Richard Saja uses embroidery and familiar textiles to create decorative cushions. His designs draw attention to time-honored needlework techniques, but he employs these hand-stitched elements to destabilize traditional images. I have been a fan of his work for a while.
Saja talked with us about his work, process and inspiration.
When did you begin using hand-stitching in your work?
I began embroidering four years ago in order to incorporate handwork into my line of machine embroidered cushions. I found that both my clients and I loved the handwork so much more. I quickly dropped the machine embellished cushions and now hand-embroider the entire line.
Why did you choose to work with toile?
I knew that toile prints were a perfect canvas for hand embroidery: the black line of the print begging to be made more alive through the vibrancy of color, texture and technique afforded by hand embroidery. By wedding traditional toile prints to embroidery I found I had developed something easily accessible to modern tastes: tattoos are now accompanied by rabbit ears on children, cigars in dog’s mouths, nipples, gold chains and mohawks on monkeys.
How do you come up with your designs? What inspires you?
When beginning a piece, I never set out with a clear destination in mind. Rather, I prefer to allow the embroidery to suggest what comes next—whatever occurs to me at the time. I am inspired by the spontaneity of imagination.
What was your earliest inspiration?
I remember spending many hours as a child with a pack of iron-on transfer crayons and an old t-shirt laboriously constructing a replica of Starboy’s costume—my then-favorite superhero.
Do you create all of your cushions yourself?
One other person embroiders with me. We met on the subway when I heard her talking about embroidery to a friend. I approached her about working with me and we quickly became friends. I don’t dictate what she is to embroider."