Tag Archives: modern freehand embroidery

Sacred Heart with titanium druzy.

I have had almost no time for embroidery this month.

I drew at so many events, we had an art show where I did live painting, I made the Trans Dino-Witch, I finished a big new portrait. It’s been glorious and exhilarating. Yet I really wanted to get some thread and bead time in, for the energy and comfort it gives me.

And I wanted to work with Sacred Hearts, the symbol of hope and faith.

I learn so much from beloved artist Monique Motil, aka @z0mbique, about how working with mystic powerful symbols gives you creative juice. So I used bricolage and upcycle principles to make these collage embroidered Sacred Hearts or Ex Votos.

Sacred Heart collage embroideries WIP by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017The hearts in the center are beaded patches I bought on eBay for a couple of euros.

I sewed them to some of the last scraps of an iridescent blue-violet panne violet I bought two yards of in 1999 and have used for innumerable projects. I made the orange and blue flames out of the last pieces of some vintage velvet flowers bought at Lacis in Berkeley, also in ’99.

Then I embroidered around them with my favorite Rico Metallic thread, the Holy Grail of metallic embroidery thread.

sacred heart collage embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Aug 30 2017I sewed on iridescent and AB Swarovski bicone crystal beads and added hundreds of Swarovski crystals in many, many colors. I attached some of my new blue oil slick iridescence titanium druzy crystal beads with invisible thread. I painted the frame by rubbing it with deep madder paint, then gold paint, then tapping silver leaf onto the still tacky gold paint.

The shiny red string was saved from a gift I received – I save all my gift ribbons and bows for projects.

Like the embroidery collage jacket I did last month, this kind of collage/bricolage embroidery is a low-impact, flexible project anyone could do. I love how in the top picture the fiery heart coordinates with my sketchbook-carrying sack, a 50th-birthday gift from Daria! I plan to sew a LOT in September, along with the million new events and teaching, so I’ll finish the blue flame lightning heart soon.

July bricolage – glitch collage embroidered moto jacket!

Collage embroidered floral motorcycle jacket created by Suzanne ForbesI didn’t do much bricolage or embroidery this month, as I was super busy with life drawing and a new painting.

Collage embroidered floral motorcycle jacket created by Suzanne ForbesI did however drop a bunch of hours into this one project. I had been seeing these embroidered motorcycle jackets at mainstream stores, inspired by last Fall’s fashion shows.

I found one for under forty euros (in case the whole idea went badly) and ordered a bunch of commercial appliques from eBay.

Then I researched the process of sewing on appliques, learned about invisible thread, and ordered some of that from Amazon.

All of this took months of course, so it was summer by the time I finally started sewing. And the sewing on of the appliques itself took a solid thirty hours.

I just laid out the jacket, which had some embroidery on the sleeves and a little bit on the front, and started collaging appliques onto it.

Collage embroidered floral motorcycle jacket created by Suzanne ForbesI cut them up, moved them around, and tacked them down with pins.

Then I sewed them on, very carefully and slowly. It was relaxing actually. Except, to my surprise not all the collage designs worked once sewn on. Sometimes the applique was too thick and deformed or distorted the thin PU fabric, and in some places it just didn’t look cool.

Collage embroidered floral motorcycle jacket created by Suzanne ForbesSo sometimes I had to use my handy stitch picker and cut off a section I had laboriously attached.

Because it didn’t look right! On the bottom right of the back I had to try three different applique pieces to end the pattern in a way I was satisfied with. I love how it came out, though, and that mine is completely unique.

This is a project anybody could do. The only specialty skills I brought to it were a tiny bit of embroidering here and there to unify pieces and my personal aesthetic. I used colored Sharpies to tone down brights and unify colors in the applique pieces as needed. Objects we own aren’t permanent, and we get to fuck with them like we want to!

Big Gay Rainbow T-Rex Dinosaur Witch for Pride Month!

Queer dinowitch embroidery by Suzanne Forbes July 2017Pride month is July rather than June in Europe.

So I made this super gay rainbow dinosaur who is a powerful magic witch to celebrate!

Queer dinowitch embroidery by Suzanne Forbes July 2017

She is embroidered on glitter galaxy mesh, which is overlaid on rainbow glitter vinyl.

rainbowdinosaurShe is quite detailed, and I couldn’t see anything I drew on the galaxy mesh.

So I had this embroideryhack idea.

I put the paper with the sketch for her right in the embroidery hoop, under the mesh, and used a tiny short needle to stitch the outline on. The little needle skids across the surface of the paper and comes back up thru the net easily!

You can see the original sketch above. Once I had a nice outline with my beloved Rico metallic embroidery thread, which behaves so much better than other metallic embroidery thread, I removed the paper. Then I could embroider as usual.

I am loving stitch art on net or mesh for its control and precision, and it is so easy on the hand/wrist.

I talk more about that and the techniques I’m using here and here.

Queer dinowitch embroidery by Suzanne Forbes July 2017 teethLook at her terrifying teeth!

I don’t know if this kind of symbolist magic art has power in these dark times. I don’t know if I can do anything to help queer people of the world in the places where things are bad or getting worse. But I believe my intent, my love and hope for a better future, were stitched into this mighty gay dinosaur witch. I believe she is strong and fierce. And embroidery feels like a tactile, tender medium for this kind of art spell. I’m thinking about it a lot.

Here are a couple articles on how modern embroidery is operating in the art world that I like.

Huge bead embroidery project finished: my Green Woman bead embroidered corset.

Beaded Green Woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017Wow, this was a big project!

Green beadwork corset by Suzanne Forbes in our library May 2017Green beaded corset by Suzanne Forbes May 2017This bead embroidered, velvet leaf-covered corset is the second to last of the now-finished project “kits” I brought in the shipping container from the Bay Area.

(The Golden Jubilee insect carriage was the very last of the dozen or more projects! They’re all done!! I am amazing!! Sometimes both life and art are long!)

Bead embroidered green woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017I saw Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephen’s EcoSexual wedding clothes exhibited at Femina Potens gallery years ago.

I got the idea of a pagan-y, Green Woman kinda Ecosexual corset.

Sexecology postcard by Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens

Sexecology postcard by Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens

Then cosplay exploded in the media, over this past decade, and so many people did amazing Poison Ivy corsets.

I enjoyed them so much, and decided to take my own pass at a leafy, viney, flowery corset.

I made some sketches, and then I got consumed with my Winter Queen/Snow Queen/Mermaid corset embellishing projects. So I didn’t get around to the Green Woman project til 2014. I spent months ordering beads and velvet leaves and green metallic rhinestuds and green Swarovski crystals from all over the world.

I amassed a huge stockpile of green bling, and bought a discounted Orchard Corset 511 to use as my base.

Bead embroidered green woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017The green corset was one of the projects I didn’t get to before we left, so I packed all the green jewels and beads and appliques and trims up in a “project kit” and boxed it up.

.beaded corset WIP Suzanne Forbes 2016I unpacked it with the other 400+ boxes last winter. Once my workroom was set up, I started opening project kits and finishing projects. I moved through them at a pretty decent clip! I made the leaf crowns to go with the corset early on, last summer.

I took out the corset and got started on it last August. First I created a bunch of beaded and crystal-covered appliques with some pale green leaf-shaped Venise lace.

I tacked the lace down to netting in an embroidery hoop, then embroidered and bead embroidered it. Then I added velvet leaves (bead embroidered too).

This took about a million years.

Which never bothers me. I like to do textile art slowly, to balance how fast I draw and paint.

bead embroidery appliques Suzanne Forbes 2017 1Once I had finished a bunch of appliques and had test fitted them on the corset, I modified the corset itself.

beaded corset WIP Suzanne Forbes 2016The Orchard Corset 511 is a reasonably curvy OTR, with a 10″ “hipspring” or difference between waist and hip; I just added a 2″ gore on each hip to push the hipspring to 14″.*

Bead embroidered green woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017Otherwise the corset wouldn’t lace nice and parallel, and it would distort the embroidery and structure of the corset to have a big gap at the bottom.

Sloppily adding handsewn gores like I did is a good way to ruin the structural strength of your corset, but I knew I’d be adding thousands of stitches and layers over the gores. So I wasn’t worried.

When I’m done with one of these beaded corsets it’s basically a cuirasse, an armored breastplate!

Bead embroidered green woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017It took several months to carefully sew the appliques to the corset, adding bead embroidery as needed to fill in gaps.

I used strong green nylon beading thread I got to make beaded fringe for a lamp in Berkeley in 1999.

I also used beading thread to make strings of variegated beads to sew down onto the corset in curving lines. Because I’m insane, I always sewed back through the beads on the string as I sewed them down, in case the thread broke.

And I think maybe I might want to lend the finished corset to a burlesque dancer or performance artist someday so it should be able to stand up to some abuse.

Bead embroidered green woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017Bead embroidered green woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017

swampthing-34 panel by Bissette and Totleben

Panel from Swamp Thing 34, “Rite of Spring”, by Bissette and Totleben

When I started planning it I thought it would be all greens, but since then I’ve learned A LOT about color, mostly through my textile artmaking.

So as I worked on it I decided to add oranges and pinks and burgundies and browns. There are even pyrite-colored rhinestuds all over it, though they’re subtle as hell.

The oranges and warm colors make me think of the love story of Alec and Abby in Swamp Thing, and the orange yams that they shared. It’s a story that’s very meaningful to me, and the best story I know about connecting with nature and The Green.

I’m not a huge nature person, but I love natural symbology and motifs. Working with these colors and shapes really nourished my William Morris heart!

I’m pretty thrilled with the finished corset.

I don’t know exactly what I’ll do with it yet. It feels like a work about nature, and pagan things, and fae things, appropriate to Midsummer. There’s a Midsummer costume party at House of Red Doors in July, and I might wear it to that. I might loan it out for photo shoots, if I found someone trustworthy who wanted to shoot it and they had a model who fit it. I might show it somewhere if there was a show it worked for. Who the hell knows, I just needed to make it, and I’m so glad it’s finally done, almost ten years after I started planning it!

I’ll get better pix of me wearing it soon, with the jewelry and crowns I made to go with it 🙂

*everything you could ever need to know about buying and wearing a corset is here on Lucy’s website. This amazing young woman has created a resource for the corset community that is beyond price. There is info about the relative measurements of OTR and RTW brands, a corset database to guide you in your purchase, and so much more. We love Lucy!

New embroidered and jewelled bug creation!

Embroidered jewelled bug by Suzanne Forbes June 2017Here’s a crazy little bug embroidery piece I made during 20 hours of waiting around the hospital while my hub got a cyborg upgrade.

Embroidered jewelled bug by Suzanne Forbes June 2017I embroidered this on a cut-open green netting bag that some holiday ornaments I bought at Anthropologie for 75% in 2001 came in.

Unbelievably, when I unpacked the holiday ornaments for our first Christmas tree here, these never-used items were there, still in their bags.

My material hoarding seemed insane for so long. But now I have better health, a perfect workspace and the support of my Patrons.

I’m whipping through all my old art supplies and long-awaited projects!

I am like a cross between Smaug and Divine.

Embroidered jewelled bug by Suzanne Forbes June 2017i got this rainbow glitter vinyl for a Pride project but it did not arrive in time. That is ok! I will still make a thing with it!

Embroidered moth in progress by Suzanne Forbes June 2017Embroidering on net, mesh or tulle is wonderful because it’s so easy and restful on the hand. Since I was working with the demon metallic embroidery thread, that was important!

Most metallic embroidery thread, including these two greens that were leftover from my Green Beaded Corset project “kit”, frays as it is drawn through fabric.

It frays and breaks and makes you crazy. Waxing it is supposed to help but I’ve always feared the wax would attract dust after or not be archival. However using it on netting is a breeze. In the picture you can see I’m cutting the completed bug free of the netting. I glued some extra layers of netting on the back after I finished embroidering to add structural strength.

The outline is done in my beloved Black Pearl Rico Metallic Stickgarn, which never makes a fuss and behaves impeccably on any fabric.

Embroidered bug wings by Suzanne Forbes June 2017 I have been incredibly inspired by the couture embroidery work of Lyudmila Plotnikova, a Russian textile artist.

You can see her work below. In addition to being technically skilled at a level I can only dream of (in my dreams of going to grad school for textile arts), it is much subtler and less lurid than my efforts! Her eye and hand are equally exquisite.

Jewelled embroidered insect brooch by Ludmila Plotnikova June 2017

Jewelled embroidered insect brooch by Lyudmila Plotnikova, June 2017

She does things with materials that constantly innovate and extend the form.

She has brilliant new ideas about embroidery in three dimensions, like Michele Carragher. You can buy her art here, and hopefully someday I will! Many of her signed, unique pieces are designed to be worn as jewels or brooches. I think of the great European design and craftwork traditions, like Art Nouveau jewelry, when I see her work.

Her love of bugs has resonance with the couture legacy of Schiaparelli’s bugs. Women who create or wear insects as art continue a tradition that runs from Queen Tiye to Louise Bourgeois to the recent Sarah Burton collections that made couture bug crazy in the teens.

Gallery of bead embroidery art in progress from the Instagram of Lyudmila Plotnikova

Gallery of bead embroidery art in progress from the Instagram of Lyudmila Plotnikova, 2017

Ms. Plotnikova is also incredibly generous with her process, sharing photos of works in progress. Being able to follow other artists on Instagram is so exhilarating, as much as I hate giving clicks to that pig Zuckerberg.

Here’s a couple good pieces about how women artists connect emotionally with creepy crawlies!

 

A tribute piece to two women artists I admire, Judy Chicago and Annie Sprinkle, and a charity raffle.

By Suzanne Forbes March 8 2017 tribute JudyChicagoxAnnieSprinkleBy Suzanne Forbes March 8 2017 tribute JudyChicagoxAnnieSprinkleAfter last week’s feminist art salon, I was thinking about Pussy Power and the history of making vagina icon art.

By Suzanne Forbes March 2017 tribute JudyChicagoxAnnieSprinkle WIP

I went home last Friday and started a pussy piece, and of course I was thinking of The Dinner Party. You can’t think about pussy art and embroidery without it.

It was sometime in the 80s that I first saw Judy Chicago‘s Dinner Party. It was as a black and white photo in the Village Voice, and I remember it so clearly. It was still shocking then; it’s still revolutionary now.

By Suzanne Forbes March 8 2017 tribute JudyChicagoxAnnieSprinkle CUI have a lot of green materials around for the Green Woman project I’m working on. I had a sudden flash of inspiration for an image that would honor Annie Sprinkle and her Ecosexual work.

I became acquainted with Annie while I lived in the Bay Area and was exhibiting and drawing at Madison Young’s queer art gallery, Femina Potens.

We talked about my painting a portrait of Annie, but could never organize the timing. I still hope to, as Annie will be in Germany this summer!

I am going to raffle off this piece to raise money for Planned Parenthood.

Anyone who sends me a copy of their March $20 or more donation to Planned Parenthood (with your name, but personal details obscured of course!) will be entered to win the piece. As embroidery works take me a minimum of twenty hours, and this one took about twenty-five, it’s a chance to win a piece I would have to charge a lot for!

Calendar of Annie’s many world-wide feminist and ecosexual art activities here.

Teaching resources for The Dinner Party.

The Dinner Party long-term installation at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.

Something beautiful for a sad month: bead embroidery!

beetle embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2017I made this embroidered beetle to lift my heart and give me the strength that working with color and sparkle does. It was part of my automatic-writing-for-art approach this month, like the Monster doll armada.beetle embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2017

I just reached into my textile materials drawer and grabbed some scraps and bits, and told myself, You gotta make something with these.

bead embroidery appliques Suzanne Forbes 2017 1There are four different types of lacework fabric and delicate cotton paper layered on a blue felt base, bits left from the very first materials I bought at my earliest trips to the art store in Berlin.

I used them in my mantis project our first summer here, and in some bug embroideries with sheer wings.

The blue felt undersurface is left over from the backing of the Hearts Afire pieces I made for my Cake Level Patrons in 2016.

beetle embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2017Plus bead overflow from the Green Woman corset I’m working on, which is related to the Green Leaf Crowns I made last summer! I planned that project back in 2013-14 and brought all the materials in the shipping container.

You can see my project kit* for the Green Woman project at the top of these pics; I just raided it for beads and bling! This is the mess on a day I worked for eleven hours straight, just fiending on colors and sparkle.

I learn so much from studying the work of Game of Thrones embroidery artist Michele Carragher.

bead embroidery appliques Suzanne Forbes 2017 She has really radical approaches to layering sheer or lacework materials and doing bead embroidery in three dimensions.

I look forward to exploring ideas I borrowed from her for the mantis, like a wire lattice for sheer wings. Maybe this summer!

I also learned from her to do my bead embroidery in a hoop, whether or not it’s going to remain in the hoop.

Doing bead embroidery on the surface you plan to display it on – especially clothing- is for suckers. It’s like melting chocolate in a double boiler.

Much easier, stronger, safer and neater to embroider or bead embroider on a sheer surface in a hoop. If your threads aren’t meltable you can iron a light interfacing onto the back to protect the finished embroidery, cut around the embroidery design, then sew it onto your clothes or lampshade or corset or whatever.

If your threads are synthetic and meltable, but you’re really worried about the strength/structural integrity of the piece, you can wipe a thin coat of archival gel glue on the back. Like E6000! I touched every knot on the back of this beetle with a bit of Tacky Glue, just to be sure it’s heirloom solid. I have to charge a lot for embroidery pieces, since they take a minimum of 30 hours to make, so I like to be sure they’re for the ages.

*project kit: I have a half dozen project kits still neatly boxed up and waiting in my workshop cabinets. I organize all the materials and supplies I need for a project into a “kit” that makes it easy to bust into and tackle. All those 90% off post-holiday sales at Michaels and JoAnn’s, all those years of saving every scrap of ribbon from a present, every bit of wrapping paper for a shadowbox or decoupage! I’ve been blazing through projects, I’ve finished at least a dozen since I finished building the kitchen/workshop, but I brought a LOT in the container.

Bat Monster Woman!!

Bat Monster Woman Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 20 2017Bat Monster Woman Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 20 2017It’s a gray day in Berlin but this gold and bronze Bat Monster Woman I just finished is glowing.

She is inspired by my beloved Archie McPhee Monster Women rubber toys, a gift from my oldest friend Victoria.

I used what may be my last scrap of silver velvet, some old-gold colored wired organza ribbon that I bought with a coupon at Jo-Ann for my first wedding, and gold tulle.

Plus my favorite Black Pearl metallic thread from Rico Design, which is the only good metallic embroidery thread available in the world.

Bat Monster Woman Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 20 2017And two citrine Swarovski crystals for her eyes, some brass rhinestuds, a scrap of teeeny gold dollmaking braid trim, and plain dark green cotton thread, doubled, carefully stitched around the border of the design.

Using a fine dark thread to go around the edges of important shapes really helps me control and refine the line, I highly recommend it.

It’s especially great where a regular back-stitched embroidered line butts up against a satin stitch area. The tiny needle you can use for a single strand of floss or regular thread means you can stitch into the satin stitch without disturbing or spreading it, yet stabilize it at the same time.

I also added brass stud stars, both to reference Wonder Woman iconography and because I love studs.

When I was a child, about seven to nine, I had a babysitter I adored. Her name was Melissa, and although she was a hardcore drug addict and a total flake, she was so mellow and gentle with me. Some friends of her and her sister Nadine had a clothing store on 8th Avenue between 20th and 21st, a funky hippie store where everybody hung out. I don’t know if they ever sold anything but drugs.

Sitting on the floor in there under racks of fringed and embroidered and patched rocker clothes impacted my aesthetic so much.

Bat Monster Woman Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 20 2017There was a barrel of studs for your jeans or jean jackets, all different shapes and designs, stars and moons and pyramids and other shapes I can’t quite summon. Like, a barrel- they must have bought them by the kilo at some surplus place. I would run my hands through them, gently so the points wouldn’t poke me.

I felt completely safe there. Years later the friends became famous Deadhead t-shirt silkscreeners, and I went to a party at their loft on 14th st. I came home drunk at dawn and gleefully told my mom about their huge ball python Clyde who had cuddled me. They were such nice people, and such incredible artists.

Everything you do or see or feel goes in the hopper for creative work. 

Everything I remember, here in this safe-at-last place, surfaces and turns and shines under the light. I don’t know where the synthesis will take me. Or what the meeting point will be between painting and drawing, the skills I trained a decade for and made a career in, and the making things I’ve always loved.

Making is my medicine: 40 hours of moth embroidery.

Grey Embroidered Moth by Suzanne Forbes January 2017I spent a week of my life this month making this moth.

Grey Embroidered Moth by Suzanne Forbes January 2017I don’t know if it was the best use of my time at this frightening time, but I do know I wasn’t capable of going out and protesting.

I’ve been barely able to function, this month.

Making something beautiful was the only thing I could contribute to the world. So I kept doing that.

Doing handwork, “Women’s Work.” Stabbing something 6,000 times.

I’ve spent a lot of time doing what I call “running background processes” this month.

Grey Embroidered Moth by Suzanne Forbes January 2017I’m working on a very hard to write piece about sexual violence, and the words tumble around in my head like stones in a polisher.

I can think about it for tiny snippets at a time, and then I turn to the comfort of sparkle and glimmer and applying tiny hematite crystals one at a time for hours.

Everything about the Cheeto “President” triggers me. I am constantly triggered. It sucks. I can’t sleep during the American news cycle, so I’m up from 6pm to 11am.

I don’t know the name of the woman who made this protest sign for the Women’s March, but she is a hero. A real live art hero.

protest embroidery

Beauty is my medicine: Making pretty things for comfort.

 Embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017 Embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017This is the second large embroidery piece I started and finished this month.

I did this one mostly over the Women’s March Weekend.

 Embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017

It’s super pink!

embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017 work in progress   embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017 work in progress

I really need to make things of beauty at dark times, when I’m not personally depressed but the world is frighteningly fucked up.

embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017 work in progressI’ve been posting snippets of my works in progress and moments in the life of a working artist, plus kitties, on my new Instagram account. People seem to appreciate seeing art a lot right now.

I hate being in the ecosphere of a Zuck property, but it’s the best place to keep up with my loved ones these days, and an amazing place to connect with what other artists are doing.

Maybe I’ll see you there!