Stewart Easton is a maker who thinks deeply about how he works. When sewing he connects the rhythms, movements and cadences of hand embroidering, yet he tries to think only of sewing, and nothing but sewing. He puts together music soundtracks to embroider to, to relax to.
Tekst: Jane Audas
Music and sound are both the backbone to Stewart’s practice (he has made work using conductive thread and sound) and his passion. He works, each morning, towards being in the moment with his thread, canvas, music and a mind emptied of the details of everyday life. And then he sort of lets the stitches happen.
When looking at his textiles you might not know any of this. But, for me there is always something richer about looking at work when I know something about how it was made, and by whom.
“Removing the narrative from his embroidery”
Stewart has recently been travelling in America. Whilst there he taught an embroidery course at The Holland Project in Reno, Nevada titled ‘Embroidery as an abstract.’ The participants in his workshop were asked to first draw an abstract image: ‘It is really difficult, they’re creating something that has no representation anywhere. Normally when you draw it has to look like something. But this frees up the pressure of being a good drawer.’
He has been wrangling with the ‘abstract’ in his own work, too, for a few years now, entwined as it is with his interest in removing the narrative from his embroidery. This pursuit is inspired by a Tibetan Buddhist teaching called Lojong, a training practice aimed at purifying the mind. Stewart would like people to be able to approach his work with no preconceived ideas of what it might be about. If the narrative - or story - is removed, people can add in their own. Resulting, hopefully, in a sort of mental collaboration between the viewer and the work.
Stewart has been interested in alternative practices for decades – Reiki, Buddhism and others – and he weaves them into his embroidery, his life and his making. Running the course in America proved his ideas could be taught and be well received. And it helped his own practice too, he says. Abstract ‘things’ are now falling into place in his head - and hands. The results can be seen in his recent work. And, when looking at one of his works, you can chose to create a story in it - or not.
To hear what inspires Stewart when he is deep in the moment, hoop in hand, channeling his inner embroiderer, check his playlist.
Artwork on the left: Stewart Easton, Aura.