Danielle Clough is a woman of wide-ranging talents. The South Africa-born “fiber artist” not only creates incredible pieces of art out of embroidery thread and whatever backing she can get her hands on (read: everything from tennis rackets to wire fences), but she also spends her time creating visuals for live music events under the stage name Fiance Knowles, doing freelance digital design work, performing on the radio, creating custom book covers, and working as a photographer for local and international media.
So yeah, she’s pretty busy. Luckily, Clough managed to take time out of her packed schedule of being awesome to answer a few questions for us about her mesmerizing work.
How did you first get into embroidery? Is there anything from your childhood that you look back on and realize relates to your current interests?
I’ve always been interested in fashion and sewing. My mother taught me to sew from a young age. I would make horrible clothes from curtains. My love for embroidery started while I was studying. I would make plush toys for extra money, so I always had thread and felt on me. Bored at work one day, I started “drawing” a rabbit on a scrap piece of felt. I really enjoyed it and kept doing these “thread sketches.” It was less of a case of being interested in the craft first and learning how to do it than of doing it and realizing that it was embroidery later.
I picked up photography as a teenager – it’s probably the thing that influences subject choice and my relationship with lighting and color.
What did your embroidery look like when you started? How has it evolved and morphed into your own personal style?
My embroidery looked much like it does now, just simpler. I didn’t start traditionally, and the style that I have now I feel like I stumbled on by mistake.
You went to school for art direction and graphic design. Did you have a set path or vision for your future planned out, or did you figure you’d see where life took you?
I studied art direction and graphic design because it was the broadest course I could get at the time, and it was practical. I had studied fashion and lasted two weeks, even though I grew up quite sure that I was going to be a fashion designer. I quickly realized it was too specialized for me. I always knew I wanted to be a part of all aspects of the creative process, from conceptualizing to executing, I just wasn’t sure how to do that. I’ve never really had a set idea of what I wanted to do, or be, I just had a strong idea of what I enjoyed.
What’s your process when you go to create a new piece?
I start by taking a photograph, like of a friend, for example. I’ve started to paint these photographs or references with inks, which has been an interesting addition to my process. Then I map out the line work, and then essentially color in with thread or wool. I like to choose the colors as I go, and if I don’t feel like using a painted reference, I will put my reference in black and white. This helps free up my color choice process. Every piece varies though.
How long do you usually spend on a single piece?
Anywhere from two days to a few months. Weirdly, nothing gets finished in a day, no matter what size or detail.
You use different bases for your work — everything from tennis rackets to shoes to what looks like fences or metal grating. Explain how that came about.
A friend showed me simple hearts woven onto a racket and I took it as a challenge. I wanted to figure out how to interpret my style onto them. The subject matter started with flowers because I figured it would be the easiest thing to experiment with and I became hooked on the color and depth possibilities. The fences and gates were the next step after the rackets, because the principle is the same.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve created? How about the most frustrating or satisfying thing?
I don’t have a favorite thing, but there are projects I am really happy with, like the gate I did at Upfest, and the video and shoes for Gucci. Some works end up in a shoe box, and its always frustrating when you spend days on a piece that isn’t quite right. I try to challenge myself with every piece in some way, whether it’s a new surface, color or subject. When it works out it gives a gentle hum of satisfaction.
You really do live a multi-hyphenated life. How did you get into VJ’ing?
Most of my other interests are just curiosities that have got the better of me, like VJing (visual jockey) which was from always wondering how the visuals at parties and festivals came together. Simply put, I like things, so I do things.
What do you imagine for the future — either a project you hope to tackle, or a direction you want to take with your embroidery?
So many of these opportunities and projects that have happened this year I couldn’t have even imagined or planned so I’m just staying open and working hard and seeing what happens next.
Check out more of Clough’s incredible (and often hilarious) fiber art below: