Rosie Haynes is an autistic hand-embroidery artist based in Northamptonshire, England. She works with single-stitch embroidery, using thread-painting to produce intricate portraiture and surreal illustrations of song lyrics. Her work has been featured in Adele’s ‘I Drink Wine’ video and has been shared by the National’s Matt Berninger.
When we reshared Rosie’s Fleabag artwork (see below) on our Instagram it absolutely blew up, and it’s clear to see why. I love the combination of embroidery with popular culture. Fleabag speaks to many in its humour and portrayal of relationship dynamics and I’ve never seen narratives such as this translated into embroidery.
How did your technique evolve?
It’s evolved very organically, I have no formal training in sewing of any kind, let alone embroidery, so I have very much learned as I’ve stitched. Initially, I was just doing simple linework and have built up my confidence trying more complex designs.
I also think in some ways my ignorance has helped me, I’m so used to single-stitching everything it’s second nature by now, and whilst it is even more time-consuming than multiple threads, I think it provides more control and a better finish.
I hand-draw everything onto the fabric before I stitch, so I think part of it has been my drawing skills improving too, as they were rusty after graduating from a (somewhat) conceptual art degree that focused on digital collage. Trying thread painting for the first time was a game-changer.
It just goes to show that even without formal training, you can really master a skill. In Rosie’s thread paintings, you can see every movement and stitch. This shows the incredible amount of time it takes to create embroidered portraits, especially in order to capture likeness and a narrative.
The work feels so instinctive and possibly because Rosie is self-taught, there is freedom in the work to break the constraints of traditional embroidery.
Where do you think your creativity is taking you?
I honestly don’t know. I never envisioned for embroidery to have become such a huge part of my life, even as a hobby, let alone to be selling work. I turn 25 next week, and it can be really hard comparing yourself to friends with more conventional careers. Whilst I’d be disappointed to totally abandon trying to make a living creatively full-time, in other ways it would be freeing.
I do it for the love of the craft and the work, but everyone has to earn a living and this is a very difficult way of doing it. But equally, sometimes external briefs can force creative ideas you’d never think of otherwise. I’ve always needed a creative outlet and embroidery is the best one I’ve found so far.
What other artists inspire you?
Artists who inspire me come from a lot of different places. I’m autistic, so my special interests are usually where I get inspiration from, especially music and film (for example, The National and Boygenius). Visual artists I love are Vivian Maier, Juno Calypso, Roland Topor, Louis Wain and Katrien De de Blauwer. One of my favourite tattoo artists is Luke Jinks, his work is amazing.
I’ve also always been obsessed with the kind of personal aesthetics people cultivate, like Lana Del Rey’s romantic Americana or Florence Welch’s come-to-life pre-Raphaelite painting presence, both of whose music I also adore. I discovered an archive of vintage patterns recently that I have been looking at also to try and incorporate more traditional elements.
It is great to see that Rosie has such a wealth of inspiration for her work and this attention paid to the music and art she surrounds herself with really comes through in the huge portfolio she shares online. Another artist interviewed previously on our blog who works in a similar way is Cayce Zavaglia.
What is your favourite tool to use in your practice?
I tend to use the same size needle for most detailed work, and then a thicker bigger needle for multiple strands, which is probably a bad habit but it’s how I work! So I’d say the thin, long needle I use, which is 2” long. They snap easily under pressure but it feels the most organic for me to work with, especially stitching text or thread painting.
Can you share one creative tip with our readers?
It’s probably cliché but I think half of the fight is self-belief. I think the imposter syndrome part of me is still waiting for people to start accusing my work of being self-indulgent fan art, but it hasn’t happened yet.
I think the biggest battle with making work is committing to the idea, especially with hand embroidery, pieces can take 40 hours or more, so it’s a huge thing to take on if it doesn’t work, especially with financial pressure in the picture too.
It isn’t spoken about enough how difficult is can be to make a slow practice like hand embroidery your main source of income. As an embroiderer myself, I am constantly held back by the fear that a large piece won’t work out, with there being so much time at stake.
Rosie is spot on with the antidote being self-belief. The more you have the confidence to commit to larger and expanding pieces, the easier it becomes to create new work.
Thank you so much to Rosie for taking the time to interview with us. Don’t forget to check out more of Rosie’s work on her Instagram.