During her final year at university, Kirsty Whitlock challenged the preconception of embroidery as a “limited conservative craft.” In other words, she became preoccupied of how embroidery could transform a material or surface and says, “I became interested and curious in sewing on materials and exploring subject matters that were not normally associated with embroidery.”
Embroidery is the primary signature of her work along with reusing materials that allow her to stitch on them. The philosophy behind her artwork all lies within recycled and reclaimed materials—a response to our throw away consumer culture. “We are a part of a disposable society that has spread fast through our daily lives. It now seems cheaper to discard items and replace them with new ones. I exploit the overlooked qualities of discarded household items and aim to critique corporate culture and question society understandings of value.”
Comparing herself to a magpie for collecting items that have been disposed and believer of “one person’s waste is another’s treasure,” Whitlock’s work reflects both history and nostalgia. She stitches found refuse into her artwork and then embellishes it with embroidery, wherein she creates a connection between the present and the past.
In designing her pieces, Whitlock’s ideas are generated from “… everyday life from walking down the high street, to reading the newspaper or junk mail that has come through the letter box, we are surrounded every day by imagery and text from printed materials. My initial ideas often begin from a headline or a word. My work is concept led responding to the surface qualities of the printed material as well as the subject matter. The creative process is hands on I am highly engaged with the materials I work with, exploration of both materials and subject matters leads to the finished piece.”
To promote embroidery to a wider audience, Whitlock’s pieces purposely draws attention and comments on current events. “My work often mocks issues with playful humor, and humor is a great way to heighten the impact of serious issues. This playfulness also takes on a serious stance in her installation piece, Tomorrow the World, wherein she tackles the growth of mega-giant supermarket conglomerates and questions whether they’re taking over the world.
Awarded an Embroiders Guild scholarship, Whitlock is currently working on a project, A Stitch in Time (2011). With the means of the scholarship, Whitlock is investigating the relationship between textiles and graphic elements such typography and ephemera. Her goal is to explore the partnership and integration of both processes. “I intend to explore how textiles can be concerned with and comment on contemporary issues and affairs focusing on last year’s London Riots,” she notes.
Kirsty Whitlock’s work is currently on exhibition at Magnificent Stitches, The Embroiderers' Guild Celebrates Embroidery and will on display until June 16th at Guildford House Gallery, Guildford . Magnificent Stitches is a celebration of embroidery, the Embroiderers, Guild, and of course its members. The local Guildford Branch will be featured with a display marking its pearl anniversary - 30 years as an Embroiderers' Guild branch.