Cayce Zavaglia and her Embroidered Paintings

Cayce Zavaglia (1971) creates realistic impressions of people are executed using crewel embroidery wool, for which over time she has created a system
of sewing threads in a sequence that gives the appearance of a particular color or tone – her method of ‘mixing’ colors. Each piece is hand embroidery and in total Cayce Zavaglia has a developed 14 portraits so far.

“I still consider myself a painter and find it difficult not to refer to these embroidered portraits as “paintings”. Although the medium employed is crewel embroidery wool, the technique borrows more from the worlds of drawing and painting.”

Initially, working with an established range of wool colors proved frustrating. Unlike painting, in her embroidery she was unable to mix the colors by hand. Later, she created a system of sewing the threads in a sequence that would ultimately give the allusion of a certain color or tone. The direction in which the threads were sewn had to mimic the way lines are layered in a drawing to give the allusion of depth, volume, and form. Over time the stitches have become tighter and more complex but ultimately more evocative of flesh, hair, and cloth.

Cayce Zavaglia embroidery unabashedly nods its head to the tradition of tapestry and her love of craft. Using wool instead of oils has allowed her to broaden the dialogue between portrait and process as well as propose a new definition for the word “painting”.

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