More and more, contemporary embroiderers are pushing the boundaries of the age-old craft to produce unique hand-stitched pieces. Such is the case for calligrapher and fiber artist Han Cao, who combines her chromatic embroidery with found vintage photographs in her series Forgotten Photos.
Although based in Palm Springs, Cao collects black and white and sepia-toned pictures from estate sales, antique stores, and flea markets from around the world. These worn photographs carry enigmatic narratives, which the artist then brings to life with a needle and some colorful thread. She says, “I’m particularly drawn to images that offer a deeper story—photographs with haunting faces and simple landscapes that can be magically transformed with added dimension and color.”
By working directly on the original photos—which are typically 5″ x 7″ or smaller—Cao forms a deeper connection to them. Her embroidered designs range in style, depending on the subject matter. In some, the artist covers the faces of individuals with flowers and adds botanical prints to their clothing. In others, Cao elaborates on the faded background—placing thoughtful and colorful stitches to enhance what is already there. World mythologies are another source of inspiration for the artist, which can be seen in select photographs where she has stitched animal characteristics onto the anonymous figures.
All of Cao’s creations are one-of-a-kind. You can purchase originals as well as prints via her website. And to keep up to date with the artist’s latest creations, including upcoming exhibitions, you can follow her on Instagram.