On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast, we’re talking about embroidery as illustration with my guest, Sarah K. Benning.
Sarah K. Benning is an American fiber artist with a nomadic studio practice. Originally from Baltimore, she attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received her BFA in Fiber and Material Studies in 2013. Shortly after graduating, Sarah discovered her love for embroidery, started her own business and has never looked back.
Embroidered interior by Sarah K. Benning
Sarah often abandons traditional stitches and techniques in favor of bold shapes, playful patterns, and contemporary subject matter. She approaches each piece as an illustration, creating a drawing in pencil directly onto the fabric before filling the image in with thread. In this way, the thread becomes more like ink or paint than traditional needlework and the stitches accentuate each shape that builds the composition.
Right now Sarah is finishing up a year living in Menorca, Spain.
Self-Portrait in an Imaginary Room by Sarah K. Benning
We talk about embroidery’s stodgy reputation and how artists today are working to infuse this old needleart with new life and a modern aesthetic. Sarah’s subjects include house plants, crystals, seascapes, and interiors, all very densely stitched.
We also discuss Sarah’s transition from working day jobs as a nanny and in the floral department at a Whole Foods to becoming a full-time working artist. She explains step by step what it took to make the leap and I think her story is one that many creative people will relate to and find inspiring.
Girl With Tropical Plants by Sarah K. Benning
Although many marketing experts insist you must have a blog, Sarah is an example of an artist and business owner who has found tremendous success without out one. Sarah recently began selling embroidery patterns in addition to finished work and we talk about the fear involved in taking that step and the positive impact it’s had on the financial health of her business. We also discuss the ability to market both a finished product and a pattern to the same audience something that, again, many marketing experts would argue couldn’t be done. Sarah has 234,000 followers on Instagram uses that platform as her primary marketing tool.
Mineral Crystal 3 by Sarah K. Benning
And, of course, I ask Sarah to recommend great stuff she’s loving right now. Sarah recommends:
Today’s episode is sponsored by The Merriweather Council where makers learn that gainful self-employment through craft can be a reality and how to make it happen in their own lives. Visit merriweathercouncil.com for more information.
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