There was once a time when embroidery and cross-stitch were considered the reserve of the blue rinse crowd. But not not anymore! You don’t have to look far on Instagram to find a new generation of embroidery aficionados making colourful artwork inspired by popular culture or boasting catchy slogans. Indeed, one such creative is Lily Thread – a 20 year old film student & embroidery artist based in Devon, whose vibrant work I came across on my recent visit to Hutch Lifestyle Store in Exeter. Her vibrant designs were just too fun to pass by and I had to get in touch with her to find out more about what inspires her artwork..
When I think of a typical 20-year-old film student, embroidery doesn’t exactly come to mind! So, what got you into this art form in the first place?
My grandma taught me to sew when I was quite young so it’s always been a skill I’ve had in the back of my mind but I hadn’t really thought about practicing it or progressing more until this summer. I kept seeing embroidery designs pop up on my Instagram and I just loved the way they looked, and I’ve always found sewing calming, so I decided to give it a go and I fell in love with it almost immediately. I’m a huge film and literature fan and it gave me a great medium to pay homage to some of my favourite films and books.
Do you have any formal training in embroidery?
I don’t actually! When I did GCSE art we had to sew pillows and use the sewing machines and I was actually horrendously bad at using them, I think the speed panicked me, so I didn’t really decide to pursue sewing any further academically than what was compulsory for my art GCSE. However I’m hoping after I finish my film degree to apply for an embroidery and textiles related masters.
What has been your bestselling design so far?
I think my bestselling design has either been my custom felt heart patches or my Wes Anderson portrait and quote duos. I’ve only done The Life Aquatic and Moonrise Kingdom so far but my sketchbook is filled with rough drawings of other Wes Anderson characters, I’ve had a Margot Tenenbaum idea in my head for months!
Have you had many commissions? If so, what has your favourite been?
I (thankfully!) get a decent amount of commissions and I’m always so grateful for each one, it gives me the opportunity to take someone’s idea and make it into something physical. I also love drawing so sketching out the designs is so much fun for me. I think my favourite so far has been a sparrow I did filled with flowers, it was so relaxing to make and gave me a good opportunity to try out a variety of stitches I hadn’t tried much before. It makes me so happy seeing my work go all over the world and to make someone happy overseas!
Who and what inspires you?
I get a lot of my inspiration from film, especially art related documentaries (“David Lynch: The Art Life” and “The Universe of Keith Haring” to name a couple of recent favourites). Good films definitely inspire me too, I saw a preview screening of Call Me By Your Name a month or so ago and it made me want to create so much more! I don’t really know why, seeing as it’s not a film about art, but it just made me feel inspired. I’m definitely inspired by a lot of amazingly talented embroidery artists on Instagram, like mude_threads, tuskandtwine, emillieferris and littlesasquatchembroideries and yesstichyes. I’m very grateful for the embroidery community on Instagram, everyone is so kind and helpful and it’s a constant source of encouragement and inspiration.
What are your current obsessions?
I’m currently very into Stranger Things and I’ve (hopefully) got a few Stranger Things embroideries to come soon. I’ve also recently been very into St. Vincent and Sufjan Stevens. I almost always listen to 100% Sufjan Stevens when I’m working on an embroidery! I’m also very obsessed with plants, I’ve got 5 new ones since September and I love them all!
So, what’s your ultimate goal? Artist, filmmaker, designer?
I don’t think I really have a set goal in the rigid sense. I’d like to keep creating; I’d love to do embroidery as my full-time job, that’s a bit of a dream for me, but I also want to learn different mediums and to carry on learning more skills. I know for sure I want to do an embroidery related masters, but film also has a very special place in my heart, so who knows where I’ll end up!
What is the best thing about being based in Exeter, Devon?
I think it’s the scenery, I love being near so much greenery and being so near to the sea. When I’m away from Exeter I always miss how close I am to the coast. Exeter also has such a lovely community of creators and artists, it’s a great place to create and to feel inspired.
Where do you like to eat and shop locally?
My favourite places to eat are The Rabbit Vegan Café, The Magdalen Road Bakery and No. 1 Polsoe! The Magdalen Road Bakery is my absolute favourite place for coffee in Exeter, it’s so nice! Shopping wise I love No Guts No Glory on Fore Street, as well as Bunyip Craft (I buy all my fabric there!) and of course Hutch on Paris Street.
Where can my readers find and buy your work?
You can find my work on my Instagram; Instagram.com/lilythreads aswell as my facebook page; facebook.com/lilythreads
I sell all my work via my etsy page lilythreadsco.etsy.com and if you’re based in Exeter or Devon my nature themed hoops are sold in the lovely Hutch shop on Paris Street!