Stitching Art Together

Early on my artistic path, I gave up drawing and painting entirely. I thought it competed for attention with writing. It’s like I envisioned my artist ability as subtractive — every effort drained something away from me.

This was a mistake. Creativity is multiplicative: each endeavor amplifies the other. Drawing inspires plot ideas. The calm brought on by playing music leads to more expressive lines on paper.

It’s not a direct translation. A song or a drawing doesn’t connect directly to a work of writing. Instead, it’s more a way to declutter the mind and free up the creative brain. Indulging in all sorts of art changes the way we think and this allows new ideas to flow in.

Don’t believe me? Take Cayce Zavaglia as a prime example.

She earned both her BFA and MFA in fine art at Washington University. Although drawn to fiber, like yarn, the art world considered it the lowest of the lows. So she focused on figurative painting. 

When faced with a creative block, the only image that stuck in her mind was the small embroidery kit her mother had given her as a child — a secret passion hidden all these years.

Cayce Zavaglia, Hudson, 2017.

After experimenting with sewing a landscape, an idea blossomed in her head: Could she sew a portrait? Sixteen years later, she’s created a whole new field of art — hyperrealistic portraits made entirely from thread. The bonus came when she flipped the work over (she calls this the verso side) revealing a more abstracted portrait but with a still recognizable face.

Cayce Zavaglia, Verso of Hudson, 2017.

One artform fed the other. Now I don’t suggest you rush out and try to mash together folk banjo playing and sculpture (though that could be interesting). It’s more that you’re open to the idea of experimentation. And… here’s the main point: work from a place of passion.

Embroidery was Zavaglia’s passion and this inspired her to create in a way she never could before. In fact, she’d gone back and has started painting onto the sewn canvases. A way to pursue both art forms at the same time?

Delve into yourself and find the things that resonate the most with you. Is it anime, word etymology, taxidermy? Wherever your passion lies, seek it. Then stitch this into your art. The result will be a more truthful representation of you. 

Tim Kane

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