From cheeky pillows to tapestry-style sculptures, these artisans are changing the technique for good.

By Caroline Biggs
June 18, 2020
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Needlepoint is having a moment and it's not difficult to see why. Simultaneously nostalgic and cool, modern needlepoint artists are using the age-old sewing technique to create fun, youthful artworks that work beautifully in contemporary spaces. "Needlepoint is a national pastime in the US, most people can remember relatives growing up, stitching cushions or pictures for framing," explains Lucy Barter of the San Francisco School of Needlework and Design. "Today we are seeing techniques being reinvented, or used in a unique or creative way, while social media and online teaching have helped to elevate traditional techniques."

It should come as no surprise then that the age-old practice of needlepoint, which Barter says dates back to 13th Century Saxony and Italy, is still making waves in the art world in present times. "Needlepoint is an heirloom that you stitch yourself and is completely customizable from the thread color to how you finish the canvas," says Jessica Chaney of Lycette Designs. "It is a meditative art that forces stitchers to focus on what is in front of them and move away from our phone screens."

Looking for some contemporary stitching inspiration? Read on to learn six modern needlepoint artists that are changing the way we see the craft.

Jessica Chaney of Lycette Designs 

An avid needlepointer since the age of 12, Jessica Chaney has brought the craft to the millennial masses thanks to her tongue-in-cheek creations for Lycette Designs. In addition to graphic handbags and cheeky pillows, Chaney's needlepoint canvases are equal parts fun and irreverent. At its most basic, needlepoint is paint by numbers with thread," she says. "At its most complex, needlepoint is countless fibers and stitches that are used to convey texture, gradient change, and movement."

Ulla-Stina Wikander

If you're a fan of interesting art objects, then this one is for you. Swedish artist Ulla-Stina Wikander covers everyday objects that she finds at flea markets—think headphones, sewing machines, electric mixers and hairdryers—in a type of needlepoint known as tapestry work. "I find it interesting to see how these objects transform in a new context," she says. "I give them a second life."

Ema Shin

After studying traditional and contemporary Japanese printmaking in Tokyo and completing a Master of Fine Art Degree in Nagoya, Japanese Australian artist Ema Shin turned her attention to embroidery and tapestry weaving. Her dainty but impactful needlepoint canvases feature everything from delicate florals to pelvic bones, and have been displayed in prominent art exhibits around the world.

Krystle Collins

As a young girl in Louisiana, Krystle Collins honed her artistic skills by drawing pictures of the back of people's heads as they sat in church. In 2017, the Brooklyn-based artist launched Create The Culture, an online embroidery shop packed with clever, hand-stitched apparel and accessories, including hand-embroidered bodysuits ($70, etsy.com), Solange-inspired pillows ($80, etsy.com), and Lauryn Hill needlepoint kits ($20, etsy.com) so you can DIY your own pop culture-savvy décor.

Aurèlia Jaubert

If you thought needlepoint was too homespun to be elevated to a high art form, then it's time to think again. Based in France, Aurélia Jaubert's intricate needlepoint pieces are every bit as detailed and decadent as old masterly paintings; depicting pop cultural icons such as Mickey Mouse and Snow White in tapestry-style displays. Her works have won numerous awards and made their way into galleries and museums across the globe.

Eva Howard

Artist Eva Howard picked up needlepoint just a few years as a way to combat her anxiety when flying. Also a painter, she decided to try her hand at needlepoint canvas-painting and the rest is history. Head to her site to shop her delightful assortment of needlepoint canvases, including leopard and geometric print sunglass covers, or purchase one of her preassembled kits to make your own.

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