Interview : Adipocere Embroidery

Throughout my childhood, I watched my Grandmother craft embroidered works of flowered gardens and English cottages for the walls of her home. The only slightly dark work I ever saw her undertake was a pattern of two wolves for me to hang on my bedroom wall. Even then, both wolves looked calm and contemplative, not in the slightest bit shadowy and mysterious. Her work was intricate and pretty, but rarely did it touch me deeply. So, when I encountered the work of Adipocere Embroidery, I felt a gorgeous sense of satisfaction, for I had come across as artist whose needle craft spoke directly to my peculiar soul.

tumblr_nfaezfqjJX1qhgz8ho1_500When did you first pick up a needle and thread, and who or what encouraged you to do so? Can you recall what your first completed piece of embroidery was? Did you enjoy the embroidery process from the word go, or was it something you gradually fell in love with?

My first embroidery was just shy of a year ago now, a cross-stitch to be exact. The embroidery I did soon after was what caused my current addiction to the needle. I don’t think I’ll ever do a cross-stitch again, but it was a great way to climb the steep learning curve, albeit a mundane process comparatively.

I’ve always liked craft, handmade and DIY culture, being a massive fan of practical effects. My close friends had started a weekly “crafternoon”, where we would try something different each week from needle felting to Super Sculpey, so I guess I chanced upon embroidery naturally after that.

tumblr_nfrc5l3vat1qhgz8ho1_500From what I understand – or more like, what Wikipedia told me – Adipocere is ‘corpse wax,’ composed of saturated fatty acids. What inspired you to use this term as the name for your endeavour?

Indeed! To be honest, I’d been using that alias long before I started embroidery. I’m a big fan of bizarre words and interesting definitions, almost as much as my interest in anonymity and personal separation. My natural inclination to the macabre would have helped, but not much thought went into choosing it back then.

Your work is probably the darkest embroidery I have ever encountered. What encourages you to stitch occult, death and human anatomy inspired images?

I essentially stitch what I’d like to see. My interests sway towards the morbid and macabre because that’s what I find most interesting and evocative. I spend a lot of time researching counter culture and decay of society, but not in a detrimental way. Looking at my own embroidery, I don’t see any real darkness. I often find it quite comical even. Something to work on, maybe!

tumblr_ni68hhpUY11qhgz8ho1_500What is the average time you spend on a single work? And what do you do with pieces when they are finished? Do you display them, or are they packed away to be distributed in the future?

I keep meaning to log how long they take, but never seem to actually do it. I just know they’re never completed in one sitting, and always take many hours. Probably many more hours than they need to. I’m still not the quickest with a needle. Currently they’re all sadly piled in a desk drawer. I’ll be selling all of the ones that I can. Some will be sadder to see go than others, but it’ll be good to see them in people’s homes, maybe in the baby room.

tumblr_ni2fu4NjS81qhgz8ho1_500I am eager to discover about the process of embroidering onto your skin. What inspired you to involve your body in your art? Does it hurt? Are you planning on doing it again?

I’d read of it being done quite famously by Eliza Bennett as a feminism statement, and always been curious to try it for myself. I used to joke that when I ran out of linen, I’d just use my skin.

There’s some mild irritation mainly via the isopropyl alcohol I use to keep the process sterile, and only in the stitches that are a little deeper in the epidermis layer than the others. It’s a lot of fun; an incomparably unique sensation, and I’ll definitely be doing it again.

What do you do when you are not embroidering? Does your career involve working with thread and fabric?

Unfortunately not. Although that would be ideal, and probably a good way to get discounted materials.
I have the least creative job ever, working for a large household plastic distribution company. I’ll also be studying Environmental Sciences this year. Maybe that’s why embroidery is such a cathartic process for me.

tumblr_ng5bhskeqD1qhgz8ho1_500How do you decide what you are going to sew next? Are your projects spontaneous, or do you have a list of things that you would like to see materialised?

Sometimes the ideas are spontaneous, never the actual embroidery.
I try to write ideas down as they come to me, or I forget them completely – fleeting in a similar fashion to dreams. They often change and manifest before actually being realised. I get a bit frustrated when I can’t directly translate a thought into a physical, visual embroidery.

Which artists inspire you on a daily basis?

So many! I like a ridiculous amount of artists spanning all mediums. Anything baroque, macabre, surreal, controversial, anti-censorship or visceral. Two of my unwavering favourites are Aleksandra Waliszewska and Zdzislaw Béksinski, both from Poland, both with an immense body of work. I still often see previously unseen pieces by Zdzislaw posthumously. I’m also a big fan of the moving image works of Jan Švankmajer, Jiří Barta and The Quay Brothers.

tumblr_nikuu0gmTP1qhgz8ho1_500From what I have seen, the reaction to your work has been immensely positive. How does it feel to have so many people rallying behind you and your work?

It’s a bit surreal, and something I don’t think I’ll be able to fully get used to. It’s really nice, but it also confuses me a little. I’ve been able to meet a lot of great people through doing something that I enjoy, which is definitely my favourite aspect.

What would you say is your ideal environment for embroidering?

The constant is solitude. I don’t have any real space specific related requirements. Usually, just a room with a light and an audio book or some music, which I tend to block out regardless.

tumblr_ni68hhpUY11qhgz8ho1_500You are currently in the stages of opening a store. When can we expect to be able to buy your works, and what are your hopes for the future of Adipocere?

Indeed! I’ve recently listed my first run of patches, and will be able and ready to start listing all the original hand embroidery I’ve done so far in about a week or two.

I don’t really have any embroidery related aspirations so to speak, but I’d like to think that I won’t tire of it any time soon, and definitely can’t foresee that happening. I’m in the habit of saying yes to anything that comes my way, so we’ll see where that takes me.

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