Sammy Dudley of Pink Pal // Embroidery Artist // London, England
Sammy Dudley is an embroidery artist based in Camberwell, London. After recently graduating from Kingston School of Art, she has continued her practice from her bedroom studio, surrounded by plants and thread. Her current series of pink themed embroideries draws inspiration from selfie culture, and explores the male gaze within art history by re-appropriating famous paintings and sculptures. She has recently shown a number of these pieces at an exhibition organised by Hewing Wittare, whilst also running embroidery workshops.
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 one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?
I created an Instagram during my undergraduate as it seemed the most important platform for the artists I was researching. Creating an instagram account really changed the way I perceived myself as an artist as it made me take my practice a lot more seriously. Social media on the whole gets a really bad rep for how it leads to false performances of self, but for me it allowed for a space whereby I could present a new version of myself; at that time I was using it more as a visual diary (now I use it more as a platform to share my work). I’ve always been a shygirl and often felt intimidated and anxious in gallery and studio spaces, so the internet always felt like a refuse where I could present myself in a stronger way.
My feed has become the place where I consume most of the visual art that influences me. It provided me a space to find an audience but, more importantly for me, it provided me with a feed of like-minded contemporary artists. I have found so many interesting embroidery artists and am always finding more ~ recently a game went round on instastories wherein you could dm a heart to a story and then that blog would post their favourite picture from your page. It’s probably the most people I’ve ever met in one night! There’s definitely a distinct and new visual language being built by these artists that is distinctly feminist and body positive. The internet is such an important public space and we need to be active in creating visual languages of representation that reflect our real life experiences. I want my art to be taken seriously as part of this visual culture, and I hope the activism and critiques of contemporary culture that I find in other embroidery artists can be reflected in my own work.
2. Where do you find inspiration for your work? In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?
I was initially inspired to create work that focuses on selfies because of the general negativity that selfie culture gets. Even in counter-culture, the overall opinion of selfies are that they’re vapid and of little worth. Instead, what I found online was people using selfies in a positive, liberating way: using it as a way to take control of their own subjectivity and representation, and as an interesting type of contemporary self portrait. I developed this feeling into my recent work, which explore the male gaze within art history by re-appropriating famous
paintings and sculptures ~ inserting smartphones into the hands of the women. Even through this small subversion, I feel much more comfortable with these famous pieces and feel that the women depicted gain some of their agency back through their self representation.
My process is pretty all over the place, but I’m becoming more confident in my aesthetic urges. I’m a pretty stubborn person and sometimes my inspirations come from rejecting ideas that I don’t agree with. Recently I had a mini-epiphany about my use of red/pink. All colours carry connotations of what they stand for and represent. I’d always thought of red as a powerful colour ~ one that represents blood, war, and power ~while pink was always a pretty colour that represented vanity, beauty, and passiveness (‘girliness’). I had thought that red and pink clashed, that they are garish when combined, but I’ve been attracted to this colour combo recent, and I think I now know why ~ Pink + Red = Powerful Women. ❣️ ️
3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?
I think I was extremely lucky when I made the first ‘three graces <3 selfies’ piece. Once I started taking classical paintings and transforming them into pink selfie-taking nudes, I couldn’t stop. I felt very content using embroidery, especially because of its ‘heritage in women’s hands’. I’ve always wanted to have an aspect of feminism in my work and by embroidering I feel that my process itself taps into a shared women’s cultural production. I’ve also always wanted a little bit of confrontation in my production as well: when I first started using cross-stitch I would write slogans like ‘fuck patriarchy’ under the pieces. I’ve tried to develop this so it fits more organically and felt excited when I started appropriating pieces from art history ~ to me it felt like my very own fun little transgression. There’s a lot of me in every work ~ and not just in the time it takes to make each one! When finished, the girls reflect a lonesome, self-involved contentedness that reflects how I’ve been feeling of late, and I love sharing my space with them.
4. 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 think a lot of interesting work lies somewhere between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement’ ~ my work does for sure. Images can easily be stolen and re-contextualised but, for me, it needs to be done in a positive way that doesn’t harm artists (especially independent ones) ~ I work really hard not to be Richard Prince.
If you share images online you lose some of its ownership. I’ve been submitting to curated blogs for a while and feel that it’s a really good way to promote my work. Once a blog reposted my work without contacting me first ~ I hadn’t submitted to them and didn’t really agree with the content of their page (though they did credit me). It put me in a kinda odd situation whereby I was really happy that new people were finding my work, but wasn’t quite as happy about the route they were finding it. It definitely showed me how easily my work can be manipulated for other people’s self-promotion.
5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?
I’d say that the best piece of advice I can give is to put all of yourself into your art ~ people saw my passion and dedication and have responded so positively. Experiment with everything ~ not just medium and content but the place where you present your work and yourself, and find the one that makes you feel most comfortable. For me instagram has been a fantastic tool to promote and share my work. The internet is the biggest tool we have to communicate with others so don’t be scared to contact people directly ~ every artist appreciates support!
6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?
I have so many!
Becky Hancock is my embroidery bestie ~ we run embroidery workshops together as Pink Hancock and both her and Ella Thomas provide my online emotional support. I collab with the wonderful gals, Poppy and jaz ~ the beauties behind @alivewithpleasureshop.
I love love love Hannah Hill’s badass contemporary feminist embroideries; Amandine Bouet’s beadwork gives me life daily; Emma Allegretti and Laura Callaghan are two of my fave illustrators; and shouts to the body-pos and sex-pos of Maja Malou Lyse and Zoe Ligon
Finally, my love for Solange and her perfect style knows no bounds.