Contemporary Embroidery w Sarah K Benning

It seems like everyone is into embroidery lately - our classes here at Craft South are always selling out, and our stock regularly flies right off the shelves! We love embroidery because it's truly a craft that you can learn and master easily (and inexpensively!), yet there are no rigid rules a person must adhere to.

If you're not familiar with contemporary embroidery artist Sarah K Benning, be prepared to fall in love! Sarah creates highly detailed, hand embroidered works of art inspired by nature and interior design. One look at her Instagram and you will immediately understand why we are so excited to welcome her into Craft South next month for a special workshop!

CS: Embroidery seems to be very trendy these days, which is awesome! What led you to discover your love for the craft?

SKB: I found my way to embroidery in 2013 when I was working as a nanny post graduation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As a student, I focussed my studies in the Arts Administration and Fiber + Material Studies departments where I created large, abstract works on paper. Once out of school, I continued using similar materials (paper and thread) but on a much smaller scale and started making hand-stitched greeting cards. Eventually I moved from paper to fabric and my hobby evolved into the art practice/business it is today.

CS: Your pieces are definitely unique and much more like art than most embroidery designs. How did you hone your style and aesthetic to what it is now?

SKB: Developing a specific artistic voice takes time and I have been honing my current visual vocabulary of house plants, interiors, home textiles, and mysterious figures over the past four years. My earliest plant pieces were inspired by my collection of dead houseplants after my first winter living in Albany, NY (where I moved after college). My apartment was old, cold, and north-facing, which was a death sentence for all of my plants, prompting me to stitch little memorials to my fallen friends. I completely fell in love with plants as a subject matter - you really can't beat nature for inspiration. There are so many shapes, colors, and textures found within plant life and over the years I have just let myself get more and more carried away in my embroideries.

Each step forward in my work comes from a desire to continuously challenge myself.

CS: Are there are any embroidery "rules" that you love to break? What do you do differently from the traditional ways?

SKB: As a self-taught embroidery artist, I am not sure there are any traditional 'rules' that I adhere to. I treat the thread as a drawing medium, using it as a tool to create the marks/shapes/textures that I desire in my compositions. I definitely do not get hung up on stitch perfection and firmly believe in experimentation while working. During my workshops, I encourage all participants to find methods of stitching and mark-making that work for them (even if those methods break rules or are contrary to what I suggest). The process is supposed to be creative and fun, not structured and restrictive.

CS: Do you have a favorite piece that you are most proud of?

SKB: It's so hard to say! I feel like every new piece I make is my favorite (as weird and cliche as that may be!).

CS: It's impossible to look at pictures of your studio and not notice all those gorgeous plants you keep! What are your biggest tips for fellow plant-ladies-in-training?

SKB: I definitely do not consider myself a plant expert. It's a lot of trial and error for me, keeping plants alive and healthy. My best advice is to observer and respond to your plants. You can tell pretty quickly if they are in an environment that isn't working. I've found that direct light and over watering are often responsible for plant-death. ALSO, even if a plant looks dead, usually it can be brought back with a little patience. I travel a lot and sometimes my plants are a bit neglected. They usually perk up though with a little special attention when I get home!

We are over the moon to have such an incredibly talented artist in our shop to teach us her secrets, and we hope that you will join us next month! Sarah K Benning's Contemporary Embroidery class includes all the materials that you need to make your own creative masterpiece, and we are offering 2 sessions (morning and afternoon), that are sure to fit with everyone schedule!

Can't wait to see you there!