Published on January 31st, 2013 | by Alison Kjeldgaard1
Interview with blogger and embroiderer Amy Sheridan
These days, crafts once indelibly tied to older generations are coming back into style. Quilting, crocheting, knitting and embroidery are just a few crafts that have recently developed artistic niches.
Artists, like Long Beach-based embroiderer Amy Sheridan, have revitalized these age-old artforms by injecting them with today’s cultural and stylistic trends. Unlike the traditional “Home Sweet Home” embroidery, Sheridan’s work showcases everything from pop culture icons, to Monopoly, to vaginas.
“I always say that if I owned a white lab coat (and had finished college), I would be a scientist,” said Sheridan on her Etsy profile. “I’m always experimenting: in the kitchen, through my camera lens, in an embroidery hoop, on canvas and in any other medium I can find. I like to look at, think of and present things in different ways.”
Sheridan has been making art for as long as she can remember, but her interest in embroidery developed a few years ago after she stumbled across the work of Shannon Genova-Scudder, who creates embroidered pop culture portraits.
“I had no idea that embroidery was allowed to be that cool,” Sheridan said. “I forced her to become one of my best friends and tell me all her stitching secrets.”
Sheridan is perhaps most famous for her wildly popular hand-stitched Kanye West tweets, which are exactly what they sound like: framed and stitched tweets by Kanye West.
“Really, though, Kanye’s just saying what we’re all thinking,” said Sheridan on Etsy. “Who amongst us hasn’t lamented the inability to procure a decent cherub-decorated rug or, at one time or another, needed to apologize to Taylor Swift?”
Art Animal had the chance to talk with Sheridan about her craft, her inspiration and being the mother of a 14-year-old.
AA: One of my favorite things about your Etsy store are the clever descriptions of each item. Your blog is equally hilarious. How long have you been writing?
AS: You’re entirely too kind. I’ve been writing since about second grade — mostly fiction. I started my blog when everyone started blogs and over time it has become a history of the major and minor events (mostly minor) in my life (or at least the ones I can make funny). Most of the pieces I make have a story, usually tangential, and usually only significant to me, but I like to be able to share a little bit about how or why I chose to do something.
AA: Every time I hear the word “embroidery,” I think of a woman in a gingham dress quietly sewing in her little home on the prairie. Is embroidery making a comeback? Do you wear gingham when you embroider?
AS: A lot of people think of embroidery as a fussy thing grandmas do — flowers on doilies or tablecloths, “Home Sweet Home” samplers — but it’s also an art/craft that’s been around for hundreds of years and is constantly evolving. There are some amazing artists right now who are making pieces that grandmas wouldn’t even recognize as the same art form.
And of course I wear gingham when I stitch. I’m not an animal. I’ve got a lovely full-length dress and matching bonnet — same outfit I wear for churning butter, hauling water from the creek and making supper.
AA: So much of your work references recent pop culture trends. I’m guessing you’re not one of those people who complains about “kids these days”?
AS: Please. I regularly tell my son (who will be 14 on Saturday) to pull up his pants and get a haircut. And I call his music crap often. I also yell at kids to get off my lawn all the time. And to stop wearing UGG boots with short shorts. And to stop saying “YOLO”. And to stop trying to make One Direction happen.
And I die a little bit inside every single time a classic 80s movie gets remade (I’m looking at you, Karate Kid and Can’t Buy Me Love).
AA: Other than pop culture, what else inspires your work?
AS: I find a lot of inspiration from other artists — not in a plagiarism kind of way, but in a “HOLY CRAP, THAT’S SO COOL, WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF IT?” kind of way. Like Ellen Schinderman (the curator of the Stitch Fetish show) who does these amazing large-scale cross-stitches, Luke Haynes who does these unbelievable quilts, and Meghan Willis who does these mixed media embroideries that are deceptively simple.
AA: Tell me about your Gallery of Glamorous Grooming. Are you making a statement? Did you just wake up one day and feel like embroidering some vaginas? Something in between?
AS: I’d like to say it’s a statement about the unrealistic grooming expectations that people have for women right now, but it actually sprang from a conversation I was having with some embroidery friends about the use of Turkey Stitch (which is a tufted stitch used to add texture or fluff to embroidery) and how it’s the best stitch to use for stitching pubes. That snowballed into a stitched pube study for the Stitch Fetish show. I was initially going to style the piece like a vintage scientific illustration, but I decided that individual portraits of the most ridiculous parts would be better/more ridiculous. The completed gallery has five pieces: “Rapunzel”, “I Clitty The Fool”, “I Never Promised You A Rose… Bush”, “Bo” and “The Bearded Lady”.
AA: Ok — I have to ask about your hand-stitched Kanye tweets. What is it about Kanye West that makes you want to commemorate his words?
AS: Twitter is such a bite-sized, instant gratification form of media; 99.9% of tweets are instantly forgettable, something tweeted an hour ago is already gone from timelines and might as well have never happened. So many of Kanye’s tweets were ridiculous — lamenting the challenges of finding Persian rugs with cherub imagery, being emotional about fonts, bragging about setting off metal detectors with swag — and I thought that the only way to make them more ridiculous would be to stitch them up like they were family heirlooms or ancient proverbs.
I’m also a huge Kanye fan. I love that guy. I love his music; I love the Elvis-in-Las-Vegas level of his stage persona; I love that he wears his emotions on his sleeve; and I love that he’s not afraid to make mistakes. And his Twitter was unique because he was one of the few celebrities who a) ran his own account and b) is decent at spelling, grammar and punctuation.
AA: You’re also on Twitter. Do happen to have a special formula for being witty in 140 characters?
AS: Twitter posts are like going through a trick-or-treat bag: sometimes you get good stuff and sometimes you get raisins. I try not to use mine for stuff like photographing my meals or officially “checking in” to let the world know which TV shows I’m watching. I usually post if I think I might have something funny to say and I’m too lazy to write up an actual blog post.
AA: Should I hang this in my bathroom? http://www.etsy.com/listing/121564629/im-the-eater-of-worlds-and-of-children?ref=pr_shop
AS: I’m actually more partial to Pennywise being above a bed so he can watch you when you sleep.
AA: Any upcoming projects that readers should watch out for?
AS: I’m not really organized enough to plan out projects too far in advance, but I’ve got a huge list of stuff I want to do at some point in the future. I’ve done a handful of pieces based on horror movies and I’ll probably do more of those. I’m also a big fan of mixing up stuff like nursery rhymes and action figures, hip hop lyrics and vintage kitschy designs, and dark macabre stuff with sweet vintage fabrics.