Some years ago I rediscovered embroidering, after having paused for nearly 40 years. I needed some quietness in my head in exciting times. My restarting worked out well for me. Embroidering gave me such a “Zen feeling” again. In the meantime I have met a lot of embroiderers who recognize this sense.
So does UK based artist Stewart Francis Easton. To him embroidering is a form of meditation. For this reason he embroiders every day, sometimes 8 or 9 hours. To Stewart especially minimalist, abstract works are perfect to meditate on. The many repetitive movements of hand and eye, used in abstract works, contribute to this.
A good example of abstract work, is the series Lojong, named after the so called Tibetan Buddhist meditative training. While creating the work, 59 slogans formed a training practice purifying the mind.
Stewart wants to help visitors to approach his work without preconceived ideas what it might be about. In addition he hopes visitors will not only look at his work, but will also meditate upon it. Just like he did. “It helps to shift something within you naturally “, he says in an interview with Embroidery Magazine (Sept./Okt.’18).
Here below you see another meditative work. I’t s less abstract then the others. It has a more differentiated color palette and shows more details in the design. For me this piece would take more thinking and therefore have a less meditative effect.
The Glass Bead Game
Stewart likes exploring byways in his embroidery, like literature, theory and music. In this work, The Glass Bead Game, he is inspired by literature from writer Herman Hesse. It gives us a glimp into a fictional world, based on the same named novel. With this work Stewart again want us to realize the meditative possibilities available to us.
While reading the earlier mentioned issue of Embroidery Magazine, I bumped into a work of Stewart that immediately stood out to me. So original, so inventive, so innovative! Cause let’s be honest… how often do you encounter an art work that’s incorporates a completely different and new approach of concept or methods?
I’m talking about the embroidered-sound-work The Next Verse, which follows the life cycle of a fictional family. With this project Stewart breaks traditional boundaries of craft, but also of illustration and fine art.
Why? He fuses together hand embroidery, sonic art and music. I wasn’t familiar with that, you? To me the funny thing of this work is the contradiction it incorporates. On one hand its very progressive, mixing textile art and music art. On the other hand the style of embroidery in this work has a traditional vibe, even a kind of folk-isch.
I think the way this piece of art functions, is sublime in it’s simplicity. When the viewer touches certain points in the embroidery… tadaaaaaa, a sound track is triggered.
Stewart developed this piece being inspired by a poem from Philip Larkin (1922-1985), a British writer, poet and jazz-critic. He produced it in collaboration with sound artist Gawain Hewitt and musician Michael Tanner.
Meditation upon Utopia
Another embroidered work incorporating sounds is Meditation upon Utopia. Again the visitor is invited to interact with the work by touching the hand stitched elements. And by doing so he/she creates a convergence of form, colour and sound.
Now I want to show you a work in which meditation is adapted in a very different manner. The work A Burden of Bones tells a rather touching fictional story. An elderly lady, Hetty Brown, has a premonition that she has five days left to live, on the eve of her 143rd birthday. After careful meditation on this news, Hetty decides to exhume her husbands bones. And travels to the tree where 120 years before, she accepted his proposal of marriage.
The work consists of four large scale wall-based embroidered pieces, tightly put together. In each panel the passage of time is emphasized. The content of the work is inspired by folk song, story and social history. Thee style of design definitely has a traditional ánd contemporary feeling all in one. A beautiful combination which works out really well. It s almost kind of cartoon-isch.
I wanna see more of Stewart
I don’t think I know other embroidery artists who merge tradition and innovation in such a splendid way, combining the old and the new. Who are able to look behind familiar horizons. And have the guts to create new concepts of embroidering. I’m very curious to what this way of working will lead to in the future. I will definitely keep on looking out for new works of Stewart, almost can’t wait!
Do you wanna see more of Stewart?
Then take a look at his instagram: #stewarteaston. Or take a look at his website: http://www.stewarteaston.net/.
Besides sewing Stewart also draws in ink, paint and digital. He rides a push bike and likes Clarks shoes. So now you know almost everything important about him :-).
On March 8 2020, Stewart will teach a hand embroidery and consciousness class in Manchester. For more information look at the link in his bio on instagram.
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