Subverting the "ladylike" connotations of embroidery, one hand-stitched tinnie at a time.
In recent years embroidery has gone from the history books to many a millennial’s home feed with Instagram heralding a revival of the centuries-old art form. Amongst this new wave of embroidery artists is Lucy J Newman, the self-proclaimed “queen of darkness”. Stitching everything from Stella Artois cans to vampire fangs, her work is a far cry from the cutesy floral designs we typically associate with the medium.
Eager to learn more, we caught up Lucy for an interview about the ways social media has changed the embroidery game and how lockdown has impacted the creative process.
How have you seen embroidery culture change over the past 10 years?
Instagram has changed things so much, It means that you can run a little embroidery business without having to sell through stores or work for a company. When I first started, I looked to other embroidery artists on social media with huge followings and it gave me such a boost to see what was possible.
I think that embroidery is slowly being embraced by a larger audience. Artists like James Merry, who has become most famous for the works he makes for Bjork, show that really anything is possible with textile art, and embroidery is not just for old ladies.
What can embroidery do that other mediums can’t?
I use thread as I would paint but the beauty of embroidery is that if you don’t like something, you can just unpick it. It also has such a gorgeous tactile nature, people just want to reach out and touch it.
I personally like to play with embroidery’s history as a twee medium. Currently, I am working on a series of pieces based on cheap throw-away purchases from the off licence. Hand embroidery takes hours of slow, considered stitching so I think it’s funny to replicate a clipper lighter or a special brew can as a delicate, stitched work.
Who would you love to see wearing your pieces?
I am so excited when I see anyone wearing my work, but I have to say it would be a dream to make a full embroidered suit for Elton John or Dolly Parton. They have been wearing embroidery forever and I would love to have a reason to get the rhinestones out.
What other creative projects have you been up to during lockdown?
Other than growing some vegetables, I spend all my time hand-embroidering. It takes so long to produce that it is almost impossible to do anything else. My life in lockdown has been very Enid Blyton.
Do you feel lockdown has changed how you approach your creative work? A lot of people have experienced a change in their relationship to productivity, time and labour.
I have pretty much worked alone in the studio or in my bedroom for the past ten years so lockdown hasn’t really affected me too much. I am very happy to be in isolation when working. Embroidery gets you into a kind of flow state where hours can go by without you even noticing.
I have been shocked at how busy I have been with commissions. At the start of lockdown, I was worried that no one in their right mind would be commissioning embroidery during a pandemic but I have been quite overwhelmed by the support of my friends and Instagram followers. Especially for the surgical masks I have been making with custom lips and mouths on them.
Any mottos for 2020?
Just go with the flow!
To see more of what Lucy can do, you can follow her at @lucyjnewman on Instagram, or check out her work via the gallery below.
15 July 2020