29 September 2011

Inspired: Thread Paintings by Cayce Zavaglia



I'm blown away by the photorealistic embroidery of Cayce Zavaglia. I'm a big fan of Chuck Close, and her bold portraits have a similar presence, though mixed with the softness of thread in a way that makes them unforgettable.

L: Self Portrait by Chuck Close | R: Carol by Cayce Zavaglia
From her website:
I still consider myself a painter and find it difficult not to refer to these embroidered portraits as “paintings”. Although the medium employed is crewel embroidery wool, the technique borrows more from the worlds of drawing and painting.
Initially, working with an established range of wool colors proved frustrating. Unlike painting, I was unable to mix the colors by hand. Progressively, I created a system of sewing the threads in a sequence that would ultimately give the allusion of a certain color or tone. The direction in which the threads were sewn had to mimic the way lines are layered in a drawing to give the allusion of depth, volume, and form. Over time the stitches have become tighter and more complex but ultimately more evocative of flesh, hair, and cloth.
My work unabashedly nods its head to the tradition of tapestry and my own love of craft. Using wool instead of oils has allowed me to broaden the dialogue between portrait and process as well as propose a new definition for the word “painting”.
The texture and depth of this jacket is incredible. 


I do think her process works best on older faces, as they tend to hold much more texture (and hair, in some cases).  Her technique relies on her ability to sculpt the threads as she works, so it's all done by hand.  She's entirely self taught in the art of embroidery, though trained in drawing and painting.

Teo, Zavaglia's most recent portrait.
You can see all of Cayce's portraits on her website, or read an in-depth interview with her at Mr X Stitch.

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