May 19, 2016

Memorial Stitches creates delicate and ethereal embroidery patches filled with curling locks of hair, willow trees and bunches of wildflowers. Having studied fashion design and illustration, Memorial Stitches is a self-taught embroiderer creating beautiful snapshots of dark fairytales. We caught up with her about spending lazy weekends in Yorkshire, finding inspiration in books and poetry and dreaming up a clothing range.

UO: Can you tell us a little about your story so far and how you developed an interest in embroidery?

I studied both fashion design and illustration so embroidery seemed the perfect natural progression, allowing me to combine the two practices seamlessly. I wanted my illustrations to feel more tactile; using thread to draw allowed me to express what a pen couldn’t. I felt an affinity with the intimacy of embroidery, and it allowed me to create the type of mood that I wished to evoke in my work.

I didn’t have any formal embroidery training so I’m self-taught; I use a simple stitch and my style has been developing ever since. Some people have called it ‘black work’, but I chose black thread to mimic the fine and unpredictable lines of ink and pen.

UO: Where do you draw inspiration for Memorial Stitches?

Memorial stitches is inspired by Victorian sentiment, the aesthetics and mood of that particular time in history. I think of the pieces I create as heirlooms, something permanent that will become more beautiful as they age, with sun-stained patches and loose threads after a hundred years or so.

UO: Who or what inspires the imagery and quotes you choose to create?

Inspiration comes from so many sources, but it’s usually a quote or a vintage book cover that sparks my imagination. I’m drawn to both the darkness and light in literature and art. One of my customers put it into words perfectly when they said that the pieces capture the fragility and at the same time the strange strength, that grows in sorrow.

One of my favourite quotes is by the artist Edvard Munch, and it tells so much of the astonishing but finite human experience:’From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity’

UO: We love the gothic nature of your work – what books, films, art, ballets inspire you?

My favourite authors are George Orwell and Franz Kafka, both of which feature dark, dystopian realities alongside a sense of humour and touch of surrealism. I also enjoy poetry by John Keats and Charles Baudelaire. It’s hard to pick which films inspire me as there are so many! The exquisite ‘picnic at hanging rock’ is so visually stunning and eerily suspenseful.

The ballet Swan Lake is a firm favourite, performed in two parts, it portrays both the light and dark sides of human emotion.

UO: Each piece looks like a snapshot from a fairytale – do you feel inspired by folklore? If so, which in particular have grabbed your attention?

I’ve always be drawn to tales of tragic ghostly heroines. Drowning in lakes after being jilted by lovers and riding horses headless through leafy trails. I can’t say there is one particular tale, more that folk stories became entwined with my reality growing up in rural England.

UO: How would you describe your artistic style in three words?

Delicate, dark, ethereal.

UO: Are there any particular themes you are drawn to again and again?

Definitely, there are a few themes which I am drawn to that repeat within my work. One is Victorian sentimentality; locks of hair, dainty hands holding wildflowers or love notes, declarations of love. A slightly darker Victorian theme that I draw upon is mourning and memorials. Here you will find gravestones, urns and willow trees, representations of passing to the afterlife.

Pieces such as ‘Still Alive’ are more personal and reflective, however I try not to overload the viewer with my own explanations so that they are open for interpretation.

UO: How do you like to spend a lazy weekend?

I would spend a lazy weekend alongside one of the many beautiful rivers in Yorkshire under a parasol. Perhaps with a picnic and poetry book. However I am forever restless so may hire a rowing boat or go for a swim if it’s not too cold!

UO: What other mediums do you enjoy working with?

I’ve always had a very delicate and linear approach to mark marking, if not using thread to embroider I love the lines created by dip pens and black Indian Ink. Etching is a print making process that I wish I had more time to explore.

UO: Where do you want to take your work next?

My next step is to invest in an embroidery machine! I want to begin making clothes again, I’ve missed the process since focusing on more illustrative projects.I’m currently dreaming up a range with historically-influenced silhouettes featuring embroidered collars, cuffs and pockets. In the short term I will continue to make hand embroidered pieces whilst hopefully challenging myself creatively.