Category Archives: Embroidery &Mixed Media Art

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!

 

Work in Progress: Bisexual Pride Corset!

Bisexual Pride corset project by Suzanne Forbes WIP 2017Happy Bisexual Visibility Day!

I’ve been working on this corset project all month; hand-applying hundreds of Swarovski crystals is the most time-consuming way of adding magic I know of. And I’m waiting for some sky-blue Venise lace to arrive from England, then I think it will be finished fairly quickly.

Meanwhile, look what happened when I set it down on my work table next to my asthma med diskus and the wrapper from a MIlka chocolate bar I had just finished eating.

I got the idea to do this corset at this point in time because a couple of pieces I wrote this summer led me to a new understanding about myself.

BiPride corset project by Suzanne Forbes WIP 2017

I realized, living in the Bay Area, I’d committed a lot of queer erasure on my own life.

Being in the sex-positive, kink and queer community, I was surrounded by people who were living an out and proud life. All around, people were living and loving all genders, and there I was dating all these men. I felt like as a person who hadn’t had sex with a girl in this century, I was a “retired” bisexual. I often referred to myself as “the straightest person I know.”

Even when I had sex with a girl – a girl half my age! in a coffin that was in a dumpster full of dirt! on a street in SoMA! being livestreamed onto a nearby building for a watching crowd! for a sex art project!- in 2010, I still felt like people would call me straight.

It did not occur to me that a straight person does not make a split-second decision to have public, filmed strap-on sex with a same-sex acquaintance.

Or that a straight person probably wouldn’t have had a harness and a purple dildo in the trunk of her car. (What? I worked for a website that reviewed sex toys!)

But this spring some news broke that reminded me who I am.

New Mutants Rahne and Dani slash by Suzanne Forbes 2017I was so exuberantly happy about the official news of Maisie Williams’ casting in the New Mutants!

I am so thrilled that the movie is based on the Demon Bear story arc!

I love the young cast!

I feel so good about the director Josh Boone’s relationship to the source material!

I even made Rahne and Dani fan art and when I posted it on Instagram the director followed me!!

Then I made this puppyplay fan art because fan art is a slippery slope!Mirage and Wolfsbane puppyplay by Suzanne Forbes May 16 2017

My joy helped me remember that I am a person who has loved women deeply and been lovers with women.

The fact that I have married three men doesn’t change that. As I did some more writing and sorting of archives this summer, I connected with my memories of so many young loves.

I was incredibly blessed and fortunate to live my teens with my mom. I lived in New York City, where I could – and did- kiss my girlfriends on the street.

I identified very clearly and strongly as bisexual from age thirteen, and because both my parents were queer-friendly, I never felt the slightest discomfort about it. I realise what a privilege that is, especially in the 80s. Or even now.

i want to honor the loves I’ve had, and doing a very detailed and meticulous project of fabulous, excessive beauty seems a good way.

The endless hours it takes to hand-sew lace appliques, to apply hundreds of crystals, is a kind of meditation and awareness. The finished corset will be perfect to wear to events like Pride, the Lesbian and Gay Festival, and Christoper St. Day.

For now, here’s a story about just how queer I am.

My second exhusband was from Australia. In Australia, as in England, dairy cream comes in different types than in the US. The first time my exhb saw American “heavy” cream, he was appalled. “What is this runny shit?!!” He couldn’t believe we didn’t have Double Cream. He raved about how rich and delicious and thick and silky it was.

So when we went to Australia the first time, he wanted to make sure I tried some proper cream. We sorted it on a day trip in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. We were nearly in the countryside, driving, and stopped at a roadside antique store/teahouse. It was as cute and dainty a little cafe as you could possibly imagine. We went inside and ordered an afternoon tea, with scones and little sandwiches and of course, double cream.

It was a weekday, mid-afternoon, and the little cafe was filled with elderly ladies. There were actual lace curtains. The waitress brought the tea service and set down an etagere of scones. She put a little ramekin of creamy, gleaming cream on the table. I picked it up and licked it.

“Oh my GOD!” I shouted. “It’s like eating pussy!”

 

Sacred Heart with titanium druzy.

I have had almost no time for embroidery this month.

I drew at so many events, we had an art show where I did live painting, I made the Trans Dino-Witch, I finished a big new portrait. It’s been glorious and exhilarating. Yet I really wanted to get some thread and bead time in, for the energy and comfort it gives me.

And I wanted to work with Sacred Hearts, the symbol of hope and faith.

I learn so much from beloved artist Monique Motil, aka @z0mbique, about how working with mystic powerful symbols gives you creative juice. So I used bricolage and upcycle principles to make these collage embroidered Sacred Hearts or Ex Votos.

Sacred Heart collage embroideries WIP by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017The hearts in the center are beaded patches I bought on eBay for a couple of euros.

I sewed them to some of the last scraps of an iridescent blue-violet panne violet I bought two yards of in 1999 and have used for innumerable projects. I made the orange and blue flames out of the last pieces of some vintage velvet flowers bought at Lacis in Berkeley, also in ’99.

Then I embroidered around them with my favorite Rico Metallic thread, the Holy Grail of metallic embroidery thread.

sacred heart collage embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Aug 30 2017I sewed on iridescent and AB Swarovski bicone crystal beads and added hundreds of Swarovski crystals in many, many colors. I attached some of my new blue oil slick iridescence titanium druzy crystal beads with invisible thread. I painted the frame by rubbing it with deep madder paint, then gold paint, then tapping silver leaf onto the still tacky gold paint.

The shiny red string was saved from a gift I received – I save all my gift ribbons and bows for projects.

Like the embroidery collage jacket I did last month, this kind of collage/bricolage embroidery is a low-impact, flexible project anyone could do. I love how in the top picture the fiery heart coordinates with my sketchbook-carrying sack, a 50th-birthday gift from Daria! I plan to sew a LOT in September, along with the million new events and teaching, so I’ll finish the blue flame lightning heart soon.

Trans Dino-Witch, a vision of protection and safety for transmen and transwomen.

Trans Dino Witch sculpture by Suzanne Forbes Aug 26 2017My Trans Dino-Witch is finished at last! I’ve been working on her all month.

Trans Dino Witch sculpture by Suzanne Forbes Aug 26 2017 neo nazis running awayShe was a huge project for such a small work!

I am thrilled to have finished her and she gives me strength. I hope other folks will find strength in her too.

Look at those pathetic, evil Neo-Nazis running away from her mighty teeth!

Look at her group of friends who are riding along on her back to support her and enjoy the mayhem!

I made their tiny colored hair out of nail flocking powder, way cheaper than fancy “craft” flocking powder. You can get a set of 10 colors on eBay for a euro.

Trans Dino Witch sculpture by Suzanne Forbes Aug 26 2017 friendsShe is a companion work to my Pride piece, Queer Dino-Witch, which I made last month.

Trans Dino Witch sculpture by Suzanne Forbes Aug 26 2017It was harder to make her, because I had some harder feelings. I realized while making her that I often connect deeply with trans women partly for a very sad reason.

Most of the trans women I know have C-PTSD from repeated, systemic sexual violence, as I do.

Although my Trans Dino Witch is a work about Neo-Nazis, the despicable Alt-Right, I can’t make art about trans folk without thinking about the other kinds of attacks they suffer.

During the making of this piece the Orange Shitclown lashed out violently at transfolk.

He announced (on twitter, of course) that he intended to ban trans people from serving in the US military. Just yesterday he signed a formal memo. Since trans people have been serving with honor in the US military since at least 1862, lots of luck running the armed forces without them.

Also during the making of this piece, Chelsea Manning built a rainbow army of loving, celebrating followers who just won’t stop being brave and kind.

trans girl dinowitch in process by Suzanne ForbesSuck that, neo-fascist real estate golem!

I tweeted Chelsea a photo of our cat being cute on one of the particularly horrible days for trans people in August and she thanked me personally! So nice!!

She has made #WeGotThis a banner for the power of trans people and their unbelievable determination to survive and thrive.

 

I named the Trans Dino-Witch Catherine, after the late, legendary artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones.

My generation of comic artists was so inspired by Jeffrey Catherine Jones and her commercial and comics artwork that always transcended the commercial.  I hope she would like this tribute.

Catherine is a work built on a legacy of artists who inspire me. First, the incredible sculptor and assemblage artist Elizabeth McGrath. In 2005 I saw her show Altarwise By Owl Light at Billy Shire Fine Arts in Culver City.

She is the artist who opened my eyes to the power of modern assemblage and pop-surrealist artists. Her works are creepy, adorable, mythological and emotionally meaningful.

And some of them have little railroad miniature people in them! And they’re full of fake fur and Swarovski crystals and weird shit she found somewhere! And they’re like being hit in the heart with a bus.

So finally using tiny railroad people in a piece is my tribute to Liz McGrath.

I was also very influenced by the constant miniature close-ups on the Instagram feed of Jake and Dinos Chapman. The group of works by these YBAs called “Hell” is an intensely political anti-Nazi work that took them two years to complete and used 60,000 toy soldiers.

I decided to do dinosaur witches for Pride because of Mab GravesDinoKitty show at Red Truck Gallery in New Orleans this year.

I thought, Dino-Kitties! That’s a fine idea. I wonder why you never hear about Dino-Witches

Mab Graves has been hugely inspiring to me as an artist who never apologizes for making paintings, illustrations, sculptures (in a craft-identified medium iike needle felt!), commercially produced prints and diffusion line mass produced t-shirts all at once.

I love that she gets to make unique fine art objects and show them at the national level and sell melamine plates in her Etsy store.

She controls it all and completely owns her brand, despite enduring years of suffering from endometriosis, which she has been courageously transparent with her fan base about. Inspiring as fuck! I can’t work as hard as she does, but I am working as hard as I can.

Most of all, Catherine the Trans Dino-Witch was inspired by the Degenderettes LGBTQiA flag baseball bats made by Scout Tran.

Seeing those clear, bright flag stripes pass by in my Instagram feed day after day – seems like queer people are playing a lot of baseball lately, or something – is surprisingly comforting.

I give back 10% of my Patreon income to young queer and trans cartoonists and comic artists. Scout is one of them. So is Sam Orchard. Because fuck, the only people who have a harder and shittier time making a living as artists (especially comic artists) than women are trans people.

Trans Dino Witch sculpture by Suzanne Forbes Aug 26 2017My Patrons made it possible for me to spend fifty hours sculpting, painting and dressing Catherine. I hope she gives back some strength and inspiration.

July bricolage – glitch collage embroidered moto jacket!

Collage embroidered floral motorcycle jacket created by Suzanne ForbesI didn’t do much bricolage or embroidery this month, as I was super busy with life drawing and a new painting.

Collage embroidered floral motorcycle jacket created by Suzanne ForbesI did however drop a bunch of hours into this one project. I had been seeing these embroidered motorcycle jackets at mainstream stores, inspired by last Fall’s fashion shows.

I found one for under forty euros (in case the whole idea went badly) and ordered a bunch of commercial appliques from eBay.

Then I researched the process of sewing on appliques, learned about invisible thread, and ordered some of that from Amazon.

All of this took months of course, so it was summer by the time I finally started sewing. And the sewing on of the appliques itself took a solid thirty hours.

I just laid out the jacket, which had some embroidery on the sleeves and a little bit on the front, and started collaging appliques onto it.

Collage embroidered floral motorcycle jacket created by Suzanne ForbesI cut them up, moved them around, and tacked them down with pins.

Then I sewed them on, very carefully and slowly. It was relaxing actually. Except, to my surprise not all the collage designs worked once sewn on. Sometimes the applique was too thick and deformed or distorted the thin PU fabric, and in some places it just didn’t look cool.

Collage embroidered floral motorcycle jacket created by Suzanne ForbesSo sometimes I had to use my handy stitch picker and cut off a section I had laboriously attached.

Because it didn’t look right! On the bottom right of the back I had to try three different applique pieces to end the pattern in a way I was satisfied with. I love how it came out, though, and that mine is completely unique.

This is a project anybody could do. The only specialty skills I brought to it were a tiny bit of embroidering here and there to unify pieces and my personal aesthetic. I used colored Sharpies to tone down brights and unify colors in the applique pieces as needed. Objects we own aren’t permanent, and we get to fuck with them like we want to!