Experiments in thread work: Danielle Clough on finding joy with the needle
Collections form freely as the South African-based embroidery artist shares with Creative Boom her instinctive process and why happiness sits at its core.
Life inspires art, and so goes the old adage. For embroidery artist Danielle Clough, this sentiment has a significant meaning. Taking inspiration from what she sees, eats, watches and listens to, her artworks vary in what they depict.
"I jump between subject matters," says Clough. "Sometimes I can be moved by a moment of nostalgia, something that I've seen while walking, or I can be taken with something as simple as an interesting colour combination or fabric."
Like many creatives, for Clough, the act of creating is about problem-solving and asking herself whether something is possible or how it would look stitched.
"Most of my creative energy is based around having a question and working to answer it – like whether it's possible to sew on metal, or how to make my work abstract, or can I do a portrait using only pink?"
These playful questions sit at the heart of Clough's work; she adopts an exploratory yet investigative approach throughout her pieces. And despite the variety, she has a distinctively colourful yet delicate style.
"I have always loved colour," she says. "As a teenager, I painted my room bright pink and purple. It was floor-to-ceiling filled with pinboards and posters. Colour is never something I consciously choose. It's what I am naturally drawn towards."
This impulse to see things in multicolour and surround herself with all things beautiful reflects how she intuitively fell into embroidery. It wasn't something Clough knew much about. Rather she found herself thread-sketching and realised just how much she loved it and then learnt that it was already a historically-acknowledged art form.
Before the discovery of this medium, Clough was a VJ artist, synchronising videos to music – which: "Influenced how I saw colours and imperfections. I was always drawn to the layered shapes and accidents that happen when mixing clips."
Embracing mistakes was part of the VJ process, and it led to unexpectedly joyous outcomes, which continued in embroidery.
Though the methodology, of course, is a bit different, it similarly allows Clough to apply her knowledge of mixed media to seek out images that she wants to capture in her thread work.
Most works begin with a photograph she will explore or edit in PhotoShop, Paint or ProCreate – before the real creative application starts.
"I then map the image onto a piece of fabric or surface and colour it with thread. The time varies for each work depending on the size, detail and texture. I can't tell you how long it takes, just that it's never shorter than three days."
It's an indulgent process that's lengthy and intuitive, but it provides Clough with great joy and the space for collections to grow organically. She often has a few projects on the go and will simultaneously jump between them as she sees fit.
"One day it's a racket, and the next it's Cher from Clueless," she says. "A series usually develops when I find myself returning to something I created before, and it forms a collection over time. I am so protective over my joy of sewing that I haven't yet committed to one technique or subject, in case I resent it or disappoint myself for not following through."
The evolution of her craft is part of the process, and she's constantly conferring with friends and bouncing ideas around. "Happiness is the point," she concludes. "The goal for my work is to delight, even if it's just for a nanosecond." Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming show at the Paradigm Gallery this year.