When I began working with cross-stitch as a form of contemporary fine art, I didn’t want to just be producing any old picture as a cross-stitch pattern. There are thousands of cross-stitch kits out there if you just want to cross-stitch a picture, and it seemed pointless to create a piece of work that could just as easily be a painting. I wanted my work to have a more conceptual basis.
This led me to look at what I like about cross-stitch and the materials used. I like the grid like fabric and the way that you are forced to make certain stitches, such as half stitches. I like the rules (always stitching from left to right, then right to left to create the crosses) and the potential that there is to bend, play with, or break the rules. I didn’t want to reinvent cross-stitch for myself, just to use the traditional materials in a new way.
My first experiments with this was to work with the grid like fabric to produce a labyrinth pattern. Instead of tucking the loose ends of the thread away at the back of the fabric (cross-stitchers are often very proud of the neatness of the back of their works) I wanted to leave them exposed at the front.
Pattern for Labyrinth. Graphite on paper. 2012
The labyrinth pattern interested me, because I see it very much as a metaphor for our journey through life. Much like in life, we cannot see what is around the next corner, but this is a metaphor which is slightly lost when looking at a labyrinth puzzle, because you can look at it and solve it. So I decided to leave the loose ends of the thread to hang long over the front of the work, obscuring the view. Each thread was stitched with until there was 61cm left to hang down. It was a very fiddly and time consuming piece of work to make. I used gold thread, which adds to the difficulties, as it is notoriously fragile and difficult to sew with, although the reward is worth it.
The work is based on the Ancient Greek Myth of Theseus, who used a length of gold thread to find his way through the Minotaur’s Labyrinth.
This first piece of Contemporary Art Cross-stitch is still my favorite and continues to inspire me.