Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book review: PUSH Stitchery

PUSH Stitchery can be purchased at

I just received this little book of stitchwork by 30 different artists who are “exploring the boundaries of stitched art”.  It first caught my eye because of the unusual cover … the arrow shape ends with a die-cut hole in the cover which reveals one of the stitcheries contained in the book.  It’s a tantalizing taste of what lies within.

Jamie Chalmers (“Mr. X” of the U.K.) has curated this book with an eye towards showcasing the cutting edge of stitchery and where it is going, blurring the line between craft and art.  As a stitcher himself (and author of the blog, Mr. X Stitch, Mr. Chalmers seems to have the ability to seek out some of the most innovative stitchers I’ve seen in a while.  (As an art quilter myself, I try to keep up with what’s new and exciting, but I had never heard of some of these artists before … and they are well-worth hearing about.

Each  artist is given a generous 5 or 6 pages to showcase his or her work.  Although most have chosen fabric as their medium of choice, there are some unexpected and exciting alternative mediums to see, too … such as Clyde Olliver’s work in stone, and Severija Incirauskait√©-Kriaunevicien√©’s work in found metals.

Cayce Zavagla uses crewel embroidery to create masterly images that rival oil-painted portraits.  The detailing is incredible, and I want to reach out and touch them.  Rosie James works in stitched drawings, and her sketches in thread are vibrant and exciting.

There are artists who work in collage, illustration, vintage linens, photography, reclaimed fabrics, paper, mixed media, old textbook images, and found objects.

Alicia Ross uses a combination of the computerization of sewing with pop art to create extremely unusual works that are impossible to describe.  She states that her work “examines contradicting female roles and the simultaneous attraction and repulsion to their objectification.”  This is not merely a lofty-sounding artist’s statement, it truly deserves further investigation.

Of course, not every artist’s work is to my taste, nor will it be to yours.  But I find that I learn something even from those whose work I dislike at first.  Upon second or third examination, I can see “where they are going”, and even tag along for a while.

William Schaff’s work in this book focuses on some bizarre religious imagery that may shock some.  Aya Kakeda’s embroidery appears to be childlike and innocent at first, but can turn out to be dark and violent upon closer inspection. 

There is some beautiful and sweet embroidery, some complex stitchery, some figural and some abstract artwork, and vibrant color alongside stark black-and-white imagery.  There is even an installation artist included, Louise Riley.

One artist that I am familiar with is Jimmy McBride (USA), who “works for an intergalactic shipping company”, and whose “views out my window provide amazing inspirations for the quilts that I make.”

There’s no room to name all the artists and all their works … needless to say, I can wholeheartedly recommend this little (about 7”x9” with 176 pages) book.  The photography is excellent, the artists’ interviews are concise and clearly written, and I’m glad to have added this one to my library.  (I received this book from the publisher ( for the purpose of an independent review.)  As always, I could wish for a larger size, but there is something to be said for a smaller book, too, as it’s easier to tote around in my bag and share with friends.