November 01, 2018

Lindzeanne: the creative world of modern stitching - Issue 17

Featured Article by amirisu

Lindzeanne by amirisu


We often rediscover our world through the eyes of people with different cultural backgrounds. As a Japanese who loves crafts, I learnt to do sashiko in my childhood, and in a way, I took it for granted.  So, when I first saw Lindzeanne's work (I "discovered" her on Instagram), I felt like I saw sashiko for the first time.  It is more than sashiko, it is amazing how much you can do with simple, almost mindless, stitching.

Combining piecing of boro and primarily indigo fabrics with organic lines and layers of stitching, she creates small brooches that have the depths of universes within, and larger bags that have amazing textures like the waves of the ocean.  

Lindzeanne first came to Osaka, Japan while she was an undergraduate student. She took a Japanese class at school on a whim, but ended up enjoying it more than she had expected. So when she and her partner graduated, it was natural for them to apply to the English teacher exchange program called JET.  When their term was up, they decided to move to Tokyo to continue teaching.  Ten years later, their home is still in Tokyo.  

Lucky for us she is a frequent visitor to our shop in Tokyo (WALNUT Tokyo), and we did not have to introduce ourselves to invite her for an interview.  Here is our little conversation with the talented textile artist!

amirisu: We know that you often buy yarn from us.  Now that you do a lot of stitching, do you still knit?  What are your other creative outlets?  

Lindzeanne: I sew or knit most of my own wardrobe and I also like to dabble in watercolors. I sometimes play the ukulele. I really need more than twenty-four hours in a day, because there is so much I want to do! I still knit, but there are only so many hours in the day (and only so many wooly items one can realistically own and wear) so my knitting has become much more simple. I’m currently working on a heavily modified pure and simple top down sweater pattern in a lovely forest green tweeded yarn from Kerry Woolen Mills that I picked up in Ireland last year. 

amirisu: Sounds lovely.  So, please tell us how you started Sashiko, and came up with your style.  

Lindzeanne: Arriving at hand stitching and Sashiko has been a bit of a self-taught meandering adventure. About seven years ago, when I was working on my masters in education while also teaching around thirty hours a week, I was really exhausted and stressed out, so I took up watercolor painting to help relax. I mostly drew little weird little creatures and characters and abstract mark making. I was never particularly good at it, though it made me realize how much I needed to have a creative outlet. 

Once I completed my masters, I had more time, and decided to take up sewing, something I had always wanted to learn to do since I was a child. I delved into garment making and discovered all of the amazing independent pattern designers through Instagram, and taught myself to sew garments through Sonya Philiph’s amazing 100 Acts of Sewing patterns. Most of my wardrobe actually still consists of her patterns. I love a simple shape and the idea of a uniform. Through garment making, I became interested in knitting to help flesh out a year round handmade wardrobe, and knit and sewed pretty obsessively for about two years while painting in watercolor on the side. Gradually though, I got frustrated dividing my time between painting and knitting/sewing. I love the tactile nature of textiles, but prefer the freedom and creativity of painting. For me, sewing and knitting fulfills the purpose of building a sustainable and ethical capsule wardrobe, but doesn’t really satisfy my creativity. I can follow a pattern, but I don’t find a lot of pleasure in it. For me sewing and knitting is about the product, not the process. However, while I was painting, I often felt like I was betraying my sewing machine and knitting needles. It was a conundrum! 

amirisu: I understand the feeling.  I don't think most knitting is particularly creative, it's more of a practical activity for me, too, except when I am designing. Does Sashiko fall into somewhere in between your painting and sewing?

Lindzeanne: Exactly. Through Instagram, I gradually discovered the idea of textile art, and was really motivated to give it a go, as it seemed like a good idea to combine my fondness for textiles and satisfy my desire for creativity and spontaneity I had through painting. I had always been self conscious that I have lived in Japan for so long without a Japanese hobby like tea ceremony or calligraphy, so when I discovered Sashiko and boro, I thought “Finally, this is it!”. I dove in and bought a few Sashiko kits, but soon found that following a pattern wasn’t very satisfying for me. I am inpatient a bit impulsive actually, and was pretty discouraged at first because it seemed that I was incapable of making those disciplined, iconically straight, geometric shapes. 

I realized though that textile art and hand stitching can be totally free through the work of Willemien de Villiers, who was some of the first textile work I discovered thanks to the rabbit hole that is the internet. Her work is so detailed and feminine, and made me realize how the mark making I loved in watercolor could be combined with textile. From her work, and thanks to Instagram, I discovered the work of Christine Mauersberger and Junko Oki, who inspired me to just stitch. I was looking for a creative outlet for such a long time, but they convinced me to not think so much, but just to start.

amirisu: I looked those artists up on the Internet, and was so inspired to see what simple stitching can do!  How long have you been doing this?

Lindzeanne: I’ve only been hand stitching for about a year, but it’s been about a seven year process of finding my creative voice. I had slowly developed my aesthetic through painting, sewing, and knitting, but I was still searching for the right medium. Like a lot of things in my life, running across hand stitching has been a series of happy accidents and coincidental happenings. 

For me, hand stitching is a way to record time. It forces me to be in the moment (which I really struggle with), and produces a product that is a physical representation of me and my energy. What is more, it’s gratifying to to know that the product is light on the earth and will not last forever. I think there is a lot of beauty in that. Plus it’s pretty freeing, stitch away! it’s not forever anyway. It helps me take myself less seriously. 

amirisu: I love it that, through the lengthy process, you really did discovered your style, combining colors, shapes, and stitching.  What inspires you now?  Which artists do you like?

Lindzeanne: I am really inspired by the ideals behind the slow fashion movement. There is a lot of waste int the world, especially with textiles, and I think when it comes to creative pursuits it’s easy to get caught up in buying new materials and supplies because we convince ourselves it’s ok because it’s for a creative, productive purpose. With my work and hand stitching, I only use secondhand, reclaimed, or vintage textiles as a way to cut down on waste, but also to show that if you slow down and focus, you can transform something that is perceived as old or junk into a thing of beauty. You don’t need a bunch of supplies to be creative! I despise the throwaway culture, and so hand stitching on reclaimed materials is my own little revolt against it. 

 I’m inspired by painters and textile artists alike, there are so many!  The lives and work of Agnes Martin, Louise Bourgeois, and Georgia O’Keeffe are beautiful. I always have the quote by Georgia O’Keeffe in mind when I stitch, thinking about “filling the space in a beautiful way”. I am a big fan of Joan Miró, my color pallet is greatly inspired by his work, and I draw a lot of inspiration from the vibrant work of the color field artists like Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, and Morris Louis. The movement of Maggi Hambling’s wave paintings really hit a chord in me, too. 

As for contemporary textile artists, as I mentioned, Willemien de Villiers, Christine Mauersberger, and Junko Oki, are three textile artists that hugely inspired me to dive into hand stitching. I actually started out with hoop embroidery using DMC floss, but found it felt too familiar to painting, that and I didn’t know what to stitch! I admire the beautiful florals and landscapes people create with colorful DMC floss, but it’s just not for me. These artists convinced me that simple stitches, simple machine or Sashiko thread, and mark making are enough in and of themselves. I highly recommend everyone check them out!

It is a lot of food for thought!  Lindzeanne's story of finding her own creative voice must resonate with many of our readers.  I'm personally itching to try some stitching myself, just to see where it can take me.  Please check her work on Instagram @Lindzeanne, or on her website:

All photos on p.48-49 courtesy of the artist.