Erin Endicott interview: Contemporary embroidery
Erin Endicott is a contemporary embroidery artist and the recipient of a 2012 New Jersey State Council Arts Fellowship. Erin studied textile design in Scotland, before moving to Philadelphia to complete her fine art training. Erin creates her own unique brand of soft sculpture by stitching and drawing onto found objects. Recurring themes include pain remembered, solace found, hope and feminine patience.
We were introduced to Erin’s intriguing body of work by textile artist Jo Smith. We were extremely keen to ask Erin about her process, and what inspires her on a day-to-day basis. In our interview with the artist, she reveals a spiritual, meditative approach grounded in the natural world.
Textile art inspired by nature herself
TextileArtist.org: What originally attracted you to textile art and embroidery?
Erin Endicott: I’ve always loved making things with fabric and other “tactile” materials, though I did not hear the term “Textile Art” until I went to college. I went off to college with every intention of becoming a botanical illustrator – until I saw a slide show from the Textile Design department – I knew at that moment I had found my path!
What or who influenced you as a child and how is your life reflected in your work?
My earliest and still most profound influence is Nature herself. I grew up in the woods and very near the water. Being solitary in Nature is how I ground myself and I find myself inspired by the tiniest roots, the pull of the tides and the vastness of the sky.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I was born an artist and it is the only thing I have ever really wanted to be! At the age of 5 my artist grandmother convinced my Mom to put me in private drawing/watercolor classes with a local artist. I could sit for hours drawing the plants and landscape around me. I also spent a bit of time on the floor of my Mom’s sewing room – as she would sew clothes for me and my sister. I would sit on the floor sewing little dresses for my stuffed animals (I never did play with dolls!). I’ve worked in many mediums; painting and drawing, weaving, encaustic but I am always MAKING something!
Drawing with thread
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
Currently I stitch on antique fabrics. I do not have any specific techniques other than following my intuition as to where to put the next “mark”. (I consider my work more “drawing with thread “ than anything else!) Quite often people will ask, “Oh, is that a seed stitch?” (or some other “official” stitch and I just don’t know! I’ve not had any formal training in stitching or embroidery, my hand just follows where my heart tells it to go!
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
I call my work “Contemporary Embroidery” (for lack of a better description) – even though I suppose it is not officially embroidery! I’ve never concerned myself with the divisions between Fine Art and Fine Craft. I just make stuff that has real meaning behind it, the medium is secondary to the message for me. There has been such a resurgence of handwork lately and I think it is a great thing. At first my work confounded “Fine Art” gallery owners because it is a textile and unframed but upon seeing the work I don’t think anyone can accuse me of being anything but a serious artist.
Sitting in solitude to stitch
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
I sit for hours upon hours in solitude and stitch – and I LOVE it! Stitching is meditation to me, as I work sometimes I say a little mantra “every stitch is a prayer for healing…” My stitching is very intuitive, I use the walnut ink stains that I make on the fabric as sort of a map, a vague guide as to where to put the marks. I do not plan my pieces or have a pre conceived notion as to how they will look when I am done.
My studio is beautifully sunny and bright and I love to surround myself with beautiful things that have a story. I love to listen to talk radio (right now I always have on BBC Scotland) and I never listen to music while I am working. I find that music affects my mood and keeps me from getting centered in my work.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
Right now I am getting a lot of inspiration from antique photographs. I’m thinking a lot about family histories and “lost” stories and how I can create garments to convey this loss and sense of history. I am and always have been inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite painters. I was speechless the first time I saw an image of Millais’ “Ophelia”. This is still, by far, my favorite piece of art.
Contemporary embroidery as a meditative practice
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
I have recently begun running workshops titled “Embroidery as a Meditative Practice”. The class has been an incredible experience, I am really enjoying the interaction of ideas and inspiration with my students. The best place to keep up to date on events and workshops is on my Facebook page “Erin Endicott Contemporary Embroidery”.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
Because my work is so time consuming (one piece can take me months to complete), I am very selective about where I show. I used to take every opportunity that came my way and that was great for exposure but I found myself getting burnt out from constantly having show deadlines. I felt I was missing that all important “pause” I need sometimes to refresh and renew and get new inspiration. This year I have scheduled only one solo show and I have taken a bit of time to sit back and let some new ideas incubate. I am excited to begin a new chapter in my “Healing Sutras” series. Stay tuned…
Where can readers see your work this year? DCCA -Delaware Center for Contemporary Art through until 4 August 2013 – www.thedcca.org
Erin Endicott – Artist’s Statement
To stitch; a thread or line that holds things together – this is the literal translation of the ancient Sanskrit word “sutra”. The “Healing Sutras” grew out of years of work examining psychological wounds (mainly my own), their origins and how they insinuate themselves into our lives. I’m particularly intrigued by the concept of inherited wounds, specific patterns, behaviors, reactions, that we are born with – already seeded into our psyche at birth. So I imagine that this little ”seed” attracts negativity (like attracts like), sort of a little pearl slowly growing until we end up with a dense area of negative energy built up in our physical bodies. By bringing these dark areas into the light, by making them visible, I think we can heal these wounds. Some people talk through their issues to bring healing, some write them out to shed light on them , I choose to make them into visible, visceral objects.
All of the “Healing Sutras” are on vintage fabric that has been passed down from women in my family. My history is literally woven into these garments. The initial marks of the “wounds” are created by staining the fabric with walnut ink. I love using this natural dye for the subtle color variations and the warm earthy tones. Ink on fabric has a mind of it’s own – it takes the control away from me and does it’s own thing. It is magical to drop the ink onto damp fabric and literally watch the “wound” grow and take shape before my eyes. This has been difficult for me – the letting go of the outcome and trusting in the process – it’s quite the opposite of the degree of control I have over the stitching. The organic shapes created by the walnut ink are a sort of map for me, the variations of tone and shape setting the tone for the piece.
The stitching, the meditative process of it, is where i think the real healing comes in for me. I come from a more “Fine Art” background- drawing always being a real passion – but I was never able to truly capture the essence of what I was trying to say until I began exploring this really process oriented work. To me these are a type of drawing – REALLY slow, deliberate drawings!
I could go on forever about the symbolism of the marks – the vein/roots, the cellular/seed shapes, the metaphor of the dress as skin, etc… There are so many layers of meaning in this work. I can’t even keep it all straight in my own mind let alone verbalize it! So it comes down to the stitches. One stitch at a time, hour after hour… this is where the healing lies.
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