Selvedge: Get to know Emellie Ferris
One of embroidery artist Emillie Ferris’ favourite quotes is a Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” Since teaching herself to embroider with a handful of materials (a hoop, thread, needle and an old pillowcase), Emillie has been passionate about embroidery and passing on the message that it’s never too late to learn this fulfilling artform.
Before Emillie first picked up a needle and thread, the word embroidery would conjure images of women embroidering by windows and fireplaces during the medieval and Victorian eras. “It wasn’t something I had seen in reality other than in haute couture or on costumes in movies,” she says. “I would think to myself, wouldn’t it be lovely to be connected to such a timeless craft.” She began by stitching a dreamcatcher design on an old pillowcase and fell in love with the process. “I knew I had no time to lose and was instantly planning all of the new designs I could create. To this day, that feeling is still what spurs me on. As you can tell, I’m a bit obsessed with embroidery!”
Emillie admires the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, William Morris and JRR Tolkien. However, nature and walks in the countryside have been her biggest inspirations. “Embroidering nature is a great way to get to know the species, while also adding your own interpretation to the process,” she enthuses. Detailed portraits of animals and magical woodland designs feature in her body of work. “There is usually something that I’m feeling passionate about,” says Emillie. “At the moment I really connect with and enjoy looking at celestial and witchy imagery, so that is beginning to reflect in my art too, while also mixing with my love for flora and fauna.”
To compile and organise her inspirational photographs and ideas, Emillie designs mood boards, saves images on Instagram and creates boards on Pinterest. Once she has an embroidery design concept, she sketches, paints or digitally paints in Photoshop and refines the design until she’s happy with it. She then creates an outline of the illustration so that it’s easy to trace onto fabric. After the design is traced, Emillie can move on to her favourite step: “Painting with thread to bring the piece to life.”
Emillie is also passionate about photography, which she’s pursued for nearly 12 years. “I’d say it has influenced me greatly in terms of composition and knowing what colours look good where. I love the editing side as well, and won’t usually pass up the chance to edit the colours and lighting of my photos in Photoshop,” she says. “I’m also really into interior design and making my flat as cosy and atmospheric as possible.”
As her flat is also home to her embroidery business, having a space that’s conducive to creativity is essential. “I try to surround myself with pretty lighting, candles, ornate mirrors and vintage artwork, while also keeping a minimalist style to keep my head clear,” she says. “My number-one goal in life is to one day own my own house and have a separate office in the garden with lots of cats and dogs keeping me company while I stitch away.”
As well as allowing Emillie to combine her love of nature and creating, embroidery benefits her in many intangible ways too. “Embroidering gives me such a sense of tranquillity, to the point where it feels like meditation,” she says. “In a digital age where everything is instantaneous, I think it’s so important to take the time to make something with your own two hands. Embroidery grounds me and roots me to the world; it’s the same feeling I get when I go for walks in the countryside. I love it. I have a feeling of accomplishment when I finish a piece and a huge sense of pride.”