Posted on

Interview with Barbara – my favorite abstract embroidery artist

Barbara is a 29 year old embroidery artist from Zagreb, Croatia. Yet again I need to thank Instagram for connecting me with this supportive and beautiful soul who’s creativity leaves me at awe again and again as she comes up with yet another piece of art. Find and follow here: bbeebling

Tell us who you are, Barbara.

Technically, I’m still a student of languages, but I’m taking a bit of a break from the stressful environment. Throughout the years, I’ve always nurtured my love for art and creative expression, especially through photography and drawing/painting. Roughly two years ago, I’ve been admiring the new modern direction embroidery community was taking and since I already learned it as a child, I spontaneously started stitching.

In your description in the Etsy store you call yourself a translator. What do you mean exactly? Does it have anything to do with being student of languages?

Oh yes! I’ve always appreciated grammar, etymology, and phonology, so I actively use my knowledge of languages and even mathematics (very closely related to grammar, actually), and incorporate it in my stitched pieces.


A tiling with squares whose side lengths are successive Fibonacci numbers: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 and 21.

Very interesting! To me math and grammar has very little to do with embroidery.

Oh yes, it’s just another expression of the same thing – the divine language of the universe.

Behind almost every pattern/design you see in my work is a mathematical grid, a pattern (e.g. flower of life), Fibonacci numbers/grid, on top of which I design my pieces. Then I pick a title for each piece that intuitively describes my feeling while creating it.

I would have never thought that abstract art can be so… structured and concrete.

Oh yes, my abstract art is an organised chaos:)

Do you have favorite themes or topics you like to embroider? What inspires you to sit down and work on your fiber art for hours? Tell me more about your creative process from the very beginning. It couldn’t be THAT spontaneous, could it?

Currently I’m working on a series of marine species inspired pieces. I’ve selected this theme because of a variety of techniques I can use to translate certain textures with thread.

I’m usually drawn by this urge to challenge my creative process when presented with a flash of a random vision inspired by a photo, a texture, a feeling, some form of new information. I ask myself “will I succeed to bring this to life?” and then I go and do it and sometimes I’m actually surprised with the results.

To be concise: What drives me the most is my curiosity.

In other words, you are your own greatest inspiration *laughing*

Hahah, in a way, since all I can see basically becomes part of my experience.

Typically, how long do you work on a single piece? Starting with hunting for supplies and finishing with a completely done, backed up hoop, what steps do you have to take? Which ones do you like the best? Is there any part of this art that you skipped if you could?

I enjoy my process so much that I rarely want to skip any part of it. First it starts with the flash of idea. I’ve already collected a lot of materials and I know exactly which ones would work best. If not, I remember exactly where I’ve seen it in a shop and I sit on my bike and go and get it. 😀 It’s a good exercise since I know I’ll be sitting still for a while. Then, depending on the technique, it takes me about 8 or more hours, spanned across 4-7 days to finish it. I leave the backing open until it sells or I have to present it. I use a piece of felt for that and I stitch it with blanket stitch, which is one of my favorites to use so that part is also very enjoyable. The only step I don’t like is waiting for the supplies to arrive if I order them online. I’d really prefer it if I just had them all in store near me so I can see what I’m buying. But it happens occasionally, so it’s not a big issue.

Is there a reason why you leaving them without backing until the point it sells?

Well, I don’t know if it’s going to sell and who will buy it: I might want to add something to the backing piece (a name inscription, a little heart, etc.) personalized for the customer so I want to keep my options open.

2020 has been a different year so far, heavily politically, emotionally and otherwise charged. First wildfires in Australia, then Covid pandemic, later worldwide protests against racism and police injustice in US. Did these events have an impact on you as an artist?

Oh, yes, it started back in 2019 when Amazon rain forest was burning. It may not show in my work so explicitly, as in the themes I’m working on, but it impacted me on a personal level. I empathize with the world’s problems as if they’re my own and behind the facade of social media and other platforms, I’ve been diving even deeper into my own consciousness, a process that for me started a couple of years ago.

Specifically, I’ve slowed down in my creation to fully be able to process these emotions. I’ve been watching these injustices and the cruelty of the world as closely as I was observing its beauty.

It feels wrong to keep on posting art as if nothing happened, doesn’t it?

To me, it doesn’t. The world consists of both beauty and ugliness simultaneously. To fully understand both, we must know ourselves and decide what would be our own best direction to take.

What’s your favorite embroidery project of all times and why?

Oh, it feels wrong to just pick some and leave out the others. There’s so much love and joy I put in my pieces that it just doesn’t feel right. Each piece is an expression of my inner world, it’s like asking which one of my organs is my favorite.

Whenever I get this feeling of “ooooohohohohhohoh I know this is going to look perfect!!”, then these are maybe my most loved pieces. I then do them frantically, quickly and precisely.

e.g. Pond – the materials just landed on my lap like puzzle pieces. I received the luneville hook tool and beetle wings so I knew exactly what to do and how to do it.

Then, my first very detailed miniature thread painting – Bambi. I wanted to try out my skills and some stitch techniques (very similar to pixel art and Gobelin stitch, but with my own spontaneous work).

Then pure serotonin – a hoop that brought to life my beaded sculptures and opened up a new door of 3d embroidery.

And the most recent triptych – deep sea themed pieces, because every new piece that I make is like a level up in my technique.

I’m also very proud of my stumpwork sculptures enclosed in a beaded florarium. – that one was done in such a whim, I barely was conscious when I was making it. hahah

I remember you sharing some opinions about Etsy in your stories a while ago. This is a platform you use to sell your art. How do you like it and why? What would be the perfect way to connect with your audience/target group/client?

Etsy is very convenient for me because of the established trust between seller/middleman/buyer. I’ve seen other platforms with similar concept, but I do not trust them as much I trust Etsy, regardless of the new features they impose.

I’m primarily an artist, so I don’t really use a lot of marketing strategies in my presentation.

If a person likes what they see, nay, love it, recognize its worth and want it near them in their environment, I’m trusting the universe that it will enable an exchange.

Give me a top five of your favorite fiber artists.

In no particular order: @black_cat_creative_studio @bystaceyjones @mishi_embroidery @_.baobap._ @breeynmccarney @the_monsters_lounge @wildfloss @_jujujust_ @ravenkiannad_art @defiant.embroidery
@clementine.b @aliciarosscom @ateliernoboru

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Well, I’d like to give an advice to fellow fiber/textile artists: take up your space and do not limit yourself with anything. Don’t be afraid to start your own thing based on your own pull towards a creative outlet.