Illustrators develop a close connection with their materials. In Varoom 37 Poppy Chancellor, MaricorMaricar and Olimpia Zagnoli reveal what they love about papercutting, embroidery and experimenting with new materials. Here is an extract from cover artist Maricor Maricar‘s views on their sewn images.
When did you realise you would commit to embroidery?
We became embroidery illustrators unintentionally, through luck and good timing. We studied and worked professionally together at a design studio as graphic designers and animators. We learnt embroidery for an animated music video we were working on and had no experience before that. Although we enjoyed the process we didn’t continue with embroidery until we left that studio and started freelancing. It was more for fun at that stage. We only took embroidery seriously after showing some embroidered illustrations during an application for a creative travelling grant. We were applying as animators but wanted to show our personal work as well. We had as equally a positive a reaction to the embroidery work to our ‘proper’ work. That was when we realised there was an audience for embroidered illustration. So we built up our portfolio and soon gained illustration representation while we were in London on the travelling grant.
Did you have any embroidery heroes?
When we started out artists like Megan Whitmarsh and Jenny Hart showed such a varying approach to embroidery and were big influences.
What kinds of needles or threads do you use?
We normally use 1 strand of 6-stranded cotton embroidery floss and I’m not sure what size needle we use. But they’re crewel embroidery needles.
How is your working process together?
Usually one of us will take the lead on a project. Typically the one whose idea has been chosen by the client to develop. There have been a few occasions where we’ve worked on the same piece around the clock to meet the deadline. And we tagged each other in like a wrestling team when we needed sleep or a food break. But we’ve gotten better at estimating how long we need to complete a project and plan ahead so we don’t have to do that anymore. Very rarely we’ll work on the same piece of fabric when it’s a large-scale project coupled with a tight deadline. But we try not to do that too much for the obvious needle in the eye risks!
How is the experience of doing embroidery different to doing other illustration and design?
In terms of process it’s a lot slower than some other mediums but we come from a stop motion background so that slow process is something we enjoy. The tactility and dimensionality of embroidery is also unique. Texture and shadow become elements that you can exploit within the design.
How does working with this material make you feel?
We love working with embroidery because of its tactility. There’s a satisfaction to working on something with your hands that you can see and feel grow as you work.