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Your life in color

Modern embroidery lives on through Julie Newton

The minimalist pastel aesthetic seems very familiar on Instagram, but insert Julie Newton’s rococo twist on handmade art, and you’ve got @hijulez. Newton’s line drawings can be worn on bags, shirts and hats as embroidered accents. The Vancouver-based artist opened up about updating the old artform with feminist themes and her process of self-discovery in perfecting this historically lux needlework practice.

 

 

How did you get into embroidery/screen printing?

I got into embroidery the summer of grade ten after I started to do some personal research on the French Rococo period and their breathtaking floral and patterned embroidery. I started out embroidering all of my clothing for school with little flowers and leafs, and then I eventually started more adventurous embroidery projects and realized how much I enjoyed this medium of art! I got into screen printing about a year later in grade 11. I am still learning with screen printing and it has been one of the most rewarding/challenging mediums I have explored. It is so satisfying when the prints turn out crisp and clean, but to every one of those I make, there have been far too many to count that come out a bit wonky looking. Exploring screen printing has made me let go of a need for perfectionism and begin to appreciate the happy accidents. Back to embroidery, after finishing high school I took the year off of school and spent some time learning more about embroidery at Maison Lesage in Paris. This is where I began to really see embroidery as more than just a hobby. It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by women–there was one man but mainly all women– who had successfully followed their passion of embroidery and who could create such masterpieces with their fingers and thread.

Who/what inspires your minimalist style

Oh, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Kim Mick Hee, a tattoo artist and painter based in Seoul, Korea, Frédéric Forest, @notcoolneverwas and Alma Proença to name a few! In art class in high school I never felt like I was a talented drawer, I was a bit shy to try realistic pencil studies when there were so many talented students in my class. This pushed me in a different direction to find a style in a more simplistic style that I felt more freedom with.

A lot of your work features the female body. I feel like it captures a grace and naturalness of the real female body rather than the “idealized” female body that is present in so much of mainstream media. Can you talk a bit about the message you want to get across with these pieces?

I have always focused on art that makes me feel good to create, the message that I am trying to get across with the designs is that we are all wonderfully bizarre in our own ways and that is so special. It is a celebration of our differences and a little reminder to honor yourself for exactly who you are. The female silhouettes I draw are often live drawings of my friends! They are beautiful human beings of all shapes and sizes and I am lucky to have such cool people to draw. I draw people who inspire me and who I think are kick-ass human beings, and their bodies are strong and beautiful. What I like about drawing silhouettes and simple line drawings is that they leave a lot of room for the mind to fill in the blanks with who they could be, what culture they are, what age, etc.

You have more work that addresses self-love. When fashion could be just about the pattern or color of the fabric, you’re addressing larger ideas…

Most of the doodles I have screen printed or embroidered that are on the topics of self-love or body image are usually created on days where I am having a hard time with them in my personal life. When I started my @hijulez Instagram, it was really just a hobby and a way to share positive doodles with my friends. Using fashion as my platform kind of came accidentally I guess… Fashion is an amazing medium, it allows the art to be worn and shared in so many different ways. It’s exciting to see how people style and wear my designs and how they look different on everyone who wears them. I like using fashion as my medium because it allows me to be very playful with how I bring forward these topics, depending on the colors, shapes, and texture of each piece, you are able to create a certain mood with it. You can do this with many different mediums within the art world but how fun is it that after you create something you are proud of, you can try it on.

How does having your art in the form of fashion allow your message to grow/spread?

Having someone wear a sweater/design that they love brings a positive energy to that garment that is inviting to others. Fashion is so powerful, there is something about seeing a friend looking happy in a piece of clothing that makes you want to own said piece of clothing (in my experience). With fashion you get to facilitate people expressing themselves with what they choose to wear, how they wear it and what it makes them feel when they are wearing it. I have always wanted to make clothing that could be worn by anyone who wants to wear it, there should be no limitations on sizing or age. If you are attracted to something on a hanger and it makes you feel something, that is special and fun!

How have you grown as a result of your work?

Damn, in the past year the amount of wonderful human beings I have met through Instagram and art has been truly amazing. Being in contact with new like-minded individuals, and many of them becoming friends, my art grows in ways I could have never imagined. Creating art work and embroidery that is very personal to me and having people connect with the images or sayings or doodles has made me feel part of a community. I have so much growing yet to do, and I am excited to see where this all takes me, but I wouldn’t be in the place that I am today (away in Florence trying to better my art and taking this leap out of my comfort zone) without all the positivity that has come my way through the art community.

Taylor Seamans
Taylor is a junior majoring in computational neuroscience and minoring in communication design. She publishes inbtwn., an online zine (Instagram: @inbtwnmag). On top of an interest in visual arts, she is involved in neuroscience research on facial and object recognition. She is from San Diego where she enjoys hiking, surfing (trying at least), and eating burritos on the beach.