads and jewellery effect on fabric

Less is definitely not more when it comes to Argentinian masters of embroidery Leo Chiachio and Daniel Giannone. Canvases are filled with a dazzling array of colour and stitch and their portraits are often incorporated into their designs. 

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Picos Gemelos, Chiachio & Giannone, hand embroidery with cotton and metallic threads and pompoms on a blanket

Chiachio & Giannone’s work is usually on an epic scale and incorporates elements of magical realism and a sense of humour. Their latest pieces are a mix of intricate stitches with jewel effect threads, and embroidery onto an existing blanket. If you are anywhere near Santiago, Chile, they is an exhibition of their work at the Isabel Croxatto Gallery until November 27th.

Diane Meyer, Erna Berger-Stasse, hand sewn archival ink jet print

American artist Diane Meyer studied photography and gives equal emphasis to her background and stitching. She blurs the boundaries between technology and the handmade with immaculate cross stitches in carefully chosen colours resembling pixels. 

Diane Meyer, Disneyland, hand sewn archival ink jet print

Some of Diane’s images are from a pre-digital age and capture an innocence and nostalgia of a different time. Other more stark subjects are softened by introducing texture to the matt surface. Whatever the theme, in an age where we are exposed to thousands of images every day, adding thread gives a lasting quality and makes you pause for longer. Diane is exhibiting at Klompching Gallery in New York from November 14th – January 20th.

Helen Adams founded www.textilecurator.com to help wake up the world to contemporary textile art. She posts every Monday for an inspirational start to your week. She is also a freelance stylist and journalist and is currently living in Malaysia. 

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