Morbid Skeleton Embroidery Makes Death Look Pretty

Moonrise Whims thinks bones and organs are just as pretty as flowers, and sews them that way.

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May 2 2017, 3:10pm

All images courtesy the artist.

Embroidery has been around for thousands of years, so it's ripe for a badass update. New designs by Renee Rominger, a.k.a., Moonrise Whims, are a modern, feminine, and mildly nihilist take on this ancient art form.

Rominger's embroidery mixes soft florals and botanicals with black-outlined anatomical diagrams and aggressively political statements. The effect is stylish and feminine, with a bite. "I come from a crafty family," Rominger tells Creators. She's been interested in sewing since childhood, "but I never felt satisfied or fulfilled by it," she continues. "When I began to dabble in embroidery it felt like a real light bulb moment. [...] You can create whatever you want and really express yourself."

She takes inspiration from her own life: diagnosed at a young age with a heart condition, she has spent a lot of time in cardiologists' offices. "The heart itself is so complex and powerful and I find that really lovely. It's strange to me that people can be squeamish about the human body when what we all have in common in that we're bones and organs. It seems like such a natural inspiration."

Rominger doesn't use computers or machines, but does all her work organically and by hand. She starts with a rough idea, then sketches it into a workable design. Next she chooses the right hoop—usually a plain wood hoop, but sometimes a vintage piece or a hand-stained one. She sketches the pattern in pencil on her fabric and sets it in ink. And then the embroidery begins.

While the bones and lettering are usually pre-patterned, Rominger sometimes freehands her botanical embroidery. "I think a lot of people tend to overthink stitch choice," she says. "If all you know is a back stitch, you can create nearly anything; it's a wonderful clean stitch. [...] My floral work is where it gets complicated because I love a lot of lush texture and techniques, so most pieces use upwards of ten stitches and techniques, and just as many color threads."

Rominger runs a successful Etsy shop, and this isn't a side gig—it's her day job: "I think people are often surprised that I actually support myself through embroidery. I haven't had a 'regular' job since the day I opened up shop almost three years ago because I didn't want a safety net to make me lose focus." She attributes her success to "almost constant" work, doing what she loves, and doing it right.

It's paying off: in September, she'll release her first book of embroidery designs, Edgy Embroidery. It features 25 of her designs and step-by-step guides to reproducing them. "My secret dream goal was to eventually write an embroidery book even though I had no idea what that entailed or how to even get started," she says. In 2016, a publisher contacted her and the dream came true.

The book is designed to be empowering for beginners and experienced sewers alike: "I think embroidery tends to be intimidating. There's this strange sense of what is the 'right' and 'wrong' way to do things, but to me that's not what embroidery is about." She hopes to get people excited about trying new things with an ancient art form that requires just a needle and thread and imagination.

Edgy Embroidery is available for pre-order. You can also follow Moonrise Whims on Instagram for inspiration and eye candy.

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