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I Started Creating Anatomical Embroidery After I Had An Extensive Facial Surgery
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Needle and Thread4 years ago

I Started Creating Anatomical Embroidery After I Had An Extensive Facial Surgery

Until the first of many phases of extensive facial surgery to correct my Bells Palsy three years ago, I’d never embroidered anything. It was during a hospital stay to insert one of my chest muscles into my left cheek that I realized I could marry up my love of hand sewing with my love of human anatomy and a hobby was born. I bought embroidery thread, dug out my old copy of Grey’s Anatomy, and got started on an anatomically correct image of the facial muscles which was immediately bought by my consultant facial surgeon.

I’ve since created hand-embroidered images of the heart, uterus, hand, ear canal, and am now working on an embroidery pattern of the kidneys and I’ve sold them to a mix of clinicians.

Each embroidery artwork takes up to three months and I start by researching images that are medically interesting and possible to be rendered in false color (otherwise everything would be pink!). I begin with Grey’s Anatomy then move onto books of photographed clinical dissections to get a feel for the textures of the organs. I’ve even dissected the dead animals that my cat has brought in, to get a better idea of which embroidery stitches I can use to render muscles (couching stitch) or glands (French knots), and have attended shows about anatomical dissection.

With each work of art, I begin by stitching a general color for each of the parts. I then move onto the darker and lighter shades, layering the stitches to create levels of texture and depth which also makes the unique artworks tactile. It helps the embroideries to pop off the hoop and gives viewers an idea of how the organs actually look and feel but without the gore factor.

The beautiful artworks become increasingly intricate as I work them, moving from larger swathes of color to the tiniest stitches in single strands of thread. It’s extremely detailed work that requires constant reference to anatomical accuracy but it’s deeply therapeutic and the end result is an image that is educational as well as gorgeous (even if I do say so myself!).

I’ve now completed all of my facial surgery (for now, at least), and although I still carry the effects of Bell’s Palsy it has at least opened a door to a form of art that I had never considered before. It’s a silver lining that not only brings me joy but helps me create. Beauty and creative ideas really can be found in the most unexpected places after all.

More info: krakenkreations.co.uk

Anatomical embroidery of the heart

Anatomical embroidery of the facial muscles

Anatomical embroidery of the female reproductive system

Anatomical embroidery of the nerves of the hand

Anatomical embroidery of the inner ear with cochlea

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Hey pandas, what do you think?
Kate Wilson
Community Member
4 years ago

THIS is what taking back control looks like. When you have a physical, or indeed any sort of, ailment, it can become all that defines you. Or your physical appearance is how others define you. Creating these sorts of images gives the creator, the viewer, and the owner more knowledge, more control. And they are gorgeous. Have a feeling that I have rambled rather, but I love this work. Know yourself through embroidery. Why not?

Community Member
4 years ago

Kate, that is a lovely thing to write and I agree completely that knowledge is power too. A few times, during my hospital stays, docs thanked me for taking such an interest in what they were doing which shocked me. Yet they said so many people would rather not know and just allow things to be done to them instead, thereby treating the health issue as something to be suffered rather than involved in. Lordy! If my embroidery means I haven't done that, then all the better.

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Diane Martin Cbe
Community Member
4 years ago

I love your work so much, it's so varied. These wonderful anatomical embroideries are fantastic on so many levels, the intricacy, the education, the skill, colour's and texture and the delight at how beautiful they are. They are so original. I didn't realise until reading this, the connection to your experience of facial surgery as that was not the first one I saw. Trust you to birth art from what must have been such a challenging journey. Oh no, I said 'journey' I sound like I'm on Britain's got talent. Well you've got talent and it's great that it was therapeutic for you. I love all of your work, I love your wordsmithery and how funny you are. Just wonderful! Diane Martin

Community Member
4 years ago

Diane, you utter star. Thank you. The weird thing about doing this embroidery is my addiction to everything anatomical. I recently discussed further surgery with my consultant and even though I don't need the surgery right now part of me wanted it so I could immerse myself in the anatomical tweakings again.

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Phemonoe 153
Community Member
4 years ago

The colors! The shading! The textures! What a beautiful medium to use to create these! I hope your surgeries have gone well and are (mostly?) behind you. Please keep sharing them over time, i look forward to seeing what else you come up with

Community Member
4 years ago

Thank you so much Phemonoe 153! It's a joy to create these and fascinating to find stitches that replicate the organs' textures.

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Kate Wilson
Community Member
4 years ago

THIS is what taking back control looks like. When you have a physical, or indeed any sort of, ailment, it can become all that defines you. Or your physical appearance is how others define you. Creating these sorts of images gives the creator, the viewer, and the owner more knowledge, more control. And they are gorgeous. Have a feeling that I have rambled rather, but I love this work. Know yourself through embroidery. Why not?

Community Member
4 years ago

Kate, that is a lovely thing to write and I agree completely that knowledge is power too. A few times, during my hospital stays, docs thanked me for taking such an interest in what they were doing which shocked me. Yet they said so many people would rather not know and just allow things to be done to them instead, thereby treating the health issue as something to be suffered rather than involved in. Lordy! If my embroidery means I haven't done that, then all the better.

Load More Replies...
Diane Martin Cbe
Community Member
4 years ago

I love your work so much, it's so varied. These wonderful anatomical embroideries are fantastic on so many levels, the intricacy, the education, the skill, colour's and texture and the delight at how beautiful they are. They are so original. I didn't realise until reading this, the connection to your experience of facial surgery as that was not the first one I saw. Trust you to birth art from what must have been such a challenging journey. Oh no, I said 'journey' I sound like I'm on Britain's got talent. Well you've got talent and it's great that it was therapeutic for you. I love all of your work, I love your wordsmithery and how funny you are. Just wonderful! Diane Martin

Community Member
4 years ago

Diane, you utter star. Thank you. The weird thing about doing this embroidery is my addiction to everything anatomical. I recently discussed further surgery with my consultant and even though I don't need the surgery right now part of me wanted it so I could immerse myself in the anatomical tweakings again.

Load More Replies...
Phemonoe 153
Community Member
4 years ago

The colors! The shading! The textures! What a beautiful medium to use to create these! I hope your surgeries have gone well and are (mostly?) behind you. Please keep sharing them over time, i look forward to seeing what else you come up with

Community Member
4 years ago

Thank you so much Phemonoe 153! It's a joy to create these and fascinating to find stitches that replicate the organs' textures.

Load More Replies...
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