There’s a fine line between art and craft. But maybe there shouldn’t be. Not always considered “high brow,” I used to think craft was an un-clever hobby for women who wanted to make sparkly wreaths with glue-guns. I was naive, and I was stereotyping.
However, my ideas were challenged after hearing a brilliant friend and artist, Krystle Brewer, Exhibitions Director of 108 Contemporary in Tulsa speak on behalf of craft art, and after visiting the Textile Museum in Washington D.C. Wow to both. Ego shook. (And if you haven’t visited these two institutions, at least visit their websites. They have some super cool happenings in both the Oklahoma and D.C. communities!)
So in honor of arts AND crafts, I am focusing today’s post on a Maryland-based photographer and embroiderer that I discovered on Instagram, Emma Mattson. You might have to do a double-take for this artist, who uses dark and earthy hues of thread to create realistic, moss-like landscapes. I find Mattson’s embroidered moss to be equally life-like as whimsical and definitely a cross-over to world of fine-art.
I enjoy landscapes with a lot of colorful plants and want to work more with the idea of subjects getting lost or buried in the textured land. My moss embroideries mimic a natural texture and can be seen as a miniature landscape.
Mattson’s pieces remind of a book I am currently reading, Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, which densely narrates the life of Alma Whittaker, a female botanist living in the 19th century who studies moss throughout her lifetime. While reading Gilbert’s book, I learned that moss is actually a tiny ecosystem that parallels our own forests. Cool! And I think Mattson skillfully presents these micro-worlds with precise texture while challenging the role of thread, a medium which can adversely symbolize how I used to think of craft, through a tainted lens of labor, gender, and low-brow aesthetics.
Specifically, I love how craft art is defying the role of women as “crafters,” otherwise not skilled enough to be “real” artists but can make something useful for the home. By using a traditional loom as a frame, Mattson’s embroidery contains more than quilt-stitch, representing an organism that has been around longer than the patriarchy. While probably not correlated, I think Alma Whittaker would be very keen to Mattson’s skilled craft. 🙂
So, cheers to challenging your ideas on craft, moss, and female botanists; because the underdog is always much more than what it seems.