Chloe Giordano – The space between embroidery & painting
Oxford based artist Chloe Giordano’s elegantly detailed work combines illustration and freehand embroidery. Using a simple repetitive stitch, embroidery thread and calico Chloe developed her technique at the end of her degree at the University of the West of England. Alongside her brightly coloured miniature animals she also creates larger 3D soft sculptures.
In our interview with Chloe we talk about her love of drawing animals and nature, her progression from simple soft sculptures to detailed embroidery and find out why she is torn between referring to her work as ‘illustration’ or ‘embroidery’.
An unrestrained ability to create
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Chloe Giordano: My turning point for textile art was when I watched Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep. I loved Lauri Faggioni’s work in that film, she seemed to have an unrestrained ability to create, and being someone who up until then thought they could only draw or paint things, this was a really exhilarating possibility so I began trying things out.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
Although I’ve always loved art, I didn’t have any particular interest in textile arts when I was growing up, nor did I have any close relatives who did. When I started sewing near the end of my degree it was the first time I’d picked up a needle in years and I didn’t really know what I was doing with it. But I have always loved to draw and spent a lot of time drawing animals and exploring nature, and I think I’ve come back round to this in my current work.
What was your route to becoming an artist? (Formal training or another pathway?)
I studied Illustration at the University of the West of England, and for most of my degree I worked in pencil or oil paints and took a very formal approach to learning things. When I began sewing during my last year this all went out the window and I began to learn mostly trial and error as I didn’t have a background in sewing or textiles.
I think I fell in love with the tactile nature of sewing and working with fabric, but I don’t regret any of the hours spent drawing as it informs how I work now. I find I get a sense of satisfaction from working with textiles that I never had with 2D mediums.
Playing around with fabric
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
I nearly always work on calico, with sewing thread rather than embroidery floss. My technique itself is very simple – I just layer a straight stitch over and over, working from a detailed drawing I’ve made and a few photos to reference certain areas. I work in a block across the image as I find going back over areas ruins the flow of the stitches. It is very time consuming but luckily I find embroidery very relaxing, I can’t think of a better way to spend a quiet day.
When creating 3D work I tend to pick up the calico again, sometimes working in felt and paper mache. Once again I find myself drawing a lot to work out how to bring all the pieces together, trying to get the essence of my original drawing into the final piece.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
I’m always a bit torn between referring to my work as ‘illustration’ or ‘embroidery’ – having gone into it with the mindset of an illustrator and having no background in traditional crafts, and yet I spend too much time playing around with fabric and sewing needles to feel I can entirely say I’m an illustrator – but I like to think that’s what people find interesting about my art, that it is in a space between embroidery and painting.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
I work from home, I’ve tried working in studio environments but I find I like to be able to wander back to my work if I get an idea in the middle of the night. I have a wonderfully large desk to work on and yet always seem to wind up squeezed at one end over an embroidery hoop so I think a studio would be wasted on me.
Drawings from reference and imagination
Do you use a sketchbook?
I do, every piece I make starts with drawings from reference and imagination so I can get a rough idea of where I’m going with it, before creating a final drawing that I work from that includes the best elements from my earlier sketches. I like to take it to galleries and museums so I can sit and draw the exhibits, I find drawing very relaxing now that it’s a tool to aid my other work rather than my main occupation.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
I’m mostly inspired by the natural world, either in the garden or museums and spend a lot of my free time drawing and collecting things from various places.
I love the work of paper craft artists like Su Blackwell and Yulia Brodskaya, although we use completely different mediums they’re both doing a brilliant range of work with an unusual medium which I find really inspiring.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
The red squirrel I finished over a couple of days, sitting up late to try and finish it as quickly as possible. It was my first time working with the ‘block’ technique I use now and when it was finished I remember being really excited at the possibilities it held.
“Don’t assume you can’t do something”
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
In the last few years my work has changed beyond what I ever expected, I began making fairly simple soft sculptures and have somehow worked my way into detailed embroidery and more complex 3D pieces. I don’t doubt that it will continue to change but I’ve learned not to try to plan ahead how my work will look as I’m nearly always wrong, so now I just let each piece speak for itself and we’ll see how things look a few years down the line.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Don’t assume you can’t do something. I always had very prescriptive ideas of what I was capable of as an artist, but when I began working with textiles I realised it’s possible to teach yourself to do just about anything you’d like to try.
Can you recommend 3 or 4 books for textile artists?
Here is where I reveal how woefully unread I am in the world of textiles and say I don’t own any books on instruction or technique. I do have a lot of reference books on different subjects, be it painters or pattern makers, the one I seem to wind up flicking through the most is the Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination accompanied their exhibition on royal manuscripts.
Repeating a simple stitch ad infinitum
What other resources do you use? Blogs, websites, magazines etc.
My approach to blogs and websites is a lot like my taste in books and I tend to jump around looking at scientific illustration, taxidermy, anyone who’s recording their discoveries in nature and the world around them.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
I live in fear of losing my thimble – a friend gave it to me a few years ago and it somehow fit perfectly. My hand feels a bit funny if I pick up a needle without it, even if I wasn’t intending on actually sewing, and there’s been more than one occasion where I’ve nearly left the house wearing it.
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
At the moment I don’t, since my technique consists of repeating a simple stitch ad infinitum I’m not sure how to create a class where people could learn something that is really constructive. I really want to find a way around this though and it’s something I’m always thinking about, so one day!
Taking a more proactive approach
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
When it comes to showing my work I’ve always just gone where I’m asked, rather than approaching galleries/venues. I’d like to take a more proactive approach now I have more confidence in my work.
Where can readers see your work this year?
I’ve had a very quiet year as I’ve been working on re-doing my portfolio and easing off on private commissions, but I have a few things in the works that I hope will come to light at the end of this year/early 2015. Anything that is coming up goes on my blog and Facebook if anyone wants to track what I’m up to.
For more information please visit: www.chloegiordano.com
If you’ve enjoyed this interview with Chloe then please let us know by leaving a comment below.
9 comments on “Chloe Giordano – The space between embroidery & painting”
Beautiful work. Wonderful representation of nature!!
I am SO impressed by your works of art Chloe. I love the way you have crossed over your illustrative work with fibre art. An online friend shared this interview site and it was the perfect inspiration for me today. Thank you.
Loved the interview, and it was really good to be reminded about limiting thoughts. I can do a lot of things, but have always thought, “I can’t draw.” And yet, I would like to! So, I’m going to do something about that this year. Thanks for sharing your lovely work and your thoughts about your creative process.
Thanks for this interview! I find it very useful!
Interesting to read your thoughts about being prescriptive in your work and that working with textiles has freed you from that. As an illustrative painter/printmaker I completely identify with that as I also have a huge internal battle with myself when trying to work with textiles. I think I should follow your example and go with what feels right. I love your work and also that you use sewing thread and not embroidery threads.
Very interesting and inspiring work and interview, good to hear the thought and design process that leads to this delightful work. Thank you.
Please explain what you mean about the “block method.” I’m fascinated by your work. Thank you
I am inspired by your comment “Don’t assume you can’t do something”. I am a oil painter and like portraits mainly. Most instructors tell us to not get too detailed with patterns on things like ties. I studied with a artist once at his atelier and he did a portrait of my husband wearing his favorite tie (lovely muted shades of reds and blues of flying pheasants on soft fabric) which he depicted with slashes of paint. It wasn’t to my liking, I think because the tie was so special. Today I’m working on a vignette double portrait 20”X16” and the adult is wearing a tuxedo with a deep red bow tie that has an overall pattern of less than 1/4-inch flowers best described for you as looking like made with French knots. They are creamy-white with light blue centers. Looking closely, there is a subtle black thread separating the “French knots” to separate them from each other and from the much darker background. Simple for you, however I found you in researching how to depict this in oil-painting. I have not had much success. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate it. I am almost 90 now and these puzzles keep me going. (My mother used to embroider and of course I have done some, so I enjoyed hearing about you. Such lovely work!)
Thank you so much for sharing yourself here and explaining about your techniques etc. I was fascinated by your approach and your use of working with the needle and embroidering your art. I found your approach so simple, and comforting yet beautiful and I can relate to it very much. I hope you continue to create in this fashion and in another sense you have brought back the simple art of embroidering. I have always embroidered and do not like to use the machine, and you have given me faith again that I do not need to and you have made my day. Thank you