Irem Yazici: From conception to creation
Irem Yazici disappears into a world of magical and surreal stitched creatures when she designs her delicate embroidery illustrations. Her hoops make you smile with their quirky characters, dainty stitches and sparkling embellishments.
Irem is the Author of Tiny Stitches and her works have featured in Baca (2015), Feminist Fiber Art (2016) and Stitched:II (2017) exhibitions. She is a self-taught textile artist based Eskisehir, Turkey and has been embroidering perfectly-stitched brooch pins, designing embroidery hoop patterns and creating one-off artworks since 2014. Her artwork starts with sketching out the surreal worlds from her imagination. Then she transfers her designs into stitch and appliqué, focussing on colour and texture, with a sprinkle of beads and sequins to embellish, adding the final magical touch.
In this interview, Irem shares her techniques and inspiration. She explains how her Four Seasons series came about and how she transfers her designs from imagination to stitch. You’ll discover how she takes the time to research and practice new techniques. This has expanded her repertoire of textural, raised stitch methods and paint processes to get the colours and textures she is aiming for in her final artworks.
Name of pieces: ‘A Farewell To The Sun’, ‘The Ballet Under The Snow’, ‘The Nest’
Year of piece: 2017-2018
Techniques and materials used: A Farewell To The Sun (4×4″), The Ballet Under The Snow (6 x 6″) and The Nest (5 x 8″). Techniques include satin stitch, thread painting, turkey stitch, tassel stitch, French and bullion knots, stem stitch, split stitch, sequin and bead sewing. Materials: Cotton embroidery flosses, sequin and beads, felt, tulle, metallic threads, watercolour to paint the fabric, plush fabric.
The seasonal cycle
TextileArtist.org: How did the idea for the piece come about? What was your inspiration?
Irem Yazici: These three pieces are a part of my embroidered series ‘Four Seasons’. The whole thing came to mind from the idea that worlds that are bounded and connected through portals. I live in Turkey where we experience all the four seasons. The change between them is smooth and gives you the feeling that they are all intertwined. This smooth transition between them gives you a chance to witness the cycle of life and death. Each piece embraces these ideas within the borders of the seasons’ characteristics. For me, the seasons highlight how everything is connected, like parts of a fractal.
In each piece, there are portals like windows opening from the previous season, which makes a connection between the artworks. The theme of each work aligns with characteristics of that season. Chicks in a nest with a mother above them represent birth, motherhood and new beginnings of Spring. Cocoons wait to transform into moths. These cocoons became moth ballerinas in the Winter piece, making their last dance of the year while ‘Forget-me-not’ flowers watch them. A frog in the Autumn piece is seen at the window-like portal, making the music for their dance.
When you look at all the pieces in the order of the seasons, you can see the beautiful connection between them. The summer piece is coming soon this year, to complete the full cycle.
What research did you do before you started to make?
When I made this series I was learning how to paint fabric with watercolours (aquarelles). I wanted to find the exact tones I needed but couldn’t find them in a fabric store. I was trying to make colour gradients to create a depth in the composition, so to research this I had a look at some tutorials about how to paint on fabric using various kinds of paint.
In addition, I wanted to add something more than just French knots to increase the three-dimensional, sculptural embroidery effect. I ordered Helen Richman’s ‘Stumpwork Embroidery’ book. Although in the end, I didn’t use any stumpwork techniques in this series, the book was very inspirational for me and led me to use other embroidery techniques like turkey stitch and tassel stitch to create height and texture.
Sketching my illustrations
Was there any other preparatory work?
At the beginning, I sketched the characters very roughly since my compositions always form around the stance of a character. Next, I drew a better version where I also decided on some surroundings for the characters.
After sketching with a pencil, I practised the embroidery techniques I’d been learning, before going on to start the final artwork.
What materials were used in the creation of the piece? How did you select them? Where did you source them?
The main materials that I used were the watercolours (Ecoline watercolour ink) and cotton embroidery floss from my collection of many colours.
When I go shopping for embroidery supplies I always end up buying things that I don’t need at the time but believe might be useful in the future. I sometimes never make good use of these things but other times I find they fit into a project perfectly, which really pleases me.
While creating this series, I used some different materials such as plush fabric in ‘The Nest’ to make the cocoons. I bought this fabric years ago! The tulle that I used to make the wings of the poodle moths was one of a number of pieces I bought when trying to find the right fabric. Some pieces had bigger holes which would not have worked for the size of the moth ballerinas and I bought several versions of tulle before finding the perfect one. I also used felt from my stash to make the grass texture.
I embellish some parts of each work with beads and sequins to enrich the texture. I love to use them as they add such a magical effect to the embroidery.
What equipment did you use in the creation of the piece and how was it used?
I actually didn’t use anything fancy, just the usual basic embroidery equipment.
I have an embroidery stand to hold my hoop so I can work using both hands. I used embroidery needles in various sizes depending on the thickness of the floss. I worked on 100% cotton fabric which I painted with the watercolour washes to obtain the colours I wanted and to create a graduation effect between the colours.
A nest of threads
Take us through the creation of the piece stage by stage (techniques used and how)
I began by painting the fabric with the watercolours. When it was dry, I transferred my sketchbook illustration to the fabric by using a transfer paper.
In each piece, I stitched the characters first and then moved onto the surroundings like the ground and the grass.
In the ‘Farewell To The Sun’, I worked the grass by making irregular stitches. I tried a different technique in ‘The Ballet Under The Snow’ where I used a piece of felt for the ground and used stitches and sewn beads to create a grass texture on it.
I developed a slightly different style from one piece to the next to explore the creation of textures with different stitching techniques and fabrics. Embroidery is such a versatile medium and you can combine a wide variety of materials and techniques to give endless possibilities of texture.
The part I enjoyed the most while making ‘The Nest’ was creating the nest out of a pile of threads. I’d heard that birds will use bits of found thread to build their nests. (I also would like to add here that leaving threads outside for the birds is not something I have ever done – birds could get tangled in them or choke on them.) But I liked the idea of the birds reusing the waste threads to make a nest so I made them a thread nest for my embroidery! I picked a range of earthy colours of cotton floss, mixed the threads together and used invisible couching to attach the nest to the fabric.
Lastly, in each piece, I embellished with beads and sequins to enhance the magical feel. I mostly used embellishments to make the flowers on the ground or the fruits on the tree, such as in the plum tree in ‘A Farewell To The Sun’.
What journey has the piece been on since its creation?
I never had the chance to exhibit any of these pieces as they sold in my online shop soon after I made them. They have now gone to live in their forever homes.
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