We are very excited to have textile artist Christi Johnson as our eleventh artist. Christi Johnson is an artist, teacher, and author of the book Mystical Stitches: Embroidery for Personal Empowerment and Magical Embellishment. Her work is inspired by cosmology, symbology, botanical forms, sustainability, and ritual. We were lucky enough to visit Christi’s studio in Swan Lake, NY as well as host an in-person talk with her at our Brooklyn showroom.
Scroll down to read some highlights of our conversation, learn about her process, and enjoy photos from our studio visit.
How do your materials assist in achieving your vision?
While sometimes I start with an idea and choose colors accordingly, working with scraps and leftover fabrics means searching for that perfect shade of blue might strike a totally different idea, how about this sparkly gold instead? To that degree, used fabrics sometimes dictate the piece themselves. A wild print, for example, might call out to me to be used as a background and dictate an entirely new piece.
Where/what do you look to for inspiration? Has this changed over time or stayed constant?
The quiet places, and digging deeper into the unseen – closing my eyes, experiencing nature, mystical fairytales illustrated in the mind, why recreate reality when we can have so much fun creating entirely new worlds? An art teacher once told me “the camera has already been invented, it is no longer the job of the artist to replicate reality” and that turned into a cornerstone of my translation from real life into artwork.
Which symbols have you worked with most consistently and are there any symbols that you have recently begun exploring?
Elements of the human form are often the starting point – something I know so well, finding it’s way into some mystical story. They sit right in front of me as I create, ready to take part.
Snakes, birds, cats, bees, the animals I share space with have a similar influence. These are the familiar points I start with, the basis in reality with which to begin new inventions.
What part of textile history interests you the most? Are there any textile artists that you are influenced by?
I’m drawn to folk art, mostly because it seems not like this intellectual desire to portray a conceptual idea, but like an inherent urge to create. It comes from somewhere indescribable, it exists throughout history and culture; we must make, no matter the other concerns on our mind. This inherent creative desire seems much better at transcending language and culture than heavily conceptualized work – and for me, communication and expression beyond language is the reason I create. This can be seen in the works of some of my favorite artists – some not well known – like Charlie Logan, Harriet Powers, and Moki Cherry.
You are not only an artist but a teacher who not only teaches technical skills but also helps artists and hobbyists connect with their own creativity. How has being a teacher influenced your own practice and growth?
Working as a teacher – of technique as well as artistic process – keeps me inspired, it balances out the tendency to desire that productive make, make, make mode and allows me to really explore the possibilities of different methods and mediums, and also maintain community as a somewhat solitary artist.
Thanks for being part of our Heirloom community and tuning into our tenth edition of Contemporary @ Heirloom.
– Zach, Lynn & Shara
*Illustration and Photography by Lynn Hunter