Karen Barbé is a Chilean designer, embroidery artist and author from Santiago living and working in Chicago. Over the past 15 years she has honed her specialty in color and hand embroidery, working for a diverse group of clients and teaching classes online and in-person. Her book, Colour Confident Stitching (Pimpernel Press, 2017), has been published in four languages and presents a hands-on and accessible method for creating color palettes for textile projects. Find out more about Karen and her paper embroidery over on the Selvedge Instagram account, as she takes over our social platforms throughout Tuesday.
Barbé’s exploration of paper embroidery began more than a decade ago. One morning while preparing breakfast, she realised she had accumulated lots of cereal boxes. Instead of taking all those boxes to the recycling center, she decided to use them as a new medium. Initially they became small looms and perforated cards for tablet weaving but soon they found their way into embroidered pieces.
By cutting out, perforating with an awl or drilling if the surface is too hard, she prepares the cardboard to make it 'embroiderable'. She uses the term “paper embroidery” freely and in its broadest sense; it includes all kinds of semi-rigid surfaces that require to be perforated before being stitched: thick paper, cardstock, cardboard, or composite materials.
Barbé’ says, “Paper embroidery has its own rhythm and visual language. It calls for a previous design stage for positioning and perforating the holes. While embroidering on paper restricts the density of perforations—because of the risk of tearing the paper apart— it rewards with the possibility of laying long threads on the surface without any slack.
The sensorial experience of stitching on paper is distinctive and satisfying: though the ability of sensing the needle when it is on the back is lost, thus forcing to turn the paper back and forth when stitching, the sound and feeling of the needle and thread going through the paper is calming and delightful. These qualities make embroidering on paper a paused and meditative practice.”
See more of Karen’s paper embroidery work on her website: https://www.karenbarbe.com/
Images credit: All photographs by Karen Barbé