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Sarah K. Benning is an American fibre artist, who expresses her creativity through contemporary embroidery. She makes hoop art inspired by interior design and plants (in particular cacti ones) and her embroideries are really detailed, thorough and colourful and also extremely illustrative. These precious textile gems have such a powerful effect on me: When I’m looking at them, I feel almost like I’ve been launched into a cheery parallel universe, where I feel at ease and anything wonderful is possible.
Sarah K. Benning usually uses cotton thread but she took up the challenge of embroidering with our Quipa, which is a blend of 85% alpaca and 15% merino. The outcome of the experiment was pleasantly surprising: it’s welcoming, pleasingly unrefined with soft and faint outlines. The subject, which was made exclusively for us, consists of two plants inside yellow plant pots, placed just next to a Persian rug, that looks real!
Read on to find out more about this enchanting artist.
How did you get into embroidery art?
I found my way to embroidery back in July 2013. I had just graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, moved from Chicago to the significantly smaller city of Albany, NY and was working as a nanny. During my time in school I had made several pieces using thread and paper -- though the subject matter was quite different from my current botanical pieces -- and I continued to explore this medium in the form of hand-stitched greeting cards. Eventually I shifted from stitching on paper to stitching on fabric and after exploring several other avenues of content found my way to stitching plants.
Your favourite subjects?
I love to stitch botanical subjects inspired by my own ever growing potted plant collection and I also seek inspiration from interior design trends from the 1940's through today.
What does being a contemporary embroider mean to you?
To me, being a 'contemporary' embroidery artist simply means that I do not adhere to the strict rules and methods imposed on more traditional embroidery techniques. I use the thread as a drawing medium to create an image rather than a collection of specific stitches. In my mind, my embroidery is more of an illustration practice than something coming out of a tradition of needle work.
Your embroidery circles are so clear and colourful they’re like illustrations. Is that the effect you aim for?
Yes, I treat the thread as though it were ink, emphasizing color and composition over the need to create perfect and particular stitches.
What’s your relationship with social media?
I have been using Instagram as a marketing tool for the past few years and it has allowed me to reach a global audience and build an online following for my work that without it I may not have achieved. Of course, as with everything, there are ups and downs that come along with social media, but for me the positives far outweigh the negatives. Instagram in particular is such an effective way to share visual content and is such an incredible tool for independent artists.
If you had the chance to spend a day with someone important from the past, who would it be?
I would love to spend a day with Anni Albers. I very much respect her work and would love the hypothetical opportunity to learn from her.
Do you have any hobbies?
My work keeps me pretty busy as I am soley responsible for every aspect of my business from the design and production of pieces, packaging and shipping, social media and marketing, customer service and emails, and every one of the hundreds of other miscellaneous tasks that come along with what I do. That being said, I think of tending to my plants as a hobby that I take great joy in.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
From a very, very young age I knew I wanted to be an artist. Luckily for me, my mom was always supportive of this goal and provided opportunities for me to explore my creativity and to pursue my dreams.
I'm always working on something, but you'll just have to follow along on IG @sarahkbenning to see what it is!