Embroidered Sculptures Highlight Our Bodies’ Beautiful Flaws

Embroidery is associated with all that’s pretty, dainty, non-confrontational—the perfect hobby for Victorian ladies who have to while away the hours until the perfect suitor comes along. But artist Sally Hewett takes this demure art form and uses it to render images that are anything but modest. In her sculptural embroidered works, Hewett explores the imperfections of the human form—dimples, spider veins, zits, and all.

“It is not conventionally beautiful bodies that take my eye, it is bodies which show their history, that have been altered by their experiences, that are decorated with bruises, scars, spots, stretch-marks, veins— bodies that have the marks of life on them,” writes Hewett. “Particular and unique bodies. But also bodies which have been deliberately altered and decorated – by man rather than by life– tattoos, plastic surgery, fillers etc.”

By framing her works in embroidering hoops, Hewett emphasizes the contrast between the decorous domesticity we associate with the art form and the squeamish discomfort associated with up-close examination of bodily flaws. Hewett’s work often looks as supple as flesh, despite the fact that she’s embroidering on fabric. “Most of the materials are stretch jerseys of some sort—fine lycra, lycra mixes, something called angel skin which is very fine, semi transparent stretch fabric, she tells The Creators Project. “I think because the fabric is stretched over the padding it is like a sort of skin—although it covers, it also shows what’s underneath.”