“Stitched Stories” by Tilleke Schwarz

Welcome to my exhibition, Stitched Stories, in the south of The Netherlands! I know it’s not really next door for most of you, but it is a great opportunity to see an overview of my work in a beautiful gallery. The show will be up until April 18, 2022 at High Five Art (Baarle-Nassau, The Netherlands).

My early work was inspired by the expressionist and pop art movements which I applied as a kind of traditional sampler. My teachers always appreciated my subtle use of colour and advised me to allow more freedom in my hand embroidery, similar to my work on paper. It took me a while to accept this advice. Following my teachers’ suggestions, I decided to include couching (drawing and writing with a needle) in my stitching. 

Tilleke Schwarz, Feathers, 2018. Embroidery on linen, 23.5 x 25.5 inches.

Over time, I have developed my own style using these starting points. I don’t plan my work out in advance. Rather, I usually gather and add images and texts as I go along. For inspiration I always collect items that surprise, amaze and move me. Everything can and does inspire me. My main sources are the newspaper, internet and even shopping notes. And I’m usually looking for everyday things such as cats, flowers, traditional sampler motifs and children’s drawings. I hardly need to use my imagination. Reality is usually more surprising than what I can think of. 

Tilleke Schwarz, Feathers (detail), 2018. Embroidery on linen, 23.5 x 25.5 inches.

People often ask why I choose such strange combinations in my compositions. The honest answer is “I do not know.” During the creating process I mostly focus on composition and color. 

My present style is often compared to graffiti. The content of my embroidery samplers often results in a subtle commentary on our modern society. It definitely has a narrative character, but does not consist of a single linear narrative. The viewer is invited to combine the images and texts, thus give them their own meaning. In this way, the work allows me to communicate with you, the viewer.

Tilleke Schwarz, Redirect, 2018. Embroidery on linen, 20.5 x 23.5 inches.

For decades I’ve used the same high quality linen (50 count) and selected from my collection of beautiful fine threads made of cotton, silk and synthetics in at least 3000 colours. Often, I like to add bits of fabric, lace and even textile labels. The linen I use only comes in white so I use Procion dye before stitching to add color.  

Tilleke Schwarz, Redirect (detail), 2018. Embroidery on linen, 20.5 x 23.5 inches.

—Tilleke Schwarz (1946) lives near Delft (Netherlands) with her husband and a lovely British Shorthair cat. The name Tilleke may not sound familiar to you as it is quite old-fashioned and means small Mathilde. At the age of 7 her mother taught her hand embroidery. Later she was trained in painting and drawing at two Art Academies in The Netherlands. Traditional samplers, cross stitched on linen, have served as an inspiration for her work from the very beginning.

tillekeschwarz.com | @tillekeschwarz

1 Comment

  • Vaughn Sills says

    April 11, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    I love this work!, learning about Tilleke Schwarz. The article she wrote in Poetry Magazine is fabulous. Thank you.

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