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New Incredibly Realistic Embroidered Portraits


Have you ever seen such amazing portraits made out of nothing but thread? Though artist Cayce Zavaglia has been creating her embroidered portraits for about 10 years now, it was only until recently that her thread art made its way around the web. Her pieces are usually just under life size and take approximately 6-8 months to create. Astonishingly, the only paint she uses is for the background.

Zavaglia has developed a technique called “Modern Pointillism” where she blends colors and creates tones like you would normally see in oil paintings. She sews the way a painter would paint – her thread is layered, creating an illusion of depth, volume and form.

If you're in New York you can check out Zavaglia's work in person at Lyons Wier Gallery from November 17 to December 17, 2011. Multiple Stitches will be her solo retrospective featuring both old and new works.

The artist was kind enough to send us this preview of a few new pieces. They are works on linen using one ply embroidery floss versus the thick crewel wool she typically uses for her larger pieces. These are much smaller in scale, measuring only about 8″ x 12″.

“I have been wanting to try these for some time,” she says, “almost like a modern day miniature. This show will be the first time I will be showing them.”

Cayce not only allowed us to debut these new pieces, she was also kind enough to share some behind-the-scenes shots and answer some of our questions. You can find that brief interview below.








Why did you decide to go smaller scale and one-ply?
For a long time now, I have been intrigued by historical miniature and the strong emotional content that can be present in something so intimate and small. I wanted these new pieces to be delicate and yet evoke the same kind of emotion as my larger portraits. Practically, I was interested in working smaller so that I could complete more portraits within a year.

Who are the people you've created thread portraits of?
I only sew portraits of friends and family. I am interested in documenting specific individuals in my own life; to either further investigate my relationship with that person or document them in a certain moment in time or at a certain age.

How long did each of these take?
The large pieces take a minimum of six months to complete from initial photo session to finished product. The smaller pieces take about a month and a half to complete.

Are they going to be a part of a larger set?
The smaller pieces will be a separate series, however, they are going to be a large source of inspiration for the Verso series that I am currently working on. Recently, I have become more and more intrigued with the backs of the embroideries and have begun to document these images with a combination of archival pigment prints, light-jet prints on plex, and pixilated stitched needlepoint versions of the reverse images. Each of the miniature works will have a corresponding work that documents the resulting reverse of each piece.

There is a fascinating sense of emotion that arises out of their blind construction. The haphazard beauty found in their abstractness creates a haunting contrast to the meticulously sewn front image. “Embroideries au Verso” will seek to address the discrepancies between the presented and private self and symbolize the face we put on each day for the world to see versus the face we allow few to see or perhaps no one sees all.

Thanks for sharing these images with us, Cayce. Good luck with your show!

Cayce Zavaglia's website

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