Tracey Lawko in Studio

I create realistic landscapes and sculpted still-life in thread. These finely-stitched and richly-textured artworks interpret the natural world around my studio in the hills of the Niagara Escarpment. Themes of change, resilience and life-cycles permeate throughout. 

For my landscapes, my process is detailed and painterly. Starting with a simple drawing, I lay out my composition in collaged fabric. I then free-motion machine stitch with a longarm sewing machine, layering 30-50 different colours of thread until the base fabrics essentially disappear and a complex tapestry results. This is non-computerized, hand-guided drawing.

My still-lifes are high-relief sculptures celebrating beauty in the ordinary. Each element (leaf, stem, petal, bark, etc.) is created individually, shaped by hand and appliqued to a background. My innovative technique combines modern tools with traditional hand embroidery that has its roots in the 16thcentury raised-embroidery technique known as “stumpwork”.

For my installation “Change Enables Growth,” I use the life-cycle of trees as a metaphor for the stages of change: status quo, change event, transition and renewal. I have created large works utilising different textile techniques to correspond to each stage.

My current body of work, a series of nature studies focussing on the importance of pollinating insects, combines detailed free-motion machine stitching with hand-embroidery and stumpwork techniques.

I’m often asked: “why choose textile as a medium?” I have been embroidering and drawing since childhood and my work is an extension of those early passions. I love the depth and rich texture that can be achieved with textiles.

I’m also asked: “how long does it take?” The simple answer is a long time. I am working with a single sewing thread, sometimes by hand and other times by machine. While my longarm is large and intimidating to some, it isn’t automated in any way. It requires a steady, practiced hand to guide as well as many hours to layer the stitches to achieve my desired result. Thus, these works are all created “one stitch at a time.”

My artwork has been juried into many international exhibitions and has been recognized with numerous awards. It is held in the permanent collection of the US National Quilt Museum and in private collections in North America and Europe.

My work is available through Roberts Gallery.