Recreating with thread: 5 artists using found materials
As creative people, we are so often quiet observers, collecting items and objects that seem intriguing, interesting, beautiful or strange. Sometimes these found objects sit upon a shelf in a studio, workroom or kitchen.
Occasionally, these bits and pieces make their way into projects. After all, fine materials can be expensive.
But the motivation for recycling objects in art is far more powerful than money alone. When incorporated skilfully, vintage fabrics, thrift finds, and fragments of heirloom pieces can give a sense of a visual depth.
Found materials may also have an important symbolic function, evoking memory, history or awareness of socio-political issues. In this way, the materials become part of the poetics of woven, assembled, knitted, embroidered or stitched practice.
The platform for work that is assembled from found or up-cycled objects and materials is important, and social media outlets such as Instagram and Tumblr have become virtual galleries for some of these artists, either as a showcase or as a means for their work to become accessible worldwide.
In this article, part of our Discover… series, we look at five artists whose creative use of pre-loved materials gives voice to their distinctive and very personal worldview.
The artists originate from all over the world, and yet their practice is united by an experimental outlook, a shared rebellious spirit and irreverence of the rules. They are determined to make their mark, by inscribing the textile world with a language that is deeply subjective.
Rebecca Ringquist: An American artist bending the rules
I first learned about the use of found materials in the work of Brooklyn-based artist and teacher Rebecca Ringquist in 2015, when I came upon her book Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery Workshops, A Bend the Rules Primer. I was astonished at the mix of colour fields and narrative imagery.
Rebecca’s multi-layered works are replete with fragments of cloth, handicrafts, and unfinished embroidery. These intricately assembled compositions resemble abstract painting. Plotting out asymmetrical areas, stories are crisscrossed by rebel letters and intersections of unexpected patterns. One rather feels you could drown delightfully in this labyrinth of texture, line and form.
Rebecca’s often autobiographical and refreshingly irreverent works are full of double entendres, word plays and ironic commentaries.
In Tulips in the Dark, Rebecca incorporates found old laced handkerchiefs and, in a flurry of abstract and overlapping stitching, conveys a sense of chaos, rendered in thin lines of rich colour.
At times, the images are purposefully disturbing, both Timber and Garden Gate evoke a dark Brothers Grimm style with fires and flames scattered about, a fairy-tale like network of trees, revealing a glimpse of a face in an unfinished piece of embroidery, and a mysterious bed.
Rebecca maintains an enigmatic sense of narrative, truth, memory and absurdity.
More importantly, this practice represents an important contemporary approach, responding to ideas of gender, whilst using techniques from traditional textile arts.
The artist has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions and runs workshops all over the world.
Learn more about the artist’s latest work, exhibits, and workshops here
Mana Morimoto: Weaving the entire world from Tokyo
Japanese textile artist Mana Morimoto (or MNMRMT) says of her work:
I simply love making thread beams come out of people’s eyes!
Mana sews embroidered rays of lights into found black and white photos. Her oeuvre includes manipulated vintage prints, and she often features scientific figures, monuments, master paintings, and iconic artists.
Using a simple needle and coloured cotton thread, this series began when Mana found a box of embroidery thread while tidying up.
Among the artist’s most popular work is the series Rappers be Embroidered, which includes an embroidered portrait of the American rap icon Tupac Shakur. She has added her signature embroidery rays of light to the late musician’s eyes, perhaps a metaphor for creativity.
My favourite piece is a portrait of Frida Kahlo, achieved by punching holes in a print out of an old photo of the painter at work, and threading rays of illumination.
Mana’s body of work has recently expanded to include simple, beautifully designed weavings, installations, and sculptures.
The artist makes what she wants without regard for rules and uses Instagram as her gallery. No image or figure is immune from her interventions.
Mana’s work has been featured on various top art and design blogs, as well as in publications such as Nylon Magazine.
Discover more of Mana’s imaginative and graphic interventions and reuse of materials via…Tumblr
The superbly bizarre world of Emmanuelle Loison: Hallucinatory wearable art from France
Emmanuelle Loison makes outlandishly fantastic sculptures constructed of up-cycled materials. The heavy knotted configurations resemble dolls, totems, ceremonial clothing, transforming the wearer into a sort of mythical figure.
Emmanuelle studied at the School of Fine Arts, Dakar, and the School of Decorative Arts, Strasbourg. The artist combines jewellery making traditions with African textile artistry to form a unique pictorial vocabulary.
Based in Brest, France, the Emanuelle’s work has received a great deal of attention in the French press and has been featured in publications such as the 2015 edition of Le Livre d’ art. She has exhibited at the Muséum de Gap, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Paris.
Emmanuelle was commissioned to create a capsule collection entitled Love is Tender for Comme des garcons. This brightly coloured series of bracelet toys was made from crocheted stuffed animals, jewellery, sweater, scarves and hats.
The artist’s daring sense of theatricality can be observed in her series about the passages of time and the human body, which includes the pieces Oldness, Conception, Birth, Childhood, and Waiting Period. These surreal works are formed of various manifestations of the interiors of the human body, which are hung across the model’s naked form.
Emmanuelle’s fluency in various forms of textile creation also includes theatre costumes and sets for the musical Le Spacetacle, Compagnie Réversible, Brest.
Artistic collaborations are a significant part of her practice; notable projects include Brotkatze Collaboration IV with Kommissar Hjuler, Kunststueck, Berlin.
Learn more about Emmanuelle’s daring explorations and new work here
Intimate stories by Hagar Vardimon: Books and paper sutured
Amsterdam-based collage and embroidery artist Hagar Vardimon makes graphic work combining found vintage commercial materials from the mid-century. She embellishes the print materials with embroidered shapes and lines, obscuring faces, scenes, and meaning.
In projects like her artist book Quartet (2012, Marguerite Waknine Press) the artist combines carefully orchestrated stitching with geometric space. This particular work is heavily influenced by fashion illustration and vintage couture.
Part of Hagar’s process is changing meaning, and transformation is at work in Lonely Houses. In this series, found images become three-dimensional objets d’art formed through a latticework.
Other projects such as Bubbles (2015) use thread to subvert and inscribe imagery, written across anonymous seemingly old-fashioned vacation photos, suburban scenes, and old postcards.
In the commissioned project I see them Bloom (2015), Hagar uses various techniques to create roundels of floral embroidery across black and white portraits.
Hagar’s work has been featured in various print and online art magazines and included in catalogues and books such as Pia Jane Bijerk’s Little Treasures, Made by Hand (2013) and Amsterdam by Hand, 2010.
Discover More about Hagar’s beautifully irreverent artwork here
Victoria Udondian and the knotted colossus
Victoria Udondian observes and responds to traditions of Nigerian textile arts. Her creations include colossal installations and painterly assemblages of found fabric made into collages of impressive composition and colour.
Widely recognised for her monumental constructions of fabric, Victoria finds scraps from tailors and adds other found materials such as paper, burlap, plastic bags, and second-hand clothing to form her room-sized installations.
Using techniques learned in childhood, the artist cuts, weaves, ties, threads, sews, dyes and prints.
Victoria is deeply interested in
the potential for clothing to shape identity, informed by the histories and tacit meanings embedded in everyday materials.
As such, she responds to ideas of African identity and cultural contamination, namely the way the omnipresence of Western clothing affects notions of tradition, authenticity and value. Specifically, Victoria points to the way Nigeria seems overrun by second hand clothing from the West.
Her project Aso Ekele/1948 (2012) was exhibited in the show We Face Forward at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. Measuring an impressive 700 x 700 centimetres, this heroically sized piece is assembled from Nigerian Ikele fabric, the cloth that signifies the protection of one’s home. Responding to the gallery’s collection and local British tradition, including the history of Manchester’s textile industry, the artist crafted imagined stories about British and Nigerian experience.
But Victoria’s practice expands beyond African discourse. Her outdoor installation About 100 was inspired by the ubiquitous laundry lines of residential Venice. The artist constructed the t-shirts, clips and rope to form a network of a thousand red flag-like reused textiles. These garments symbolise the anniversary of Italy’s unification and reflect the proletarian red shirt grass roots movement.
The artist is currently enrolled in the prestigious MFA programme at Columbia University, New York.
Select solo exhibitions include the 2014 show at the Villa Strauli Art Centre, Winterthur, Switzerland. She has held a number of artist residencies and her work can be found in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Nigeria and the Fondazione de Venezia.
Learn more about Victoria’s impressive constructions and newest work here
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