We talk to freehand embroiderer, Chloe Giordano, about how she became an embroidery artist, turning her talent into a career, her nature-inspired pieces and words of wisdom for anyone looking to venture into the world of embroidery – as a hobby or for business.
How did you first get involved with embroidery?
I studied Illustration at the University of West England, and in my final year I began experimenting with textiles, initially making soft sculptures before moving onto embroidery. I didn’t grow up knowing how to sew and don’t come from a crafty family, so I was learning everything from the ground up. A friend showed me how to thread a needle and then tie it off, and after that it was a matter of trial and error.
Is there a particular textile artist whose work you admire?
At the very beginning of my textile work I was (and still am) very inspired by the work of Lauri Faggioni. She mainly produces soft sculptures that have been used in films and music videos and her sense of imagination was a big influence when I was starting out.
How did you go about turning this into a career?
I used to work another job alongside embroidery, but I was able to slowly drop my hours down as my embroidery business grew before leaving altogether. I always knew I would need several streams of income to make embroidery work as a career, so as well as creating original pieces to sell I focused on getting my work out to commercial clients like publishers and card companies, and developing my own range of products.
What advice would you give to an embroiderer looking to turn their skills into a business?
I used to set myself commissions for the kind of work I wanted to do – book covers, for example, and shared these projects online. Essentially create the work you want to be hired for. When it comes to selling original work, it’s important to do some market research and really try to work out what makes your work different, even if it’s just something small!
Chloe Giordano's nature-inspired sketches
Where do you find your inspiration?
I’m mostly inspired by the nature that I see around me – having lived on the outskirts of Oxford I had a beautiful landscape to explore, filled with wildlife. I also enjoy learning more about natural history in museums and books, and have a large collection of nature guides that I often refer to. I often look to more traditional artists for inspiration on colour and composition, and try to meld these elements in embroidery.
See this inspiration in action in Chloe’s stunning book, The Embroidered Art of Chloe Giordano – available to buy on our online shop!
What would you say to a creative who's stuck in a rut?
I like to go back to the beginning when I get stuck (I always begin a new embroidery in my sketchbook and do a lot of drawings from reference before creating a final design). I find going back to the source material reminds me of why I enjoy this so much. I always find looking at the work of artists I admire very inspiring and it can often give me a push to return to my own creations.
How do you recover from these moments of self-doubt?
I always return to the work. I’m happiest when I’m in the middle of an embroidery and it helps me forget nagging doubts when I’m truly enjoying what I’m doing.
Where do you sell your work once it’s completed?
I mostly sell online through Etsy. So far this has worked for me as most of my audience discovered me online and are from all over the world, so everyone has a fair chance of buying a piece when it goes in the shop. The only downside is that there aren’t many chances for people to see an embroidery in person (unless they buy online), so I’m doing some gallery work at the moment to allow pieces to be viewed on display.
Do you have a piece of work that you're most proud of?
I’m quite proud of the book covers I’ve created so far – when I set out to try and make a career from embroidery those are the exact jobs I had in mind. After graduating I put together a portfolio of self-directed book covers so future clients could see that it was something I was interested in and capable of doing, so it’s satisfying to have that work pay off.
Do you have an ultimate embroidery tip?
As I work freehand and have no proper training in embroidery, my advice is normally to not be afraid of trying out new ways of working or to have them fail. It takes a lot of trial and error to get to work that you’re really happy with, and is one of the best ways to learn in my opinion.
Is there a tool that you couldn’t live without?
Probably my thimble – I’ve used it so much over the years that it now feels more normal to have it on than not (I often forget to take it off and have gone shopping in the past without realising it’s still there).
How can Stitch magazine help readers develop?
The wonderful array of projects available in Stitch gives readers the opportunity to experiment with many different ways of working, and I always think this is the best way to figure out what really works for you. Why not take parts of various techniques and bring them together in something that really speaks to you as a creator?
Check out the print and digital subscription offers today.
Can you give us a snapshot of your day-to-day life?
I’m an early to rise and early to bed person, so at the moment I get up at 5am, have breakfast and catch up on emails (with coffee), then get to work embroidering or drawing, whichever needs doing.
At around 9:30am I stop and go for a run (I love working from home but if I don’t get up and run some of that coffee off I start climbing the walls), then shower and have an early lunch at around 11. After lunch I get back to work, normally until 4:30pm. At that point my concentration has upped and left so I switch to sketchbook work, editing and uploading photos, or pick up an embroidery that only has the easier background elements left to do until 5:30/6pm, when I have dinner.
If I’m on a tight deadline I’ll then go back to work after dinner, but I try to avoid it as much as possible and prefer to spend the rest of the evening reading and finally checking the phone notifications I’ve spent all day ignoring, before going to sleep at around 9:30-10pm. I’m not very good at taking days off unless I’ve planned something to do outside the house, which I try to do at least once a week (again depending on deadlines). If I take a day off and stay at home I often find myself accidentally working.
Where can people find out more about you?
Feeling inspired? Next, see and learn about Janine Heschl’s hyper-realistic embroidered animal portraits – they’re breathtaking!