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Ksenia Semirova - preserving the art of embroidery

Hove / United Kingdom

Ksenia Semirova, an embroidery artist based in Hove (UK), came to this craft as a mature person with a complete understanding that it was the only suitable career path for her. That's why she quit industrial design, which was her original background. Ksenia realized that creating mass production didn't suit her at all, and concept design, one of her favourite areas, often remained as prototypes and renders. She aimed to create real products that could bring happiness and a bit of magic to real people.

That's how Ksenia ended up with an MA in Textiles from the University of Brighton, where she graduated with a Distinction in 2022. At the university, she had the opportunity to combine her previous knowledge and experience with her interest in visual research and exploration of Russian pearl embroidery, an ancient national technique that had been almost lost in the 20th century. Her goal is not only to preserve the traditional approach but also to experiment and give it a contemporary interpretation by mixing it with various embroidery methods, such as Luneville embroidery, which she also practices.

Your journey as an embroidery artist began as a mature person after leaving industrial design. How did you discover your passion for embroidery, and what was the pivotal moment that made you realize it was the right career path for you?

To be honest, I believe that embroidery has chosen me. When I reflect on my past, I realize that embroidery has always been present in my life, in one way or another, since early childhood. I have finally stopped pretending to be someone else and have embraced my true passion. Now, I am doing what I have always dreamed of. Speaking about the pivotal moment, it was definitely during the Covid pandemic when the world turned upside down.

Your artistic approach involves blending traditional Russian pearl embroidery with contemporary techniques like Luneville embroidery. Can you share how this combination allows you to express your creativity and produce unique and magical outcomes in your work?

I believe that mixing techniques and interweaving various contexts is one of the keys to creating something new. Additionally, bringing ancient techniques into contemporary practice helps to both preserve and develop them. Russian pearl embroidery, in particular, had limited applications (mostly utilized for religious piety or for women’s headpieces), but I aim to spread its reach.

Your MA in Textiles from the University of Brighton focused on exploring Russian pearl embroidery, an almost-lost ancient technique. How do you approach the delicate balance between preserving traditional methods and incorporating contemporary interpretations in your embroidery art?

Preserving the method of embroidery is a way to answer the question of "how" it is done. Although the basic technique remains the same, which involves stitching (or better to say "sitting") a bead to a cord, I have been exploring different materials, shapes, and colours for both the beads and cords. These experiments have allowed me to view the technique from various angles and discover new ways to apply the knowledge I have gained. It is important to remember that this technique is merely another tool in my arsenal. In other words, while I have added something unique to my toolkit, the concept of artwork remains my primary focus.

Your artist statement emphasizes the idea of performing magic through embroidery, manipulating threads, beads, and other materials to create complex and creative results. How do you translate emotions and various contexts into tangible artistic expressions in your work?

When you attend a magic show, you know that it is all about manipulation, but you can't help but wonder: HOW? I've often been asked the same question with a similar expression when it comes to my artwork. The process behind it involves mixing various materials that I feel inspired by at a given moment or for a specific project and improvising with techniques that help me solve the creative task at hand.

You mentioned that your embroidery aims to evoke emotions, ranging from curiosity to happiness, in the audience. How do you use specific embroidery techniques and visual elements to elicit such responses from viewers?

I believe that creating three-dimensional pieces is one of the best ways to captivate the audience. I prefer working with three-dimensional embroidery rather than two-dimensional. However, I do not treat my works as sculptures. Instead, I focus on creating wall art that can be perceived as a gateway to elsewhere.

The exploration of heritage and socio-cultural context is an essential aspect of your research and creative process. Can you share an example of how a specific cultural or historical influence has inspired one of your embroidery pieces?

Let's explore the context of the Tropical Garden series. In general, this project draws inspiration from the dynamic interplay between urban environments and the natural world in Asia. One vivid memory I have of Singapore (or Bangkok) is the presence of small pockets of nature, such as potted flowers or trees adorned with orchids, amidst the bustling urban jungle. Each piece in the series showcases my exploration of the pearl embroidery technique, which holds cultural and historical significance. The colour palette, featuring "Lady Slipper Blue and White", represents the canon Russian pearl embroidery technique and symbolizes the connection to my homeland with the deliberate absence of red.

Your work involves investigating cultural, historical, environmental, social, and political contexts. How do you infuse these diverse elements into your embroidery art, and how do they contribute to the overall storytelling aspect of your work?

Speaking about concept development, I have spent a significant amount of time contemplating how to incorporate multiple layers of context into my project. Rather than aiming to directly represent each individual notion, I view it as a collection of diverse stories that I can narrate.

As an embroidery artist, how do you approach the challenge of balancing technical precision and artistic expression in your craft, especially when experimenting with different techniques?

It is indeed a challenge! That's why I cannot call myself a minimalist. I see two different approaches to tackling this challenge. First, I don't limit myself at all and choose topics that can encompass a lot. For instance, my series "Tropical Garden" is filled with various techniques. In fact, I aimed to incorporate completely different techniques in each panel. Second, style and colour serve as perfect constraints! Personally, I lean towards colour. A limited colour palette always aids in balancing the concept and artistic skills.

Your belief that embroidery benefits both the creator and the audience by sharing artistry and personality is intriguing. How do you ensure your personality and unique perspective shine through in your embroidered creations?

I can put it this way: Usually, it takes me up to a month to develop a single artwork. During this process, I invest a significant amount of time and personal energy into producing the piece. My goal is to evoke positivity through my art, so I strive to maintain a calm and positive atmosphere while working. Additionally, I feel a sense of happiness while creating, and I am confident that the audience can feel these positive vibes. As for my unique perspective, I hope that some will read the concept in the description or ask questions on social media. However, if not, it is perfectly fine. I encourage my audience to create their own stories about my artworks.

Your embroidery is described as a personal artistic outcome that reflects your way of seeing and interpreting the world. How do you continuously develop and refine your artistic voice to ensure your work remains authentically yours?

As an artist, I express my ideas through visual and often symbolic forms. My artwork carries a message that reflects either current social issues, my personal memories and experiences, or both. I value the idea of mixing various materials and techniques. Equally, I believe it's important to critically evaluate the agenda or theme I want to explore and incorporate it with other elements. Furthermore, I believe that an artist should have a keen observation of the world around them, constantly seeking new and unexpected connections between things. This practice not only helps in developing artistic skills but also ensures authenticity in one's artistic voice.


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