Michelle Kingdom// Embroidery Artist // Burbank, California
Her work explores psychological landscapes, illuminating thoughts left unspoken. she create tiny worlds in thread to capture elusive yet persistent inner voices. Literary snippets, memories, personal mythologies, and art historical references inform the imagery; fused together, these influences explore relationships, domesticity and self-perception. Symbolism and allegory lay bare dynamics of aspiration and limitation, expectation and loss, belonging and alienation, truth and illusion.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Michelle Kingdom studied drawing and painting at UCLA, earning a Bachelor’s degree in fine art. She has been involved in various fields of art, design and education throughout her career. As a self-taught embroidery artist, Michelle quietly created figurative narratives in thread for years. She now exhibits her work nationally and internationally, and her embroideries have been featured in numerous publications such as The Huffington Post, Hi Fructose, Juxtapoz, Saatchi Gallery, and Colossal. When not busy stitching, Michelle is a preschool teacher and lives in Burbank, CA with her husband and daughter.
1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing ones’ own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artist’s lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?
The Internet plays a huge role in my work and life, which seems a bit ironic considering I use the terribly old fashioned, labor intensive medium of embroidery.
I first started stitching in the 1990's, before the prevalence of the Internet. Back then you had to physically see art in galleries, museums, or books, which made it much more reliant on art gatekeepers. The digital world has changed all of that and allows an intimate, personalized relationship to art, with unlimited accessibility to ideas and images. With a now broadened art world, we have the ability to customize our art exposure and consumption. It has essentially created a new pathway into a highly focused art experience, which may parallel the fine art world, completely diverge from it, or transform it into a hybrid.
As an artist, the Internet, and especially social media, has allowed me to find an audience that I believe would have been more difficult for me to find in the past. My embroideries are unusual, do not easily fit into an accepted genre, and are fairly small in scale. They might be marginalized or overlooked in a traditional context. But online, particularly on a format like Instagram, a post of a 6 inch embroidery carries the same weight as a full scale installation. The physical presence has been equalized, allowing for a newfound emphasis on personal resonance.
Professionally, showing and selling work has changed as well. There are now many points of entry and access in a highly complicated art world. Traditional gallery spaces are still important but social media is another valid way to promote art and should not be overlooked or dismissed.
2. Where do you find inspiration for your work? Do you work from life or from images and in what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?
Inspiration comes from everywhere. Each piece is a synthesis of several elements including memories, relationships, photographs, literature, personal mythology, art history and imagination. I am interested in exploring identity and relationships, and how our perceptions, particularly filtered though the lens of our psyche, shape our reality. The continual tension of opposing dynamics such as aspiration and limitation, expectation and loss, belonging and alienation, truth and illusion, fascinates me. Ultimately my own personal experiences drive the concepts.
My current process is really a collage of ideas and influences. I keep a sizable collection of reference materials including photographs, notes, sketches, quotes and memories. Many of these materials I store digitally, though not all, which has made accessibility nearly unlimited. By playing with multiple, sometimes juxtaposing images and ideas, beginnings of a story and vision emerge and are further developed into a mature piece.
3. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?
I have encountered both inspiration and infringement, though it really doesn't affect my work much. I genuinely am flattered when someone else finds inspiration in what I do and am always happy to answer questions when people have them. Because I only make one of a kind pieces, I don't have issues of pattern infringement or duplicates that might plague other artisans. A few people have tried to post my work as their own on social media sites which was very perplexing. When this happened, people that know my work have notified me (which I greatly appreciated), and the posts have been shut right down.
4. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?
The best advice I have is to keep going, keep experimenting, and keep persevering. Don't wait for inspiration because it usually strikes when a project is already underway. I also think it's important to stay true to your own vision. While I am all for keeping an open mind and listening to others, an artist needs to answer to herself first and foremost.
5. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?
There are so many amazing artists out there, too many to include everyone unfortunately. Some of my favorites stitchers are Darrel Morris, Sophia Narrett, Lisa Smirnova, Victor Espinoza, Ana Teresa Barboza, Anna Torma and Amelie William Levaux. I am greatly inspired by many other artists and mediums as well and anyone interested is welcome to visit my Pinterest boards.