‘Boys go out to play sports and girls stay here to do embroidery’, said one of my teachers, when I was nine. Subconsciously, I took this stereotype of gender as a challenge, something that has driven me in my art as an adult. In contrast to my school experience, I was lucky to have an auntie who encouraged me to do needlepoint work. I use this traditional craft, often used to mark family occasions and decorate homes, to evoke queer family, especially for people who might have felt isolated growing up with society’s institutionalisation of what is ‘male’ and ‘female’.
My pieces range from small scale (3” x 3”) to larger tapestry work (20” x 20”) reminiscent of period samplers from a bygone era. I bring an old craft into a contemporary setting through subject matter, colour and the fact that a man is using a traditionally feminine medium.
I don’t use an embroidery ring to hold the cloth in place, as I believe it’s restrictive. I want to have the hands-on, close experience of the threads weaving into the material so I can feel my work slowly progress. Collectively, when stitched, these delicate cotton threads are strong, though malleable - I can pull the cloth taut, see the strength against physical resistance. My works are reflections on the unnatural – normalised behaviour, cruel language, repression – and the natural – bodies, sexuality and flowers.