The Microcosm Collection creates small, self contained portals: tiny but finely-detailed moments that transport the viewer and speak to individual experiences. Despite using similar textures and techniques, some works may feel comforting and familiar while others unknown and exciting. From a coral reef to deep space to the forest floor on a beloved hiking trail, these microcosms are meant to show the viewer a glimpse of another world.
The above text is the formal statement for this series of work. These embroideries are the result of years of experimentation, an obsession with color and texture, and a desire to fill a space with tiny, thoughtful details. These pieces are meant to feel familiar on some level. They are the piece that you could walk by every day and notice something new each time.
I learned to sew when I was six have been making and creating ever since. I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon. I knew I wanted to be an artist when I was 16. It wasn’t until 2015 that I combined my sewing and my art making process and pivoted to create fiber art as my main work. Over the past two decades, my work has changed a lot. These framed embroidery pieces are a continuation of my own learning, experimentation, and growth.
The Piece that Inspired the 100 day project
In January of 2020, I decided I wanted to make a ridiculously colorful and textured embroidery and to figure out a way to display it off of the hoop - either mounted in a wooden frame or stretched like a canvas. The embroidery piece you see here was the first experiment. Fast forward a few months and my husband, cat, and I moved from Charlotte, NC to Portland, OR. Then, as we all know, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and that changed our work and home life. I started making masks. Adam was working from our new home permanently.
While I was focusing on making masks, I took a break from sewing creatively - which for me is embroidery and creating freeform wall hangings. Then the annual 100 day project came around. I had participated for the past two years and figured this would be a good way to get back into my own creative work. I decided to create 100 days of stitched circles. These pieces were all experimental like the one I had created in January. I wanted to push what I could do with a needle and thread. The only goal was that I created pieces that were circular using embroidery.
This was the first year I didn’t officially finish the full 100 days. The work that I made had some highs and lows - some of the pieces I loved, and others were quite frankly not great. But I learned so much! And during that process, I made this piece in particular. This green piece resonated with me in a way many of the other pieces hadn’t. I instantly knew I wanted to make more. It combines embroidery, needle felting, and beading.
Tide Pool Universes
That led to the creation of the series of pieces I’ve been calling Tide Pool Universes. These pieces are filled with barnacles, beads, French knots, and as much texture as I can create. I have loved barnacles since I saw one for the first time. I am already obsessed with circles and barnacles are just an extension of that. I have been so interested in the idea of creating something that is both familiar and unknown. That is the Tide Pool Universe. Tide pools have so much color and depth in each little pocket. I aim to create my own little pocket of wonder with a needle and thread. Something that you could stare at for hours. Something that feels a little otherworldly, even though it is right here in front of you.
The Tide Pool Universe pieces combine different fiber art techniques. All of the barnacles are needle felted as are some of the additional textural accents. Most of the piece is made up of embroidery work with a heavy emphasis on the couching stitch - my most favorite embroidery stitch. There are lots of french knots and a stitch that looks like a braid.
All of these different techniques are ways to create and layer texture. The addition of glass beads was new for me. I initially found some beautiful vintage glass beads online and instantly loved them. I went back and purchased more glass beads to be able to keep adding them to future embroidery pieces. I love the shiny nature of beads. The reflection of light adds another level of dimension that can’t be created with thread alone.
The Cosmic Swirl
The other kind of embroidery pieces I’ve been making for this collection are in the style that I call the Cosmic Swirl. These are inspired by that first piece back in January. They feel like looking at a galaxy in your hands. The colorful swirl is something that I hope one day becomes a signature of mine. One day after fifty years of making, some gallery person will say something like “ah yes, and here we have a piece by Amy Reader, you can see this is her signature swirl...” Something like that.
Back in the before times - before the move, before the pandemic - I was planning on working on a collection inspired by ridiculously bright colors found naturally. Like the green of the Northern Lights. Like the purple if you catch a photo of the galaxy at night from earth. Big, energetic, bold color. Colors you might find in a coral reef or glowing on some fish in the deep uncharted depths of the ocean. High frequency, neon, anything in that realm. These pieces are the manifestation of that idea. They are full of bright colors and a sprinkle of cosmic energy.