I encourage you to take some time out of your busy day to read the interview with Textile Artist Kirsten Chursinoff and to view a sampling of her work. I thought you all might like to learn more about Kirsten and her work since she appeared on CME’s back page in the May/June issue. Please visit her on her blog, website or Facebook page, her links are supplied at the end of the interview as well. Please feel free to leave a comment.
Where do you live/from? Are your surroundings inspiring?
I work from my cottage-in-the-sky studio, which is downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The urban environment is exciting, but I’m never very far away from nature, which is my true source of inspiration. Extensive seawall trails, parks and lively community gardens are only a few minutes away.
Can you give us a little background on how/why you got started embroidery and working with textiles.
My mother and grandmothers always had some project on the go: needlework, knitting or sewing. I was initially seduced by the colors of hand embroidery floss, all beautifully organized and bundled in little skeins. I didn’t think I was an artist, but I loved to make decorative things.
What do you find are the greatest challenges in your profession? Are there any challenges with technology that you find inspiring and/or frustrating?
Professionally, there are so many choices to make when you build your own career from scratch. Deciding whether to teach, submit book proposals, design patterns, or make original work to sell, are huge decisions and I hope to be able to do a combination of those without having to compromise too much of my creative vision.
There are technological challenges as well. My work is made using free-motion machine embroidery on a domestic sewing machine (with the feed dogs removed) and I enjoy the sketch-like/drawing quality of the stitches. I’d like to try a more professional machine but I worry that I’ll loose my signature style.
I also have trouble because I love building up layers in my embroidery. I try and blur the lines between hand and machine work, but it can be difficult stitching through all the layers of fabrics and stitches. I like to add finishing details by hand and sometimes I have to use pliers to pull the needle through!
In the years you’ve been working with embroidery what is the greatest change that you’ve noticed? Or is there something that you’ve had to adapt to?
I think we all need to try and remain a few steps ahead of mass-produced work. Keep our work personal and creative. We use machines, but the work should reflect the person guiding the stitches.
What is your conception process for a design or project? Do you sketch it out, take a photo etc.
I love to use a collage-type approach to designing. Yes, I take photos, do research, and spread out all the possible colors that might work for the subject; but then I start cutting shapes of fabric and laying them out in different arrangements until I find something pleasing to my eye.
What are your favorite items, textiles etc. to work with? Where do you go to find these items? What was a “I can’t believe I found this” item?
I combine embroidery, quilting, beading and other textile techniques in my work so I can always find something for my stash in any crafting or art supply store. Shopping can be dangerous! Finding materials to build a stash is always exciting. I also find delight in small scraps and castaways from other crafters.
What has been your (to date) greatest/proudest achievement in the creative world?
Seeing my artwork and writing published in magazines was very exciting, and I was interviewed and had my studio photographed for the book Hoopla: the art of unexpected embroidery, by Leanne Prain.
What would be a dream project or commission for you?
I would love to illustrate a children’s book with embroidered pictures.
Between all that you do, where do you find time to actually create?
I was able to pursue my embroidery art full-time for several years before we started a family, but initially I would sneak it in whenever I could. I stayed up late at night, and even did hand-embroidery on the bus while commuting to college.
At the moment, I’m finding it challenging to find time for my embroidery work. My two little boys are full of life and energy. I don’t want to miss a moment of their joy for life, but at the same time, I feel a bit lost without a project in my hand or at my machine. During the early days of their lives I returned to my roots as a hand-embroiderer so that I could work quietly during nap times and at night, but I’m itching to work faster and miss the speed of a machine.
What do you do when you are not at your sewing machine/studio
I take my boys to the beach!
What are your plans for the future?
Build up a body of work for my next exhibition. I’ve been working on some hand embroidered birds. Hopefully I’ll find the time to develop some bird ideas that combine hand and machine embroidery.
Any tips you’d like to share with the Creative Machine Embroidery readers on embroidery, creating or inspiration?
I would like to encourage people to find a way to personalize their embroidery work and try new things. Combining familiar techniques with new ideas can enrich both the work, and the experience.
To see more of Kirsten’s embroidery and textile art: