Welcome to Manbroidery, a series of interviews with men who stitch. This time, it’s Stephen Cunningham aka YarnArtist.
Name: Stephen Cunningham
Location: Baraboo, WI
Main embroidery medium: Yarn, plastic grid sheets, stuffed animal eyes and various items.
How did you come to be an embroiderer? A girlfriend who did crochet had a bag of yarn and I was gluing some onto the paintings I was doing. I started imagining whole pictures made with just the yarn… She showed me the basics of needle and knots and off I went.
Where do you like to work? At my desk in the kitchen.
How do people respond to you as a male embroiderer? With a bit of surprise but enjoyment. The first time I showed any of these in public, everyone else in the show was a woman over the age of 65 (I was mid-30’s). They really liked that I drew my own pictures instead of using the stitch-by-numbers kits. Overall, it doesn’t usually seem to matter much if the art was made by a male or female. People respond to the images, colors, and how intricate they are, especially when seen in person.
Who inspires you? Nature, animals… Richard Scarry, Yumiko Kayukawa, Gauguin… Dreams.
How has your life shaped or influenced your work? Have felt and practiced to be an artist since I was a young kid. A way to do something positive with everything taken in, and then expressed.
Drawing, painting, collage, photography… Once I started thinking there were pictures to be made with a needle and yarn, seeing so many new possibilities with the compositions, colors, and textures, that’s been the main focus (for 20+ years now).
Do formal concerns, such as art history, interest you? In some ways, yes. Much more in the past than in the present. Most people probably start by imitating someone else. It’s up to each of us to find our own way, though, for something more unique/individual to occur.
Are your current images new ones or have you used them before? I try to not repeat myself too much, but, having made many hundreds of these, certain themes and creatures do reappear at times. There’s a growing list of new ideas for upcoming pictures to someday get around to. I usually like the challenge of trying something different.
What does your choice of images mean to you? Many of them represent emotions and the relationships between various beings. Plus whimsical stuff. Personal instead of pop culture or political. Sometimes I’m just drawn to the colors of a certain bird or something.
Do you have any secrets in your work you will tell us? Each piece has a flaw somewhere, whether intentional or not.
How do you hope history treats your work? If anything helped inspire someone else to be creative, that would be the best.
Where can we find you and your work? The YarnArtist Flickr portfolio is where I share my work.
Manbroidery was created with the support and wisdom of the magnificent Bascom Hogue.
Are you a manbroiderer with worthwhile work to share? Do you know a man who stitches and ought to be featured in this column?
Get in touch with us and we’ll and you to the growing ranks of marvellous manbroiderers!