Tag Archives: embroidery

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

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.

 

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

 

 

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.

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!

Big Gay Rainbow T-Rex Dinosaur Witch for Pride Month!

Queer dinowitch embroidery by Suzanne Forbes July 2017Pride month is July rather than June in Europe.

So I made this super gay rainbow dinosaur who is a powerful magic witch to celebrate!

Queer dinowitch embroidery by Suzanne Forbes July 2017

She is embroidered on glitter galaxy mesh, which is overlaid on rainbow glitter vinyl.

rainbowdinosaurShe is quite detailed, and I couldn’t see anything I drew on the galaxy mesh.

So I had this embroideryhack idea.

I put the paper with the sketch for her right in the embroidery hoop, under the mesh, and used a tiny short needle to stitch the outline on. The little needle skids across the surface of the paper and comes back up thru the net easily!

You can see the original sketch above. Once I had a nice outline with my beloved Rico metallic embroidery thread, which behaves so much better than other metallic embroidery thread, I removed the paper. Then I could embroider as usual.

I am loving stitch art on net or mesh for its control and precision, and it is so easy on the hand/wrist.

I talk more about that and the techniques I’m using here and here.

Queer dinowitch embroidery by Suzanne Forbes July 2017 teethLook at her terrifying teeth!

I don’t know if this kind of symbolist magic art has power in these dark times. I don’t know if I can do anything to help queer people of the world in the places where things are bad or getting worse. But I believe my intent, my love and hope for a better future, were stitched into this mighty gay dinosaur witch. I believe she is strong and fierce. And embroidery feels like a tactile, tender medium for this kind of art spell. I’m thinking about it a lot.

Here are a couple articles on how modern embroidery is operating in the art world that I like.

Huge bead embroidery project finished: my Green Woman bead embroidered corset.

Beaded Green Woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017Wow, this was a big project!

Green beadwork corset by Suzanne Forbes in our library May 2017Green beaded corset by Suzanne Forbes May 2017This bead embroidered, velvet leaf-covered corset is the second to last of the now-finished project “kits” I brought in the shipping container from the Bay Area.

(The Golden Jubilee insect carriage was the very last of the dozen or more projects! They’re all done!! I am amazing!! Sometimes both life and art are long!)

Bead embroidered green woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017I saw Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephen’s EcoSexual wedding clothes exhibited at Femina Potens gallery years ago.

I got the idea of a pagan-y, Green Woman kinda Ecosexual corset.

Sexecology postcard by Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens

Sexecology postcard by Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens

Then cosplay exploded in the media, over this past decade, and so many people did amazing Poison Ivy corsets.

I enjoyed them so much, and decided to take my own pass at a leafy, viney, flowery corset.

I made some sketches, and then I got consumed with my Winter Queen/Snow Queen/Mermaid corset embellishing projects. So I didn’t get around to the Green Woman project til 2014. I spent months ordering beads and velvet leaves and green metallic rhinestuds and green Swarovski crystals from all over the world.

I amassed a huge stockpile of green bling, and bought a discounted Orchard Corset 511 to use as my base.

Bead embroidered green woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017The green corset was one of the projects I didn’t get to before we left, so I packed all the green jewels and beads and appliques and trims up in a “project kit” and boxed it up.

.beaded corset WIP Suzanne Forbes 2016I unpacked it with the other 400+ boxes last winter. Once my workroom was set up, I started opening project kits and finishing projects. I moved through them at a pretty decent clip! I made the leaf crowns to go with the corset early on, last summer.

I took out the corset and got started on it last August. First I created a bunch of beaded and crystal-covered appliques with some pale green leaf-shaped Venise lace.

I tacked the lace down to netting in an embroidery hoop, then embroidered and bead embroidered it. Then I added velvet leaves (bead embroidered too).

This took about a million years.

Which never bothers me. I like to do textile art slowly, to balance how fast I draw and paint.

bead embroidery appliques Suzanne Forbes 2017 1Once I had finished a bunch of appliques and had test fitted them on the corset, I modified the corset itself.

beaded corset WIP Suzanne Forbes 2016The Orchard Corset 511 is a reasonably curvy OTR, with a 10″ “hipspring” or difference between waist and hip; I just added a 2″ gore on each hip to push the hipspring to 14″.*

Bead embroidered green woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017Otherwise the corset wouldn’t lace nice and parallel, and it would distort the embroidery and structure of the corset to have a big gap at the bottom.

Sloppily adding handsewn gores like I did is a good way to ruin the structural strength of your corset, but I knew I’d be adding thousands of stitches and layers over the gores. So I wasn’t worried.

When I’m done with one of these beaded corsets it’s basically a cuirasse, an armored breastplate!

Bead embroidered green woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017It took several months to carefully sew the appliques to the corset, adding bead embroidery as needed to fill in gaps.

I used strong green nylon beading thread I got to make beaded fringe for a lamp in Berkeley in 1999.

I also used beading thread to make strings of variegated beads to sew down onto the corset in curving lines. Because I’m insane, I always sewed back through the beads on the string as I sewed them down, in case the thread broke.

And I think maybe I might want to lend the finished corset to a burlesque dancer or performance artist someday so it should be able to stand up to some abuse.

Bead embroidered green woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017Bead embroidered green woman corset by Suzanne Forbes June 2017

swampthing-34 panel by Bissette and Totleben

Panel from Swamp Thing 34, “Rite of Spring”, by Bissette and Totleben

When I started planning it I thought it would be all greens, but since then I’ve learned A LOT about color, mostly through my textile artmaking.

So as I worked on it I decided to add oranges and pinks and burgundies and browns. There are even pyrite-colored rhinestuds all over it, though they’re subtle as hell.

The oranges and warm colors make me think of the love story of Alec and Abby in Swamp Thing, and the orange yams that they shared. It’s a story that’s very meaningful to me, and the best story I know about connecting with nature and The Green.

I’m not a huge nature person, but I love natural symbology and motifs. Working with these colors and shapes really nourished my William Morris heart!

I’m pretty thrilled with the finished corset.

I don’t know exactly what I’ll do with it yet. It feels like a work about nature, and pagan things, and fae things, appropriate to Midsummer. There’s a Midsummer costume party at House of Red Doors in July, and I might wear it to that. I might loan it out for photo shoots, if I found someone trustworthy who wanted to shoot it and they had a model who fit it. I might show it somewhere if there was a show it worked for. Who the hell knows, I just needed to make it, and I’m so glad it’s finally done, almost ten years after I started planning it!

I’ll get better pix of me wearing it soon, with the jewelry and crowns I made to go with it 🙂

*everything you could ever need to know about buying and wearing a corset is here on Lucy’s website. This amazing young woman has created a resource for the corset community that is beyond price. There is info about the relative measurements of OTR and RTW brands, a corset database to guide you in your purchase, and so much more. We love Lucy!

New embroidered and jewelled bug creation!

Embroidered jewelled bug by Suzanne Forbes June 2017Here’s a crazy little bug embroidery piece I made during 20 hours of waiting around the hospital while my hub got a cyborg upgrade.

Embroidered jewelled bug by Suzanne Forbes June 2017I embroidered this on a cut-open green netting bag that some holiday ornaments I bought at Anthropologie for 75% in 2001 came in.

Unbelievably, when I unpacked the holiday ornaments for our first Christmas tree here, these never-used items were there, still in their bags.

My material hoarding seemed insane for so long. But now I have better health, a perfect workspace and the support of my Patrons.

I’m whipping through all my old art supplies and long-awaited projects!

I am like a cross between Smaug and Divine.

Embroidered jewelled bug by Suzanne Forbes June 2017i got this rainbow glitter vinyl for a Pride project but it did not arrive in time. That is ok! I will still make a thing with it!

Embroidered moth in progress by Suzanne Forbes June 2017Embroidering on net, mesh or tulle is wonderful because it’s so easy and restful on the hand. Since I was working with the demon metallic embroidery thread, that was important!

Most metallic embroidery thread, including these two greens that were leftover from my Green Beaded Corset project “kit”, frays as it is drawn through fabric.

It frays and breaks and makes you crazy. Waxing it is supposed to help but I’ve always feared the wax would attract dust after or not be archival. However using it on netting is a breeze. In the picture you can see I’m cutting the completed bug free of the netting. I glued some extra layers of netting on the back after I finished embroidering to add structural strength.

The outline is done in my beloved Black Pearl Rico Metallic Stickgarn, which never makes a fuss and behaves impeccably on any fabric.

Embroidered bug wings by Suzanne Forbes June 2017 I have been incredibly inspired by the couture embroidery work of Lyudmila Plotnikova, a Russian textile artist.

You can see her work below. In addition to being technically skilled at a level I can only dream of (in my dreams of going to grad school for textile arts), it is much subtler and less lurid than my efforts! Her eye and hand are equally exquisite.

Jewelled embroidered insect brooch by Ludmila Plotnikova June 2017

Jewelled embroidered insect brooch by Lyudmila Plotnikova, June 2017

She does things with materials that constantly innovate and extend the form.

She has brilliant new ideas about embroidery in three dimensions, like Michele Carragher. You can buy her art here, and hopefully someday I will! Many of her signed, unique pieces are designed to be worn as jewels or brooches. I think of the great European design and craftwork traditions, like Art Nouveau jewelry, when I see her work.

Her love of bugs has resonance with the couture legacy of Schiaparelli’s bugs. Women who create or wear insects as art continue a tradition that runs from Queen Tiye to Louise Bourgeois to the recent Sarah Burton collections that made couture bug crazy in the teens.

Gallery of bead embroidery art in progress from the Instagram of Lyudmila Plotnikova

Gallery of bead embroidery art in progress from the Instagram of Lyudmila Plotnikova, 2017

Ms. Plotnikova is also incredibly generous with her process, sharing photos of works in progress. Being able to follow other artists on Instagram is so exhilarating, as much as I hate giving clicks to that pig Zuckerberg.

Here’s a couple good pieces about how women artists connect emotionally with creepy crawlies!

 

A tribute piece to two women artists I admire, Judy Chicago and Annie Sprinkle, and a charity raffle.

By Suzanne Forbes March 8 2017 tribute JudyChicagoxAnnieSprinkleBy Suzanne Forbes March 8 2017 tribute JudyChicagoxAnnieSprinkleAfter last week’s feminist art salon, I was thinking about Pussy Power and the history of making vagina icon art.

By Suzanne Forbes March 2017 tribute JudyChicagoxAnnieSprinkle WIP

I went home last Friday and started a pussy piece, and of course I was thinking of The Dinner Party. You can’t think about pussy art and embroidery without it.

It was sometime in the 80s that I first saw Judy Chicago‘s Dinner Party. It was as a black and white photo in the Village Voice, and I remember it so clearly. It was still shocking then; it’s still revolutionary now.

By Suzanne Forbes March 8 2017 tribute JudyChicagoxAnnieSprinkle CUI have a lot of green materials around for the Green Woman project I’m working on. I had a sudden flash of inspiration for an image that would honor Annie Sprinkle and her Ecosexual work.

I became acquainted with Annie while I lived in the Bay Area and was exhibiting and drawing at Madison Young’s queer art gallery, Femina Potens.

We talked about my painting a portrait of Annie, but could never organize the timing. I still hope to, as Annie will be in Germany this summer!

I am going to raffle off this piece to raise money for Planned Parenthood.

Anyone who sends me a copy of their March $20 or more donation to Planned Parenthood (with your name, but personal details obscured of course!) will be entered to win the piece. As embroidery works take me a minimum of twenty hours, and this one took about twenty-five, it’s a chance to win a piece I would have to charge a lot for!

Calendar of Annie’s many world-wide feminist and ecosexual art activities here.

Teaching resources for The Dinner Party.

The Dinner Party long-term installation at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.