The contemporary embroidery of Sarah K. Benning is definitely not your grandma's needleworks. The self-taught American fiber artist has abandoned the traditional stitches and techniques of yesteryear for creative, playful patterns inspired by antique textiles, minimalist nature landscapes and her own potted plant collection. Although she stumbled into a full-time embroidering career by accident, Benning applies her formal education in drawing and fine arts to give her work a fresh and bold appearance.
Each original piece initially begins as an illustration—drawn right onto the fabric with a pencil—which ultimately gets covered up by Benning's meticulous hand-stitching. She writes on her website: “In this way, the thread become more like ink or paint than traditional embroidery, which accentuates the bold shapes, patterns, and color in the compositions.” This flowing ink-like technique has allowed Benning to develop her own distinct aesthetic of vibrant colors and delicate details. Her materials include wooden hoops of various sizes that she buys in bulk and DMC 6-strand embroidery floss, which she then threads into fabric, some of which are “hand-me-down scraps from the mothers and grandmothers in my life.”
In addition to her purchasable completed creations, Benning is a major advocate for “paying it forward” and offers a monthly DIY Pattern Program subscription on her Etsy shop page. Every month, embroiderers of all levels can download a specific pattern to learn and practice. Soon, you too can say you've produced a unique piece of embroidery, in true Sarah Benning style.
In even more exciting news: for those of you in the Los Angeles metro area, Benning and seven other talented female artists are currently featured in a group exhibition, titled Inside / Out, at Flower Pepper Gallery in Pasadena, California—curated by our very own Sara Barnes. The gallery will be on view until September 13, 2016.