String theory

String Theory

The art of embroidery has often been dubbed a housewife’s favourite pastime. In the case of artists like Cayce Zavaglia and Ana Teresa Barbosa, they are breathing new life to this age-old craft, showing us what the masters really look like.

Tracing back to year 3000 BC, embroidery is one of the first forms of art to decorate with aesthetic purpose. From adorning robes and handkerchiefs of ancient kings, this wasn’t just a sign of royalty but the handiwork of a skilled craftsMAN. That’s right – it was typically a job for men in many ancient cultures and was only harnessed with much patience, practice, and decades of dedication. A rare process in this age of machine dependency and instant gratification.


Above is the work of Cayce Zavaglia, a trained painter turned embroidery enthusiast. These incredible portraits can easily be mistaken as altered photographs or impressionist paintings but a closer look will uncover an intricate system of coloured thread. Cayce’s background as a painter is evident in her renegade approach. Out of a frustration towards a limited colour palette, she developed techniques based on sequential stitching that would allow her to create tone and shade through the various thread combinations.

Cayce also regards the backside of each portrait just as significant. Expressing the idea that we all have a side we keep secret and hidden. The backside reveals a fractured and abstract portrayal equally as mesmerising as the front (below).


There seems to be a magic formula for greatness when trading brushwork for stitchwork.
Ana Teresa Barbosa as well a trained painter who also has immersed herself in drawing, fashion, and pattern design. It is no surprise her art is wonderfully rich and layered. Much of Ana’s work seems to explore the relationship between humans and nature, bringing us closer than ever through art. She is able to express this by skilfully and effortlessly blending different mediums.


In another series Ana uses transfers and embroidery onto fabric ((below), tackling the idea of beauty and the efforts to obtain it. The result is an amazing blend that is equal parts delicate, feminine, and gruesome.


There is something to learn about the approach of both of these artists. Both draw inspiration from other crafts proving to produce refreshingly rich and innovative results.