July 11, 2015

Interview with Michelle Kingdom

I am very honored today to bring you an interview with artist Michelle Kingdom - an incredibly creative embroiderer whose work I have admired for a very long time. There's something so mysterious and lyrical and gorgeous about her work - read on, then, to meet Michelle!

They could feel themselves shining in the dark
They could feel themselves shining in the dark

How did you learn to embroider? Are you self-taught?

I am a self-taught embroiderer, though I grew up surrounded by crafts and sewing. My background is in fine art with a particular interest in drawing. My loves for fiber and art ran parallel for a long time, but I eventually started to merge the two, essentially drawing with thread. When I first started embroidering I used regular sewing thread and basic hand stitching. Then I referred to an old 1970's "Reader's Digest Guide To Needlework" books, which I still have and use. I adore beautiful technique and fine embroidery, but prefer expressive stitching in my own work. The challenge of making interesting marks, especially curves out of tiny stitches fascinates me.

Little by little there was scarcely anything left
Little by little there was scarcely anything left

Is there a particular style of embroidery that appeals to you most?

I am a huge fan of all historical and ethnic textiles. The delicacy and understated palette of ancient textile fragments, the vibrancy and graphic design of folk costume, the awkwardly poignant stories in colonial "school girl" needlework, the simplicity and nostalgia of twentieth century house linens, and most of all the dense, rich fantastical worlds stitched in Stuart embroideries are all among my favorites.

Do you sketch all your pieces before you embroider them? Do you see your embroidery as sketches or paintings done in thread perhaps?

Yes, everything is sketched ahead of time, though I use the drawings as a skeletal framework that will continue to evolve during the stitching process. I almost never have a complete image in my head that must be executed exactly. In fact, I don't think I would bother to stitch at all if that was the case. I enjoy the surprises and detours each embroidery takes along the way, and how the narrative takes on its own life. I do see my work as drawings in thread, mostly because of my process and the similarity to sketching. It is never my intention to make my work imitate drawing or painting though.

back to my work - nearly done
In progress - Duties of gossamer

Is there a reason you embroider your works at such a small scale?

I do prefer to work on a small scale for a number of reasons, the most important being my overall vision. The content of my work is an exploration of private, even secret, thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams. This inner world feels best represented in an intimate way. Working on a small scale portrays the fragility and vulnerability I prefer, more like a whisper rather than a shout. I also make small embroideries simply for aesthetic and practical reasons.

Thick and knotted with the lives they had lived
Thick and knotted with the lives they had lived

You are an admirer of literature - do you also keep a journal and write?

No, but I do have several sketchbooks for images and literary snippets filled with ideas for future embroideries.

Your work is also very poetic to me - do you have a favorite poem or poet?

I don't have a favorite poet but I do have favorite writers that influence my work, most notably Virginia Woolf, Carson McCullers, Leo Tolstoy, and Hans Christian Andersen.

How cloudy the glass had become
How cloudy the glass had become

If you had to make a choice between expressing your ideas visually or in words, would you be able to? Your pieces have such a lovely relationship to each other, both visually and verbally, in the titles you give them.

I appreciate your comment because I find words to be terribly frustrating. It is much easier to express my ideas visually and if I had to choose there would be no contest - visually would win every time. A lot of time is spent on the title because I hope the added layer of words will enrich the image and crystallize my own concept. Sometimes the title does come first, and inspires the visual piece. Overall my work is a collage of ideas, visuals and words, and pieced together they create a larger story.

The years fell and grew into vines
The years fell and grew into vines

Aside from embroidery - do you enjoy any other “crafty” pursuits like knitting, sewing, quilting, etc?

These days I am more interested in embroidery but in the past I have dabbled in sewing, weaving, knitting and many other forms of craft.

Do you exhibit your work, have a shop, or sell your work in any way?

My embroideries are exhibited in galleries and I do sell my work. Some already framed pieces are listed at michellekingdom.bigcartel.com but others are available through direct inquiry on my website michellekingdom.com. I also do commission work as well.


Thank you Michelle, for your thoughtful responses and a glimpse of your creative work. For more on Michelle, don't miss this wonderful post about Michelle on MrXStitch to see more of her process and gorgeous photos of her sketches.

Hi, I'm floresita, editor of Feeling Stitchy. I'm an avid stitcher, knitter, and crafter. You can see more of my stitching on Instagram and my blog. My vintage transfer collection is on Vintage Transfer Finds.

Feel free to email me with any ideas for the blog!

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