Talking skeletons, design thieves, and elegance with Britt Hutchinson of tinycup needleworks.
Community of Two by Britt Hutchinson. Photo courtesy the artist
With imagery full of laid-back skeletons and nooses, it's clear: these aren’t your grandma's embroidery hoops. Britt Hutchinson is the Chicago-based artist behind tinycup needleworks, and her embroidery designs are taking Instagram by storm. And though embroidery has been around since 30,000 BCE, modern creators are still coming up with beautiful, fresh, and exciting designs. The Creators Project spoke to Britt Hutchinson about her inspiration, going wild over small details, and the cowards stealing designs on Instagram.
Hutchinson first started seriously working with needlework in 2013. “Chicago had that intense polar vortex winter,” Hutchinson explains. “It was like -30 all of the time, I was in a long-distance relationship, nannying an infant, and life was completely shut in and miserable.” Looking for a creative challenge that involved minimal materials and maximum challenge, she settled on embroidery. And that challenge soon turned into a thriving business: “Embroidery was definitely a coping mechanism that the use of Instagram turned into a business endeavor. During that winter I just kept stitching and posting, and eventually come spring I received an offer from a local shop to purchase a full series of work. It all snowballed after that. So big ups to IG for bolstering all socially awkward, technological neophyte, creatives out there... I’d never survive a craft fair, and computers make me dizzy.”
For Hutchinson. the most challenging part of needlework is the time commitment. “I’m a pretty patient woman, but sometimes I stand up after a 10-hour day and see nothing but a partially built skeleton on canvas and want to cry, or drink, or both. Granted, it may be pristinely executed, but when you’re only one person staring down a full project load, it can be a little disheartening. I get off on the precise nature of it though. All of that challenge makes for one hell of a high when you finally complete something.”
Much of Hutchinson’s work involves skeletons and darker imagery. “I began using skeletons based purely on my visualizing the possibility of a spine in certain stitches I had been learning.” But Hutchinson stuck with that imagery, as she feels anyone, anywhere, can relate to a skeleton. “I am heavily inspired by human emotion and conflict (the concepts of war, violence, mental illness, pain, love, etc.). I think that by executing difficult subjects in a manner that is traditionally and stereotypically perceived as 'elegant,' it somehow makes a more difficult subject matter a little easier to confront and identify with.”
Hutchinson has a small disclaimer on her website that reads, “Please don’t bite my designs.” Is design stealing a major problem in the embroidery and craft world? Absolutely, says Hutchinson: “People don’t seem to give a shit because no one has to be brave when they steal someone’s work to profit off of it, they’ve got the internet to hide behind... It’s easy! I think that’s fucking disgusting. Putting your work out there is vulnerable, and therefore terrifying. How dare someone bastardize and belittle that person’s efforts for their own personal gain? Yet it happens… every day.” For Hutchinson, the old arguments of “nothing is unique/original” and “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” are moot, and she’s not afraid to shout it out and support the struggle of small biz makers.
Check out more of Britt Hutchinson’s work on tinycup needleworks' Instagram.
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