While pinning I most often select images that I are within my realm of comfort and familiarity. Creating boards that I can refer back to for personal inspiration or for client projects. Sometimes there are images that may not relate to me personally or professionally, but that intrigue and challenge me visually. For instance, this amazing embroidery art that I came across on my friend Jen's Pinboard "In Stitches". I'm not at all handy with a needle and thread but I admire the patience to detail it requires to create such intricate work in a non-traditional way. Since I've become mildly obsessed with today's take on an old art form, I decided to ask Jen to share with us why and when she began pinning embroidery images.
What prompted you to create the Pinboard "In Stitches"? Do you do embroidery and if not, why are you pinning the images?
I can’t remember the exact genesis. I bought this pattern on Etsy, just because I like beets. (And it's just exactly my kind of humor.) So, at first I started pinning from a very practical place. I was looking for cross stitch patterns that I wanted to try, or images that I might try to interpret into my own patterns. I think you can see that it quickly evolved beyond cross stitch, though. (In Stitches is mostly embroidery, but there are also some weaving, crocheting, knitting, quilting and sewing pins.) Then I went down the rabbit hole. I started following the pinners who pinned things I liked and it started to snowball.
I’m a very visual person and I found myself drawn to, not just the beauty, but the craft and precision of the embroidery I was finding. There’s so much out there that breaks the mold of what you might expect when you think of embroidery. It’s not all “country kitchen.” A lot of the pieces I’m attracted to are an embodiment of the kind of patience I sometimes wish I had. Some of them are technique related. Most of them hit the perfect pitch on what I’m drawn to aesthetically.
I’m not embroidering at the moment. But I have a project in mind. Something more ambitious and more artistic than I’ve tried before. The things I’m pinning, the embroidered photographs and Toile, are informing that idea. I know I’ll get around to it eventually.
How do you find images to pin?
It’s pretty rare (I won’t say never, but it’s pretty rare) that I go into Pinterest and use the search function to find something like: “embroidery” or “cross stitch.” Maybe I might search for a specific subject: fox embroidery. But that’s pretty infrequent too. I follow lots of embroidery boards, and I’m constantly adding to them, so I’m always getting interesting pins in my feed. If I find a pin I particularly like, beyond just pinning it, I scroll down and take a look at the “Also on these boards“ suggestions. Chances are, if someone pinned one pin that I like, they probably pinned others I will like as well. Below that are “Related Pins” and I like to peruse them too. Often, it’s like opening up a whole new vein of needlework gold. The next thing I know, ten minutes are gone.
You've pinned quite a few avant garde embroidery artists' works. How do feel about the techniques being used on elements other than decorative shirts or monogrammed pillows?
Ok. So here’s where we get deep. After doing this in earnest for more than a year, I’ve had time to think about it more than I might have.
I love the idea of taking something so traditional and making it modern. These are beautiful things. Art. Embroidery floss as paint. No rules or patterns. Someone exploring the medium, beyond counting stitches and worrying about how messy the back is. And I just love it.
I’m no needlework scholar, but the history of embroidery is another facet to this that I find fascinating. I’ve pinned quite a bit of traditional embroidery from around the world, including clothing and pillows. It’s gorgeous and honors those cultures. But through all this pinning and exploration I’ve had time to consider embroidery as it relates to women and their role in society. If you’ve read Bronte or Austen, you know what I’m talking about. It was one of those things that was taught to young girls of privilege as a way of preparing them for society. They were assessed as potential wives by the qualities that things like needlework exhibited. Were you domestic, obedient? Did you know how to hold your tongue? Above all, were you chaste? Some of the things I’ve pinned really turn that on it’s head. These embroidered photos do. But I really do love the exploration that goes beyond that, like the work by Meghan Willis or Marloes Duyker. Women using embroidery to express themselves as individuals, rather than qualify themselves as ideal models. There’s something subversive about that that really entertains me. (Although, I should note that not all the artists I enjoy are women.)
How much time do you spend pinning a particular subject?
I should be embarrassed. Sometimes, a lot. Like. A. Lot. But there are times I’ll go days without. There’s no pattern, really. I’ve heard people say that Pinterest is bad for some people. That it taunts them with perfection that they can’t obtain. (You’ve seen those “Nailed It!” memes, I’m sure.) For me it’s not like that at all. I do use it as a visual organizer, for recipes, DIYs, dream bathroooms, etc., some of which I’ve followed through and done, others that I just like to dream about. But I also use it as a release and a way to stoke my own creativity. When I’m stressed at work, fighting insomnia or just feeling like I need to check out, I go and pin for five minutes (or more...). Whatever catches my fancy. Sometimes that’s 20 pins to In Stitches. Sometimes it’s writing inspiration, what I might make for dinner or tattoos.
Jen, thank you for sharing your "In Stitches" Pinboard and the history and inspiration behind it. We look forward to seeing more of your pins!