Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer reading: New Potatoes, Tilleke Schwarz

Our gardens here are in full-on cornucopia season, and here is Tilleke Schwarz' new book, titled appropriately,  New Potatoes, with an abundance of new work in her complex, layered, free embroidery style. Looking back at 18th and 19th c. Dutch embroidery samplers, she borrows here and there from old motifs, and text samplers. In the 70's she became fascinated with these samplers, and even replicated a Friesian sampler from 1730, in counted cross stitch.   Samplers were the work of  young girls, usually worked in silk on linen,  to teach them needlework, cross stitch,  darning,  embroidery, and how to spell and read.Unsatisfied with replicating the beautiful samplers, Tilleke soon decided to stitch her own designs, following her own ideas.

Her contemporary samplers are fast forward narratives. Her subject is the complexity and chaos of  the digital information glut, which streams toward us at internet speed.   Tilleke slowly embroiders, texts and images that catch her attention, plucked from the stream, slowing the hyper speed to a stand still, using the antique and ordinary art form of the stitched sampler. On her cloths, sometimes hand dyed, she layers images from her everyday life, in hoopless, embroidered stitches: her cat, a toilet, her new washing machine,  and people, with internet text fragments, creating an appealing visual diary of personal and world wide interconnection, which is the new normal.

The opposite of rote work, Tilleke's embroideries are free asymmetries, looping couched lines,  tangled line, a little wild, and beautiful. They are exciting and liberating. She also writes about how she creates the embroideries, her process and composition, and  the difficulty of working as a textile artist, a woman, creating art with a needle. Textile art, and women artists particularly, have always struggled for recognition.

Tilleke's work has been recognized, exhibited in European exhibits, and galleries, and published in many books and magazines. ( I first read about her in an article in the beautiful textiles magazine,  Selvedge).

Her first book, Mark Making, a cross stitch and embroidery thriller,  has long been out of print, but her second book, New Potatoes, is every bit as inspiring.  I have been selling it here in my store, and can ship copies, if anyone would like to have one. The books are paper covers, each signed by Tilleke.
Book+ shipping in the US, $30.  Email if you'd like me to send you one.


Saskia said...

hi Susan, thank you for this review. I hadn't heard of her and her being a Dutch artist makes it all the more intriguing for me to find out about her work, will try and find copies of her books here

Susan said...

I hope you will, Saskia. It's such a good energy in her book. I'm such an admirer of Dutch art and design.
And you live there!