Funny, political and playful, artist ‘La Katie’ is breathing new life into the art of embroidery
Barcelona based illustrator and embroiderer La Katie takes time out her busy schedule to tell us all about how she creates her 'Tattoo Shirts', revealing her dream client list, and more...
I grew up in London, where there’s an amazing sense of creativity and a vibrant clash styles everywhere. I’ve always loved illustrating and designing my own clothes. After moving to Barcelona to study for a master’s in illustration, I found my niche in embroidery. t the same time I discovered how patient I truly am! It’s impossible not to be inspired when living in Barcelona, the grit of the city contrasted with the idyllic coastline.
It’s inspiring to see embroidery is evolving into a modern form of expression, popular among a totally new audience.
There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing my drawings come to life, especially when using such a distinctive art-form, while also exploring how it can express a message or visual idea. It’s amazing to take ownership of what is traditionally an under-appreciated art-form, and one often considered ‘woman’s work’.
My work has developed hugely over the last few years, informed by some big life decisions like moving abroad and pursuing a very particular artistic path. I’ve been really lucky to be surrounded by a positive, creative environment and have been greatly inspired by the people and places around me. Even my artistic name, La Katie, comes from the Catalan language which uses the article when introducing yourself: ‘sóc la Katie’.
In my down time, I love to travel, especially doing crazy long hikes. Last year I visited Japan to walk the Shikoku Henro pilgrimage, visiting 24 of the 88 temples on the island of Shikoku. This summer I finished the Camino de Santiago, walking 800km across the north coast of Spain. I love the focus of the hike and meeting people from all walks of life who have similarly decided to take on such a crazy challenge.
I work in my home studio and am lucky enough that the Barcelona sunshine allows me to work outside on the balcony for most of the year. I collect exhibition postcards, and a pretty extensive collection. My walls are covered with pictures from my favourite artists and exhibitions I’ve visited, including a range of styles, from Hockney to Miró.
My most treasured book has to be my mum’s childhood copy of Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes, which was the first book I fell in love with. I must have read about twenty times! More recently I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary poetry. Lemn Sissay, Helen Mort, and Kate Tempest are just a few of my favourites whose anthologies I love to flick through after a long day.
Embroidery is very analogue in our digital world so my tools are the same as those used for centuries. I think the reason embroidery has had a huge resurgence recently is because it’s a craft that requires very few materials: just a needle, some thread and a hoop. It’s a simple, everyday thing and anyone can have a go!
My partner, Abel, is a motion graphics designer. A dream project would be to work together, combining our different skills. We’d love to really indulge our skills and challenge ourselves to create a stop-motion, animation using embroidery. It would be a huge amount of work, but the result would be totally worth it! I’m sure we’ll make happen one day!
I am currently working on my ‘Embroidered Tattoo Shirts’. They are handmade and personalised to express the wearer’s own style. It’s cool to mix and match different design styles – from hyper realistic to abstract designs, from serious messages to silly characters – on the same garment.
I love working closely with the customer, creating something personal to them.
The boldness and distinctiveness of the different styles are brought together through the aesthetic of embroidery, as they become part of the final garment, looking something like a tattoo sleeve. You can literally wear what you are, mixing favourite films and book characters with childhood pets, cultural or political references, or funny expressions.
When starting work on a new commission, the first step is to find out what they want to express. This is often the most enjoyable part of the process, imagining how the piece will look. I then put my sketches on a mock up of the garment to decide sizing and positioning. When we’re both completely happy I begin the embroidery process. I tend to send regular pictures as the work comes to life. It’s particularly fun to work with someone creative on their own unique piece, involving them in the process and seeing what ideas they want to express. I’m not afraid to step out of my comfort zone to explore different styles when working with another illustrator.
As well as of course continuing to develop my creative work, my main aim for the coming year is to reach out to people whose work I admire. Perhaps work with one of my many dream clients; someone like Lena Dunham! I love her work with outspoken messages, and her contemporary edge. She’d be a great collaborator for a funky feminist Tattoo Shirt.
…in case Lena’s a bit busy, I’d also like to try and work with Jessica Hynes, whose writing and acting I love, or maybe Richard Ayoade who is hilarious. After this year’s Bake Off, I think Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig are prime candidates for some jazzy shirts too!