Doing Embroidermation at the Esker Foundation

We have all heard of embroidery. Embroidery is that beautiful needle and thread-based pasttime your mother/grandma/great grandma/women on Downton Abbey did. It has recently made a bit of a comeback in the world of the hip arts-and-craftser. We have come a long way from embroidered doilies, pillowcases, and aprons though. If you search “sassy embroidery” on Etsy, you are sure to find some hilariously vulgar and confusingly sophisticated home decor. We have also all heard of the art of animation. What you may not be aware of, however, are the many different types of animation. Some know animation as big-budget Pixar movies done entirely on computers, others know it as a raunchy flip book their older sibling showed them, and some know it as the stop-motion animation film of your Barbies you tried to make as a kid. “Embroidery and animation are great,” you might be thinking, “but where the ‘F’ are you going with this, Beth?” Well let me tell you.

One fine Saturday afternoon, I found myself at the Esker Foundation with my fine friend, Natasha. We were there to take part in the Embroidermation workshop. That’s right, Embroidermation. This is the art of animation in which each frame is embroidered. Folks, we live in a world where anything is possible. We were introduced to Project Space artist, Caitlin Thompson, who took us through examples of Embroidermation, a term coined by animator Nina Paley, and I was in awe. Everything from a 5 second looping hand-stitched GIF to a full length machine-stitched music video. The music video for Tharsis Sleeps, a song by heavy metal band, Throne, was part of a cool Kickstarter project and those who donated were gifted one of the frames from the animation. Once I and every other participant picked our jaws up off the floor, Caitlin explained how the workshop would go.

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Each participant was given a printed image of an animation frame Caitlin designed, a booklet with the instructions of different embroidery stitches to practice, and the instruction to stitch whatever we wanted! Total creative freedom! The printed image was of flowers, and the original animation had the flowers opening and closing. I began simply with a backstitch, and spent some time figuring out how to make lines. Caitlin explained that this stitch is perfect for words. I surprised even myself as I started to stitch legible letters to spell how I was feeling: H-O-O-R-A-Y-! I polished up a blanket stitch, a satin stitch, and a fly stitch. There I was, sitting in a direct sunbeam, chatting with Natasha, stitching away. How civilized.

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The time came for Caitlin to collect our frames and combine them to make an animation. It was absolutely bizarre and kind of hard to watch, because the stitches were totally random, but because we embroidered on top of a printed image from an already made animation, you could see the flowers in the background, opening and closing. Thanks for the Embroidermation, Esker! Thanks for the crafty day, Calgary!

The Esker Foundation has multiple workshops and events to take part in. Head to eskerfoundation.com to find out more, and sign yourself up!

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