When you think of embroidery, perhaps you think about your grandmother’s dollies or sentimental quotes. What you are probably not thinking about are Daisy Tits. Or, Skate or Pie. Girls Bite Back. Leaf it. You Suck.
But this is exactly what Cole Maier has been doing to this traditional art practice. The twenty-five year old embroiders stuff onto your clothes, embroidery hoop and size five needle in hand, in ways that your grandma would perhaps never do for you. Middle fingers up indeed.
As with many artists, it has not been a straight path for Cole. Raised in Victoria, Cole originally moved to Vancouver to attend SFU on an academic scholarship to study in the field of Sports Psychology. And it was not just finding their art practice, but also figuring it out.
“I have no formal art training. I am the type of person who figures things out on their own. I went to a market and met a maker who was doing embroidery. I saw it, was inspired and felt that I could do it, too. So, I went to Michael’s and bought all the stuff. I did it first on my own clothes. And then family and friends loved it, so I did it for them. Then I thought, I can make this into something. That’s when I started colembroidery. I grew into what was around me. I made things. I put it out there. I saw what people weren’t doing and grew off of that.”
Initially, Cole’s goals were to personalize clothes through their own creative flexibility and via this traditional, unusual medium.
“The addiction to fast fashion has become real, and I’m hoping to provide an outlet to avoid it. Each piece is unique, where every design is hand drawn on, then stitched in with a single needle. There’s a good chance you’ll have a one off piece to yourself, and I think that’s pretty rad.”
Since venturing down this creative path, Cole has really let the process drive them and it has given them opportunities to work with Black Medicine Tattoo Shop, host a group art show (Too Many Dinner Parties), put on a workshop with Bumble and most recently, by word of mouth, has placed them in conversation with Nordstrom about providing hand-embroidery services as a form of customer appreciation.
“I tailor my workshops to what people want. Bumble had preset designs they wanted and during the workshop I taught and coached the participants the stitches on the spot. Embroidery takes away your time and melts away the outside world. ”
While acknowledging their success, Cole also points out that it has never been a solo journey.
“Everything that I have ever done has been because of the people around me. I did a lot of work with The Eastside Flea that helped me grow. Kitty Walker is also having an exhibition upstairs at the Slice Gallery at the same time as mine, so in a way we’re doing this together. We push each other forward and she’s an incredible woman to have in my life. Ben and Sheena have been amazing and connected me to people and the creative community here. My show is a solo show but it is influenced by the people who support and surround me.”
Thanks to the strength of their community, Cole has started to explore other mediums on which they can embroider: most interestingly, paintings and film photographs.
“When I start a project, I try to think through all the pieces beforehand. I try to plan it out, it’s like a puzzle for me. With this show, I’ve tried to step away from my usual style. I wanted my paintings and mediums to be something new, a place to grow my art practice. I am focusing on colour scheme and shapes. I am taking inspiration from places I go, from weavings, rugs and other artists. The textures really inspire me but there are stakes here for me, too. You can’t really go back once you’ve made a hole in a painting, you know?”
Cole’s upcoming solo exhibition at the Slice of Life Gallery and Studios, is titled “Shape Up” and is happening on February 6, 2020. For more information, head over to the gallery website: https://sliceoflifevancouver.com/gallery