One of the few experts in the field of technology-based embroidery, Stephen Wilson, a Charlotte-based conceptual artist in North Carolina has made a name for himself through a unique art form, which combines embroidery art with designer fashion. His work is featured in museums worldwide and is sold in fine art galleries and international art shows. In his recent Luxury Series, Wilson introduced a new twist to his signature art form by using high-end fashion designers’ cardboard boxes as the canvas on which to produce his masterpieces.
Stephen Wilson has been practicing his special art form for 20 years now. He started by making screen printed shirts and posters right after high school. A few years later, he became fascinated by the technology used in embroidery, and began applying it on his shirts. Later, as an embroidery fashion designer in New York, he was eventually creating applications for designers like Oscar de la Renta and Dior.
Today Wilson aspires to deliver strong messages through his mixing of mediums. He blends luxury fabrics, 3D-printed sculptures, laser-engraved acrylics, and highly detailed computerised embroidery to bring wholly original art pieces to life. He has used a variety of cloths, including silk, wool and other materials by luxury brands like Marc Jacobs, Oscar de La Renta, Versace in his artistic creations. Gradually much of his art evolved into an inventive interpretation of pop art imagery, much like that of Andy Warhol, but instead of paint he employed thread as his medium.
In his recent Luxury Series, Wilson introduced an interesting innovation to his fashion centered art, by using the beautiful printed cardboard boxes of luxury fashion designers, which customers rarely discard, as a limited edition “canvas” for his art creations. By applying a mixture of custom machine-stitched designs, sewn embroidery, assemblage and collage to the beautiful boxes of design firms, such as Chanel, Hermes, Valentino, and Gucci, he produced stunning artistic masterpieces.
The inspiration for this innovation came to Wilson when he noticed his studio littered with empty luxury brand cardboard boxes leftover from the fabrics they had contained. Thus, he literally stumbled upon the canvas for his new art pieces. “Those boxes,” he states, “are in and of themselves a status symbol to customers,” and evoke the same emotions that the luxury items they contained, do.
On the process of creating his artwork, Wilson emphasizes that “there are actually a lot of steps from drawing to digitalising, embroidering, building the maps, painting and assembling,” that take up hundreds of hours of work. “My expectations are that it’s a new medium and I think people are going to be surprised when they see my work because it’s not traditional. These art pieces are made of lots of little components and extreme manufacturing techniques. They really have the element of pop art and explosive colour.”
Each box that has been transformed by Wilson into a piece of art has a unique name and a story behind it. The large Givenchy boot box, named “Givenchy Urban Chameleon,” was heavily influenced by street art, through his stitching of a multi-color brick wall along with two large chameleon appliques, a mixture of roses and stars, and an octopus. However, unlike street art that may be ephemeral, Wilson’s masterpiece stands out as a permanent, vibrant and illustrious art piece embracing a contemporary vibe.
Another stunning piece in Wilson’s collection is the “Hermès Golden Wheel.” On this limited edition Hermès’ box, Wilson used metallic gold and shades of blue with matching fabric to emphasize the drawing of the carriage wheel. He also created Hermès’ pom-poms from scratch, using Hermès’ scarves and added them to the wheel’s spokes. Finally he added a blue monarch butterfly, which, he notes, “looks like it just landed on the art.”
Gucci’s “The All Seeing Eye” box, which includes 3D sculptural figures climbing onto the box and sitting on it in various positions, is another one of the unique works in the collection. The designs of the eyes on the box were stitched using 12 different colours of fabric, giving the eye patches an intensely intricate look. As for the the Jimmy Choo box, it was inspired by the cherry blossom trees that Wilson saw on his visit to Washington D.C. Each one of Wilson’s artistic compositions undoubtedly sparks an urge for interpretation that can differ from one observer to another.
Wilson is also renowned for his Americana Series, a large installation that comprised 43 pieces, highlighting the classical American genre of cowboys, quilts, and desert landscapes. The installation was eight feet tall and 25 feet wide, and all the fabric was from Ralph Lauren, who perfectly symbolizes Americana, according to Wilson. The tiles were created individually, then assembled together at mounting heights to add depth and dimension to the series. Wilson also appropriated the icon of the cowgirl and the renowned WWII poster, “We Can Do It,” which he says “was initially created to promote both male and female workers in the Westinghouse factory.” The tiles, 324 in total, each comprising a western icon on it, aimed to produce a representation of today’s women, emphasising diversity and power through adding tattoos, hats, and wild colored hair.
His unique artistic synthesis of mediums has indeed made Stephen Wilson a fascinating artist with a brand totally his own.
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