Monday, August 12, 2013

Embroidery As Art continues...

I have decided to continue Embroidery As Art posts on the
Sublime Stitching blog! These posts will be tagged and titled #embroideryasart (All previous posts will remain here as an archive.)
Meet you over there...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Faig Ahmed

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Big Hair

Friday, August 17, 2012

Karen Nicol - Embellished: New Vintage

Images top and bottom from Embellished: New Vintage (A&C Black / Bloomsbury, London). Center image: Embroidered Necklace Dress by Karen Nicol for People Tree.

The recently-published look-book of Karen Nicol's couture embroidery design and her inspirational sources is pure eye-candy for anyone who loves to embroider, or just gaze at embroidery. The variety, originality and sheer volume of Nicol's work is jaw-dropping.
Embroidery for commercial fashion is (a) totally different entity to labour-intensive hobby embroidery. There is a crippling cost to an embellishment which demands many hours of work and it is all too easy to price a piece out of the market so designs have to take into account the timing, amount of work and quantity of stitches from the offset.
Speed is also paramount because there are often last-minute adrenalin-fueled ideas and short time-frames are endemic. It is not unusual to receive a piece on which the embroidery has to be designed and executed a matter of hours before a show. 
- Karen Nicol 
x - x - x 
(Fashion) is not exactly an art, but needs an artist to exist. 
- Yves Saint Laurent 

Win a copy of Embellished: New Vintage (compliments of the publisher). For details, visit the Sublime Stitching Blog.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

40 Under 40 : Craft Futures - Record Opening

The 40 Under 40 : Craft Futures exhibition at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum opened on July 20th to the largest attendance ever for the museum. Over 600 members and patrons turned out for the private viewing on Thursday night, and on Friday, over 1,200 came for the public opening at noon. 

Who could imagine so many people in the middle of a weekday coming out to hear a curatorial lecture?

The artists (39 of us were in attendance) and the museum were collectively stunned, thrilled and overwhelmed.

There are too many incredible works to post. There is a beautiful, hardcover catalog available. 

These are the questions I've been asked most often about the exhibition:

Which piece do I have in the show? This work, La Llorona (above, from 2005), is in the exhibition and is now in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Did I apply to be in this show? No. All of the artists were selected by the curator, Nicolas R. Bell. We were contacted almost two years ago requesting portfolios of our work but we were not told why. It was not until his lecture at the museum that he explained his selection process and we learned that over 2,000 artists were reviewed before he selected the final forty.

Why 40 Under 40? From Bell's statement:

40 Under 40: Craft Futures examines the expanding role of the handmade in contemporary culture through the work of the next generation of artists. Organized in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Renwick Gallery, the project gathers forty makers born since 1972, the year the Renwick opened to the public. 

How is this "craft"? The work in this show has little-to-nothing to do with 20th century studio craft, which gives presidence to master craftsmanship over artistic concerns. The work in 40 Under 40 is made up of contemporary, fine artists who work in (or even simply reference in their work) craft media in a much broader and less traditional fashion. While there are artists in this exhibition who are technically masterful, some are deliberately sloppy, or not even made with craft materials at all. But craft media have clearly become of interest to artists in the last ten years in a way not previously explored. 

What about artists not within this age group who were left out? It was obvious that tough decisions were made by the museum, but that having these historic parameters was not arbitrary. The Renwick collection turns 40 this year and a generation of artists keenly invested in craft are coming of age at the same time. It should be noted that the Renwick plans an ongoing bienniale series called the Renwick Craft Invitational, "celebrating artists deserving of wider recognition". The series is supported by the Ryna and Melvin Cohen Family Foundation Endowment.

Many, heartfelt thanks to all of those who've written me and expressed such kind congratulations about being a part of this show. I was thrilled that my mother was able to attend with me, and only wish that my father could have been there.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Order and Disorder: Alighiero Boetti by Afghan Women closes this weekend & Randi Malkin Steinberger - Pt. 2

You have a rare opportunity. The exhibition, Order and Disorder: Alighiero Boetti by Afghan Women closes this weekend at the Fowler Museum of Art at UCLA. Coinciding with the recent opening of the Boetti retrospective at MoMA, the Fowler show offers an especially rare look at this work. These incredible embroideries are exhibited side-by-side with the equally absorbing story of not just how they were made -but how their production was documented.

Randi Malkin Steinberger, an American photographer, met Alighiero Boetti in the mid eighties when she was living in Italy. Her book, Boetti by Afghan People, tells how she met Boetti, began collaborating with him, and then found herself traveling to Peshawar, Pakistan at his request to photograph women who were embroidering his works (Boetti was prevented such contact, due to religious custom). Adding to the barriers: hundreds of these women were being held as prisoners of war during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Randi was being sent on a mission that could prove dangerous for an American, and would require some stealthiness. She had no idea if she would be allowed access inside the camp, or for how long.

photo : Randi Malkin Steinberger

The entire story of Boetti's embroidered works and Randi's determination to gain entrance into the camps runs so deep, is so dense, so fascinating, that it's only been by repeat visits to the exhibition, reading the back story, listening to Randi talk at the exhibition and through private discussions with her that I gained an enriched perspective on Boetti's embroideries and how he felt about these works. Understanding it takes you far beyond presumptive responses: that these craftspeople were simply exploited, that the viewer should be shielded from the unseemly process of "making art", that a museum should not be showing these photographs at all, least of all in the same room with the art itself.

While it's generally not the position of a contemporary art museum to explain an artist's process to its audience, The Fowler Museum of art at UCLA, as part of a larger, educational institution has a unique role. Their stated mission is to "explore global arts and cultures...featuring the work of international contemporary artists presented within the complex frameworks of politics, culture and social action...through informative and thought-provoking exhibitions and events for the UCLA community and the people of greater Los Angeles and beyond." Moreover, Boetti desired these photographs to be shown.

Boetti viewing embroidered "mappa" being unpacked
photo : Randi Malkin Steinberger

It's made clear that Boetti had a specific intention of entwining Randi's photos along with the embroideries. That these photographs be compiled as its own project was his expressed wish, choosing with Randi those fifty-five photographs compiled in her book. Only, Boetti would pass away before this project was fully realized. The entirety of the story makes clear his deep affection for these craftspeople, their culture, and their equal affection and appreciation for him. That his mother ran an embroidery business from their home when he was a child, involving numerous hands in the process, makes this work seem even more personal.

Randi said that Boetti often signed these embroideries "Boetti by Afghan People" as acknowledgement of their work. "He really viewed these embroideries as a collaboration" Randi says. They often made their own choices while working, with unusual results: pink or purple oceans, or bits of poetry in their own language integrated into the wordplay Boetti had originally laid out for them to embroider.

Boetti saw these changes as an integral part of the work and the wordplay he loved so much. Similarly, Randi's photographs become not just a record, but an extension of the work itself.

In this era of cameras-are-everywhere and easy, digital photography, Randi's photos, caught in a mere 2-3 hour window under uncertain and unpredictable circumstances are rare glimpses into a cloistered world we may never have seen. Like his "Lampada Annuale", Boetti ensured that the illumination, however brief, is a fact, and not a mere deception.

photo : Randi Malkin Steinberger

I sincerely urge you to visit this exhibition before it closes. You can further read about this work and Randi's incredible story from her book and the museum's catalog:

Boetti by Afghan People - Randi Malkin Steinberger

Boetti by Afghan Women - Christopher G. Bennett (museum catalog)

Order and Disorder: Alighiero Boetti by Afghan People at Fowler Museum UCLA - February 26 - July 29, 2012

Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan at MoMA - July 1 - October 1, 2012

related entries on this blog:

Order and Disorder at Fowler Museum

Needlework Revolution

Concept to Collaboration: Artists Involving Others

Concept to Collaboration: Hommage to Bruno Schulz

Randi Malkin Steinberger - Pt. 1

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

40 under 40: Craft Futures - opens this week at Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

La Llorona 2005, hand embroidery on cotton 17" x 25"

After over a year of preparation and anticipation, 40 under 40 : Craft Futures opens to the public this week. I will be in attendance in Washington, DC, along with many of the artists included. The public is encouraged to take this opportunity to meet the artists and discuss their art. Needless to say, I am beyond thrilled to have my work included among so many artists I admire, and become a part of the museum's permanent collection. I have made a gift of my piece La Llorona to the museum in honor of my mother and father.

The exhibition will tour nationally after its close in DC.

 Friday, July 20, 2012 - February 3, 2013

12 - 2:30 at the Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC

40 under 40: Craft Futures is is presented in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Renwick Gallery. The exhibition investigates evolving notions of craft within traditional media. The range of disciplines represented illustrates new avenues for the handmade in contemporary culture. The artists included in the exhibition originate from every region of the United States and five countries.
The exhibition will tour nationally after it closes in Washington, D.C. A catalogue will be available at the public opening.  
The museum intends to acquire works by every artist in the exhibition for the permanent collection to mark the anniversary.

Selected Artists:
Vivian Beer, b. 1977
Melanie Bilenker, b. 1978
Jeffrey Clancy, b. 1976
Dave Cole, b. 1975
Cristina Córdova , b. 1976
Gabriel Craig, b. 1983
Jennifer Crupi, b. 1973
Erik Demaine, b. 1981
Joshua DeMonte, b. 1984
Brian Dettmer, b. 1974
Nick Dong, b. 1973
Joseph Foster Ellis, b. 1984
Jeff Garner, b. 1978
Theaster Gates, b. 1975
Sabrina Gschwandtner, b. 1977
Jenny Hart, b. 1972
Sergey Jivetin, b. 1977
Lauren Kalman, b. 1980
Lara Knutson, b. 1974
Stephanie Liner, b. 1978
Marc Maiorana, b. 1978
Sebastian Martorana, b. 1981
Christy Matson, b. 1979
Cat Mazza, b. 1977
Daniel Michalik, b. 1972
Matt Moulthrop, b. 1977
Christy Oates, b. 1980
Olek, b. 1978
Andy Paiko, b. 1977
Mia Pearlman, b. 1974
Lacey Jane Roberts, b. 1980
Laurel Roth, b. 1973
Shawn Smith, b. 1972
Jen Stark, b. 1983
Matthew Szösz, b. 1974
Uhuru (Jason Horvath, b. 1978 and William Hilgendorf, b. 1979)
Jamin Uticone, b. 1975
Anna Von Mertens, b. 1973
Stacey Lee Webber, b. 1982
Bohyun Yoon, b. 1976

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Home Is Where the Needle Marks

"The Gentle Arts" (detail) - collab by Ellen Schinderman & Erin Daniels Endicott

I have been totally remiss in not blogging about this show -which closes tomorrow. I just managed to get myself down to Pop Tart Gallery today, and the above was one of my favorite works. Curated by Ellen Schinderman.

Not in Los Angeles? All of the works can be viewed online here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Ongoing. Same WIP piece blogged here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Izziyana Suhaimi

40 Under 40 : Video Profiles

The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum asked all artists included in the upcoming exhibition 40 Under 40 : Craft Futures, to make a brief, 60-second video of their work. If you'd like a tiny peek into my studio, see some of my artwork and an ongoing piece as I'm working on it, then don't be shy...

40 Under 40 : Jenny Hart || All profiles can be seen here

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Charlotte Lancelot for Gan Rugs

GAN rugs have released a home furnishings line designed by Charlotte Lancelot. While their press release pushes the idea of mixing of old craft with pixelated digital imagery, what I love even more is that they are oversized, and appear threadbare and old.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Concept to Collaboration : Hommage to Bruno Schulz

Last Thursday the finished piece to result from the Concept to Collaboration project was displayed at the Fowler Museum of Art at UCLA for Fowler Out Loud. Now that it's finished, I can explain the project in its entirety.

This spring, I was invited by the Fowler Museum of Art to develop an activity for UCLA students in conjunction with the current exhibition: Order and Disorder: Alighiero Boetti by Afghan Women. (The title of the show is a nod to how Boetti often signed his works as they were embroidered by hundreds of Afghan women over many years.) Boetti viewed these works ultimately as collaborations, owing to the unpredictable decisions made by the stitchers (unexpected color choices, words added in their own language), all of which contributed to the finished piece. The works heavily incorporate wordplay, poetry and the puzzling configuration of words and phrases.

Concept to Collaboration was designed as an exercise to show students how artists sometimes engage others in the creation of their works, and I wanted to reflect Boetti's use of wordplay. To create the piece, participants were invited to write words (selected at random from a box) onto a piece of fabric, along with instructions for how to write the words (small, large, backwards, vertically). Once the word was transcribed, it was given to an embroiderer to stitch.

As everyone who worked on the piece knows, I did not disclose what we were stitching. And there was a lot of curiosity and guessing. Random words? A poem? A controversial political statement?

I had chosen my favorite literary passage from The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. I wrote a brief entry on Schulz a few years ago for another blog, and the full passage that is embroidered on the Concept to Collaboration piece is linked below. It struck me afterward that the finished piece has the colorful look of an elementary-school project, with rainbow colors and playful embellishments introduced by the stitchers. But the passage, unknown to the collaborators, is sweetly contrary to the aesthetic outcome.

For me, this was a new experience. I had never worked with a group in this way before, and I was genuinely surprised at the amount of work and personal creativity everyone put into it. While many had traveled to work on the piece, and were unable to attend the one night of its display, I will announce any other opportunities to see the work in person.

Because I'd like to show every word that was stitched, I am going to post the entire passage, word by word to instagram (@sublimestitching) today. All of the words will also be viewable online here.

I want to express my heartfelt and sincere gratitude to all of those who participated in the project. Many thanks to Devon Iott who did a masterful job of sewing all the separately stitched words into one, large piece. And sincere thanks to the Fowler Museum of Art and its wonderful staff, for involving me in this exhibition. It has been a deeply educational and rewarding experience for me.

Related links:
Excerpt from The Street of Crocodiles (1934) by Bruno Schulz
Randi Malkin Steinberger - Pt. 1
Concept to Collaboration list of participants 
Order and Disorder: Alighiero Boetti by Afghan Women

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Concept > Collaboration > Completion

The Concept to Collaboration project will be displayed tonight at the Fowler Museum of Art at UCLA for Fowler Out Loud. If you've been following the progress of this piece, or if you contributed to its creation, here is your chance to see it displayed at the museum (tonight only). If you can't make it to this event -don't worry. I'll take photos and post them here, there and everywhere.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Show Your Support and Be Recognized

The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum has launched a micro-donations campaign to help support acquisitions of work by all the artists in the forthcoming show, 40 Under 40 : Craft Futures.

Donations of $10 or more will be recognized online, and those who donate before July 11, 2012 will be credited in the exhibition. Here is your chance to support the work of artists within our own community who are being recognized by this prestigious and venerable institution -and show that you are a part of it. To give $10, text Renwick40 and your name to 20222 or visit Support 40 Under 40: Craft Futures.