Embroidery may be an ancient craft, but you’d never know it from these artists. The year 2016 has continued to see the rise (and enthusiasm) of hand-stitched creations. From hyperrealistic portraits to one-of-a-kind clothing to special stationary, embroidery takes many forms. Typically viewed as craft, this medium often straddles a fine line—depending on its application, it too can occupy the art realm.
The best embroidery artists of this year are a mix of the two fields. Some, like Stephanie Clark, view their style as “painting with thread,” and treat their stitching as if it’s an Impressionist artwork. Others, like Etsy shop Fabulous Cat Papers, uses embroidery as an accent for products. In that instance, it’s less of a fine art approach and instead focuses on design.
2016 also saw the emergence of “hoop art” that uses the embroidery hoop as a frame. Here, it’s a nod to the craft aspect (with the hoop) as well as fine art—the original works are displayed like a painting you’d hang on the wall.
Check out 17 of the best embroidery artists from this year. We’re looking forward to seeing where they take it from here.
With details like this, it’s hard to believe that Emillie Ferris only started embroidering two years ago. Now, her realistic animal portraits continue to wow us with their intricate details. The most challenging part of the process, she says, “is trying to find the perfect color for a portrait, as you can’t easily mix color as you would with paint, thus I have to create the illusion of it!”
Slow Stitch Sophie
The name says it all—Slow Stitch Sophie “takes it one stitch at a time.” She uses this deliberate approach to create colorful, abstract compositions that resemble a beautiful field of rambling wildflowers.
Veselka Bulkan thinks outside of the embroidery hoop to combine stitches with hand-felted elements. One of her most popular pieces features colorful carrots that dangle from beyond the wooden hoop. It’s unusual to see this approach, but it’s a refreshing way to play with composition. Bulkan sells this piece and similar vegetable through her Etsy shop, Little Herb Bouquet.
Tessa Perlow upcycles old clothing using embroidery. Carrying on a long tradition of mending garments (rather than discarding them), she transforms them into bold wearable art. Shirts are just one part of her repitore—Perlow also embroiders denim for a stunning effect.
Maria Arseniuk combines 2D printing with sculptural blooms resulting in colorful hoop art. Over the past year, she’s attracted a lot of admirers with these geometric animal portraits that are beautifully enhanced with floral stitched wreaths.
Stephanie Kelly Clark
Calling herself a “thread painter,” artist Stephanie Kelly Clark stitches desolate landscapes that capture the natural beauty of their locales. This piece features the crashing waves against a pink sky, reminiscent of the sun setting during high tide.
When Hiroko Kubota embroidered a cat on her son’s shirt, she never anticipated the positive response she would receive. The garments—which feature hyperrealistic cats peeking out of the pocket—are quickly sold in her Etsy shop, ShopGoGo5, and has since spawned a book called Neko Shirt.
Vincent van Gogh’s textural brush strokes lend themselves well to embroidery. The artist Safae has paid homage to the famed creative with deliberate stitches that mimic his thick application of oil paint.
Maricor/Maricar calls themselves a “twin-sized studio” that specializes in embroidered hand lettering. Their illustrative work doesn’t stay stationary, either—their custom typography is in stop motion animation, too.
To create this stunning piece, Lisa Smirnova collaborated with fashion designer Olya Glagoleva. Taking almost 100 hours to complete, it’s one part of the project Artist at Home that combines two worlds—the painter’s home and studio, or rather her closet and artwork.
To create her vibrant embroideries, Danielle Clough has found an unlikely canvas—a vintage tennis racket. Making use of thick thread, she weaves floral imagery through the stiff, criss-crossing net.
Cinder & Honey
Caitlin Benson of Cinder & Honey stitches delicate florals that occupy embroidery hoops. Her colorful and minimalist imagery is sold as original art or as DIY patterns.
Like Danielle Clough, Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene utilizes unconventional material for her stitches. Some of past work includes car doors, spoons, and metal pails, but her most recent endeavor features cross-stitches on a used war helmet to contrast war and peace.
Illustrator Chloe Giordano stitches embroideries that take on a sculptural appearance. Like a pointilist painting, the tiny tics visually blend together—even more so thanks to the fuzziness of the thread.
Illustrator and costume designer Ezgi Pamir takes a realistic approach to her hoop art and employs an eye-catching twist—she integrates real garments into her portraits. Here, her stitched woman wears a scarf that looks as though it’s wafting away in the breeze.
Fabulous Cat Papers
For those with a love of science and stationary, Etsy shop Fabulous Cat Papers is the best of both worlds. The hand-crafted notebooks are adorned with anatomical drawings and meticulously enhanced with embroidery. They’re practical as well as portable works of art.
Sarah K. Benning
Sarah K. Benning happened upon embroidery “almost by accident,” and turned the craft into a career. She’s best know for her intricately-detailed interiors of potted plants, and cites “interior design trends, a love for Midcentury design, antique textiles, and her own potted plant collection” as inspiration. Like Cinder & Honey, she sells patterns of her work for those who want to embroider themselves.