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From historical samplers to expansive tapestries, embroidery has been an inspiring, expressive art form for thousands of years. Lately, though, an increased interest in the craft has led to the emergence of makers who are pushing the boundaries of the medium. We’re not talking about simple embroidery hoops with cheesy inspirational quotes—these are thoroughly modern works of art.
The beauty of today’s embroidery lies in its details. When artists painstakingly pair unexpected hues, craft surprising textures, and render breathtaking images in a 3-D form, there’s plenty of inspiration to take away. Our favorite contemporary examples are the ones that push boundaries, all just with a needle and some thread. Below, take a look at the ones who are providing us with color therapy for days on end.
The Earthy Eccentric
Inspired by nature (think: algae blooms and lichens), Emily of Salt Stitches makes intensely detailed embroidery hoop creations. Like an episode of Planet Earth, her work inspires wonder through surprising color combinations and tactile textures.
The Colorful Creative
Chilean-born artist Katy Biele first fell in love with textiles as she traveled through Southeast Asia. With her training in graphic design, she stitches vividly hued mixed-media creations with paint and embroidery, largely featuring figures and florals.
The Delicate Detailer
Deeply inspired by outer space and ocean life, U.K. artist Stacey Jones crafts intricate hoop art. After her husband was diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma cancer, she turned to the craft as a way to help manage her anxiety, and in the spirit of giving back, she donates 10 percent of her proceeds to Sarcoma UK.
The 3-D Designer
Polish artist Justyna Wołodkiewicz, who makes her creations under the name Niby Niebo, brings a sculptural element to her embroidery, incorporating polymer clay figures into her work. The results are somewhat alien, with odd bits and bobs lending a dramatic effect to the simple art form.
The Tapestry Tinkerer
Jenny Hart is, by all measures, an embroidery expert. She launched her company, Sublime Stitching, in 2001, and since then she’s written several books on the topic. She even runs a separate Instagram account dedicated to highlighting other artists. Her own work includes portraiture, ’70s-esque iconography, and text.
The Natural Wonder
Kimi Kahara’s work frames the natural world in colors and textures that lends it a playfulness. A mountain range may be accented by a smattering of sequins, and an artichoke might be rendered in all the colors of the rainbow.
The Scene Setter
Michelle Kingdom’s embroidery is akin to the work of Surrealist painters like Salvador Dalí and Frida Kahlo: It shows odd, stirring scenes of humans and wildlife, frequently with elements of magical realism intertwined. “I create tiny worlds in thread to capture elusive yet persistent inner voices,” she writes. “Beauty parallels melancholy, as conventional stitches acquiesce to the fragile and expressive.”
The Fantastical Figure Maker
Finnish artist Ninni Luhtasaari describes her creations in dreamy terms: “The fuzzy brothers have only five legs. Your favorite smile is a floater. There are orange body parts sticking out of a bush.” Rendered in neon hues, they’re something out of a vision.