Category Archives: Embroidery &Mixed Media Art

Finished for Folsom Europe: Bi Pride Corset!

Bi Pride corset by Suzanne Forbes August 29 2018 front viewThis project took an entire year! About 200 hours of work! Dang!

Bi Pride corset by Suzanne Forbes August 29 2018I started this beaded corset project last fall when I got a great price on a used lilac 426 Standard mesh corset by Orchard Corset. It was always my intention to have it finished for the Motzstr. Festival, a special Pride event in Berlin in July.

But I wound up taking an entire year to finish it, and I think that’s good. Because I made it to affirm my fundamental identity as a queer woman, and I stitched that identity and pride and love into it thousands and thousands of times.

Last summer, while writing this post, I realized I’d developed a lot of internal biphobia over the last thirty years.

As a person who has been married to three men and who has almost only dated men in sobriety, I felt like a “retired” queer person. I stopped thinking of myself as bisexual.

And as a “retired” queer person, I felt so much safer.

Bi Pride corset by Suzanne Forbes August 29 2018It’s terrible to know that, to realize I took some comfort in the reduction of my vulnerability that living a straight life meant. Because I never for a minute stopped being aware of the consequences and dangers of living an out gay life.

I knew I couldn’t blame my cowardice on my upbringing. When I was fifteen and my mom opened the door to my bedroom to see me and my friend Jenny in bed naked, she asked if we wanted to go out for brunch. She accepted my girlfriend Pam into our home for years without question.

And I am no fan of my father, but he took me to Stonewall and told me what happened there before I was ten.

So my change in identity wasn’t about shame, it was about fear.

I felt guilty about living in the Bay Area as what appeared to be a straight person. I felt guilty about the privilege that accorded me. But it seemed like compared to the people around me, I was functionally straight. When you regularly attend sex parties where you draw a trans man fucking a trans woman while she gives oral sex to a nonbinary person, being a married cis-femme seems really conventional.

Bi Pride corset by Suzanne Forbes August 29 2018Plus, as a portrait painter who often asks women I’ve just met to come to my home and pose for me, I felt less creepy identifying as cis-straight-married!

Then I moved to Berlin.

Bi Pride corset by Suzanne Forbes August 29 2018 right panelLiving in Berlin has connected me to my youth and my New York identity in so many profound ways.

There was a jump-cut that happened when I left New York at 22, in 1989, to go to treatment.

I moved to St. Paul, where the halfway house was, for six years, and then to Hartford, then to DC, then to the Bay Area.

In all those places I drove a car everywhere, lived in wooden houses, people were polite in the stores… It was like a different world.

I had all these adventures in this different world, and then in 2015, I got on the subway and went home.

Or so it feels. To live in a big apartment building, take the subway everywhere, walk the city streets at 3 am, eat a slice of pizza in a doorway just out of the rain, be yelled at by a shopkeeper – this reconnects me to my fundamental self.

And of course, even though married and cis, my fundamental self is queer as fuck.

So over this year, over 200 hours, I made this corset, beading and sewing and hotfixing crystals. I will wear it with Pride at Folsom Europe next month, and I’ll get some pictures of me in it!

 

Mauve Moth embroidery art shadowbox.

Barbie Dream House Moth by Suzanne Forbes Aug 22 2018AKA the Barbie Dream House Gum Emperor Moth.

I looove pink. I decided to try something new, framing the piece under glass in a shadowbox. I got the shadowbox a while back and silver-leafed it at the same time as I was leafing the hoop for the last insect embroidery piece. Efficiency!

This God-Empress of West Berlin is sewn on a crushed panné velvet sock cut open. I get them on eBay for a euro, it’s so much cheaper than buying velvet yardage.

I used some vintage metallic pink trim for her layers of torso fur, and fine ombre silk embroidery thread and regular sewing thread for her ruff. I wanted to suggest its fluff without actually using a fluffy substance.Barbie Dream House Moth by Suzanne Forbes Aug 22 2018 detail

I did as much beading as the hoop allowed, then glazed the back with my favorite glue for fabrics so it wouldn’t buckle when I took it out of the hoop.

I glued the whole piece down onto the shadowbox backing. The velvet sock didn’t quite cover the backing – it had contracted from the heavy stitching, or I was sloppy when I checked the fit.

So I added some machine-embroidered floral applique bits I had around, already partly cut up. I’m actually delighted with the way the piece looks in the frame and may start framing them on the regular. The only other bug embroidery under glass so far is this one.

Sometimes I just have to lean into my femme-ness and go full pink!Barbie Dream House Moth by Suzanne Forbes Aug 22 2018 detail

Summer Bug Bricolage Update.

Bug bricolage by Suzanne Forbes July 2018Some new decorative art projects for this month. I finally made a bug box with labels!

Insect shadowbox in situ by Suzanne Forbes July 2018Rather than look for a vintage typewriter font I dabbed the inkjet printed paper in patches with water to smear some letters and rubbed it with a bit of pastel for quick aging. For the curious, I use tinfoil molded into squarish shapes around the pinbacks of the jewelled bug brooches.

This allows me to glue them onto the backing securely and keep them straight. Then I just paint the glue and foil a matching color.

I buy the brooches on eBay with the simple rule: no more than 2 euros including shipping. It means I bid on a lot of auctions, but it’s not like there’s a rush!bug bricolage WIP Suzanne Forbes artist 2018

These machine-embroidered bugs are from EmbroideryMoks, a wonderful, ingenious etsy/eBay seller in Ukraine.

The artisan who runs it, Julia Yevzhenko, is brilliant. She has come up with some really clever ways to use her embroidery machine. I tacked these bugs down to the felt with flexible glue, then put the felt in an embroidery hoop and used black, gold and metallic threads to add details and make the edges crisp. Of course I also had to add some beading!

I’m kind of like a drag queen in that my first question is always, “How would this look with MORE?”

insect shoeclips by Suzanne Forbes July 2018I made these beaded insect shoe clips with two bug brooches wired to triangles of soft aluminium sculpture mesh lined with felt.

I probably over-engineered the fucking hell out of them, since it’s not like I’m a burlesque performer and I don’t plan to go jogging in these shoes. But entropy makes me furious and I like construction to be robust.

Once again I demonstrate my commitment to the creative protocol of buying cheap stuff and making it weird.

November 2017 Bricolage Roundup with EmbroideryMoks

June 2017 Bug Bricolage Roundup

More interior decorating and bricolage posts:

Our homeHalloween decordecoupage and bug shadow boxespassementerie and staining furniturelamps and frames, more framesNo-Kill Butterfly Gallery, bas-relief rococo insect mirror, and Fearless Pink Gay Santa.

 

A therapeutic Bug Embroidery.

Embroidered beetle by Suzanne Forbes July 2018I was pretty limited in what I could do creatively after my drawing hand was injured in a bus accident this June.

Because I grip the pencil tightly and draw very fast and with a lot of force, I have been cautious about beginning to use my hand again. One thing I could start to do after the first two weeks was embroidery.

Embroidered beetle by Suzanne Forbes July 2018Embroidery puts very little pressure on my injured hand.

Embroidered beetle by Suzanne Forbes July 2018 detailI had some new thread I wanted to try, too. I got this set of multiple metallic threads at Tiger for like two euros!

I love cheap art supplies.These are not precisely metallic embroidery thread (which is a known shitshow) but more like a superthin metallic polymer strand lined with a nylon thread.

It is very fine and fairly subtle in effect, but it doesn’t snag on every draw-through like traditional metallic threads.

I ran it over the finished satin stitch to add iridescence. I always think of the new Bay Bridge when I do that!

© Frank Schulenburg / CC BY-SA 3.0

CC-licensed photo © Frank Schulenburg / CC BY-SA 3.0

As I often do on textured fabric like velvet, I ran a single embroidery stitch in doubled plain black sewing thread around it to help it look cleaner.

And of course I added some beading! My hand control was somewhat impaired for most of this piece, and I wasn’t able to stitch with normal precision. It was humbling, and yet satisfying to be able to do something, make something. I am happy with the result, and so grateful my hand wasn’t more seriously injured.

 

Some new embroidery works, in shades of moonlit blue.

Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes May 2018Embroidery takes an incredibly long time.

Textile art is SLOW ART. I love that about it, because I draw and paint so fast. However, I have been so busy the last few months I haven’t had the deep time it takes to finish new embroidered pieces.

So I did the mystic eye piece you see above just to keep my hand in, using a rhinestone applique and surrounding it with a variegated fine rayon thread aura and some swarovski crystal beading.

Lunar Moth Embroidery Art by Suzanne Forbes May 2018Then at the beginning of this month I dug in and made sixteen hours’ time for this Lunar Moth in sparkly blues.

Lunar Moth Embroidery Art by Suzanne Forbes May 2018 eye detailI cut up a digital galaxy print shirt for the backing and added a layer of my favorite galaxy print sparkle tulle. Tulle over stretch fabrics is such a great way to create a stable,precise surface.

I often, as I did here, embroider the outline of the design on the bottom fabric first. This creates a little extra depth between the base and the tulle.

I added crystal and pearl beading at the end, and some swarovski crystals and dark blue sequins.

Grey mohair for the fur was very last thing, as I am allergic to it and it makes me sneeze like crazy!

The eyes of this moth are antique mother-of-pearl buttons from the incredible vintage button lady’s booth at the Markt am Winterfeldplatz. I love embroidery so much, and hope to make some more time for it this summer.

Textile art, and embroidery in particular, is the most soothing kind of creative work for me.Embroidery works by Suzanne Forbes 2013 thru 2018

The Lunar Moth was the largest piece I’ve done in ages, I’ve only used a hoop this big once or twice before. Here you can see it hanging with some similarly colored pieces from before we left the States, made in 2014.

til next time, my dears!

February 2018 Bricolage Roundup, with creepy dolls!

Dollhouse shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2018It wouldn’t be February without creepy dolls, right?

Creepy doll shadowbox Suzanne Forbes Feb 2018Here’s a little dollhouse shadowbox I made. I customized a vintage Living Dead doll by giving her antlers and the shiny chrome arm projecting from her chest I’ve always wanted myself.

Come on, haven’t you ever wanted a slightly smaller, heat resistant velociraptor arm that pops out of your chest to grab the spilling pot when both your hands are already full?

The antique dolls are wearing little dresses I made them.

 

Cicada shadowbox by Suzanne ForbesI also made a couple of bug shadowboxes, cause you can never have enough of those!

And more bug earrings, with tiny cast glass cicadas I found. You can see the Valentines Monster Doll Armada, which I was consumed with making for much of last February, here. Some of them are still available to purchase. The February 2016 Scary Mermaid doll post is here. And the previous batch of bug bricolage is here.Insect earrings and shadowboxes by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2018

My first collage!

collage by Suzanne Forbes photo by Suzanne Wegh Feb 14 2018We had a Women’s Art Lounge for Galentine’s Day.

collage detail Suzanne Forbes Feb 14 2018On February 14, a small group of female-identifying people gathered at Ludwig Berlin to make art out of a pile of magazines, glue and scissors.

With the help and support of Suzanne Wegh, I tried paper collage for the first time. What a startling process!

It was not at all like I thought it would be! It was confusing, and mysterious! I thought it would be challenging, but it was in fact quite a bit harder than it looks.

First of all, it never occurred to me that you could move the pieces of the picture around before you glued them down.

Until Suzanne explained that’s what she does! I was as startled as I was the first time someone showed me windows being minimized and moved around on a computer, in 1996. With my bricolage shadowbox projects, I glue each thing down as I go.

This idea of fluid composition broke my brain!

Then, it didn’t go the way I planned. I had some ideas, and a color scheme, and the first collage  I did was actually the complete opposite of them.

I saw this greyed out pastel flower paper and wound up choosing a palette of images and materials related to it, and then making this rococo chicken being ridden by a chicken princess.

I wanted to make a Baba Yaga! What the heck??

So I decided to just go with the process, even though for someone as afraid of artistic failure as me that was pretty scary. I’m learning things I never expected to about composition, pattern and color from my bricolage and mixed media work. I can see how those things could be put to work in making collage art, but I’m a long way from being able to do it.

photo by Suzanne Wegh from Galentines Collage night Feb 14 2018

photo by Suzanne Wegh from Galentines Collage night Feb 14 2018

I was really amazed at how the other women could make their collages look like something so easily. I mean, make them look like resolved images. The one below, which Suzanne made, is just beautiful. You can read about her experience of our collage adventure on her Patreon here.

Collage by Suzanne Wegh Feb 14 2018

Collage by Suzanne Wegh Feb 14 2018

The Medusa with butterflies at the top was actually the third I made, and the only one I felt sort of resolved into an actual picture. And that expresses my style, with its beetles and jewel colors! Why is Megan Markle’s head on fire? I have no idea! It just happened!collages by Suzanne Forbes Feb 14 2018

I don’t know if I’ll try collaging again right away; it was pretty disorienting for me. But I’m so glad and proud we created a safe space for me to try it.

November bricolage roundup- shadowboxes, passementerie and mantelpieces!

mantis bricolage shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017More bug stuff, because it’s not like our house can have too much creepy bug decor.

I made this mantis shadowbox using some 1970s upholstery fabric I got in Berkeley in the late 90s, some vintage velvet flowers and little bees saved from the same era, and a machine-embroidered mantis from this amazing artist in Kiev, who is doing totally innovative textile art with the digital embroidery tech now available.

Egg shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017I’d always wanted an egg glossary display box.

No natural history, curiosity cabinet-themed library is complete without one! I used the 70s fabric again; a glue gun is my method of choice for stretching even wrinkled fabric smoothly across the particleboard backing of a shadowbox. Some of the little speckled eggs and the grapevine nest came from topiary ball displays I made for my first wedding, in 1993 or 4.
Glue gun party by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2017

I have nights where I crash around the flat asking, “What would Tony Duquette Do?”

And the answer is always, “Glue gun, Passementarie, MORE.” I added a couple trims to this silk velvet patchwork upholstered bench. After the intensity of the first three quarters of this year, with teaching and drawing and painting and my hub becoming a cyborg and being sick quite a bit, I really need this November make-cation.

jewelry holder by Suzanne ForbesI made a display holder for some of the earrings I’ve sculpted, made and modified.

I just took the glass out of a deep frame and gluegunned fabric to the backing. I used a beautiful textured knitting yarn left over from some lovely crochet blossoms my mom made me; the texture keeps the earrings from sliding around.

And most significantly of all, I got one of my first adult textile art pieces back up on display.

mantel scarf by suzanne forbes 2000I made this mantel scarf of crushed changeant velvet and celestial Czech glass buttons and bead embroidered wire and pleated ombre ribbon cockades in 1999.

I was living with my second husband in a gorgeous Craftsman fourplex in North Berkeley. It was the first place I ever painted like I truly wanted my home to be, in insane shades of aniline violet, quinacridone red, and chartreuse. It was full of built-ins I decoupaged with gilt paper Dresden trim, Victorian frogs and lizards, and accented in burnt orange.

We gave such parties there. It was such a beautiful home. I loved my second husband, or who I thought he was, so much. 

This piece was in storage for a long time, and it hurt me every time I came across it in my increasingly desperate and disenfranchised moves.

When the Great Recession finally ebbed a bit and I moved in with the man who became my third husband, I thought about getting an electric fireplace, where it could be displayed. There just wasn’t enough room in the exquisite jewelbox Craftsman apartment in Oakland that I designed to showcase his Black Irish beauty.

Here in our home in Berlin, we have plenty of room.
mantel scarf and fearless pink Gay Santa by Suzanne Forbes 2000 2016I used my glue gun to apply an emerald botanical brocade to the top of the particleboard shelf I had attached to the top of the electric fireplace I got on eBay.

Again, using a gluegun and moving fast, smoothing the glue flat with my fingers as I go, allowed me to get a nice flat surface bonded to the mantel. Then I just gluegunned the mantel scarf onto the brocade and added a few tacks to stabilize. I’ll add some finishing gimp braid and brass upholstery tacks soon as I get around to making it to Bauhaus.

Sorry I couldn’t get a better picture in our dark haus but we like it this way :))

mantel scarf and Fearless Pink Gay Santa in salon by Suzanne Forbes 2000 2016

More interior decorating and bricolage posts:

Our home, Halloween decor, decoupage and bug shadow boxes, passementerie and staining furniture, lamps and frames, more frames, No-Kill Butterfly Gallery, bas-relief rococo insect mirror, and Fearless Pink Gay Santa, as seen on the mantelpiece.

A Scottish Thistle Embroidery in honor of my mom’s visit to Berlin!

thistle embroidery by Suzanne Forbes closeup Oct 2017My mother was born in Scotland, and we are both wiry Scots thistles, determined and resilient.

Scottish thistle embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017As I was making this work, my first fully-scratch embroidery piece in a couple months, I was astonished at how much becoming interdisciplinary has improved my art.

Working in mixed media, textiles and sculpture has given me a confidence and freedom around using color in my paintings I never had before.

And working on all these different types of projects has allowed me a priceless feeling of flexibility and relaxation with my composition.

I was so rigid and so afraid when I first went to Parsons at seventeen. I used a six-zero Rapidograph to draw, and when I was supposed to do collage or sculpture projects I would stubbornly insist on making them figurative and realist.

Abstraction terrified me. It still does!

But  practising disciplines of the decorative arts has given me trust in my own ability to makes shapes and patterns.

My mom watched me working on this and said, “You just sew it on there without any kind of pattern or reference?” I said, “Yup!” Artistic freedom is delicious.Scottish thistle embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017

 

 

October Embroidery and Bricolage Roundup!

Embroidered insect in shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017Embroidered insect in shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017Some embroidery projects I made this month!

Embroidered insect in shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017This embroidered bug was finished a while back, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it.

Then i decided a shadow box was the way to go. I used lots of assorted bits of lace, beads and real plants plus a background of dragonfly satin and I love the way it came out.

Lightning heart by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017This lightning heart was started at the same time as this piece.

It’s a callback to a piece called “Fist Heart Mighty Dawn Dart” that was purchased as a gift for a beloved friend-muse-patron by their partner.

I bought a jean jacket and embellished it with a collage of sequined appliques.

There are three pieces that make up the back, fitted together similar to how I did this floral embroidery leather jacket. The front has a sequined star, bullion stars, metal star studs and bug appliques I enhanced with black thread. I’m pretty thrilled with how it came out!