Stitching Tribe and Culture: The Digital Embroidery of Laura Marriott

What do you do?

I’m an embroiderer and I like to push embroidery, so it’s not a simple stitch on fabric. I like the fabric to fall into a more sculptural realm; something that it wouldn’t be if the embroidery wasn’t there.

How does digital embroidery work?

I make my designs using computer software called Wilcom on my laptop, once I have played around with all the stitches and drawn them all I save them on a USB stick and that goes into digital sowing machine which stitches it out. The key with my work is that I work back into it afterwards, so it’s a combination of digital and traditional stitching.

So you work on the design and the layering all digitally?

Normally I do my initial designs on paper; I take my various drawings and pull them together to make a design and then pull them apart in the software. You can really pull and layer the stitches and play with your colours.


Do you call yourself an artist or an embroiderer?

I don’t know yet; I only just graduated so I am deciding between embroidery artist, or designer, I am freelancing in a bit of both at the moment. I translate designs which people have made, doing fashion design for them and their companies. Sometimes I am making art pieces, and then sometimes I am making jewellery; so it’s a big range at the moment until I see where I fit best and become more specialised.

At the moment I am trying lots of things and any money that I earn goes straight back into paying for another table, gallery space, materials or thread. I don’t take anything yet, I just try everything that I can: pop-up shops, galleries, art fairs, anyone that will have me!

When did you first realise your passion for creating things?

When I was little I always used to do crafts with my mum on holidays for entertainment. We’d go to B&Q and get all the colour chips, cut them up and make mosaics, so I was always doing creative things early on. I went to a design and technology school so I had to choose between one of the technologies so chose textiles and loved it. This continued all through school and into university and then I didn’t stop.

Tell us about your subject matter.


Each design has come from different places, the original idea of my project was from backpacking trips in Africa. I wanted to portray not just the things I saw, but the attitudes in the villages and the towns. I wanted to go to South/Central America as well, so I was bringing in the Mayan colours and South American festivities. The imagery comes from everywhere.

One of my original faces comes from a piece of street art in Dublin. Another face, which has developed a lot so looks very different now, comes from a stone carving in Durham by the river. All the faces come from different places, but also a lot them come from the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. I enjoyed learning about the history of the archaeological objects, drawing from them and taking inspiration from them all.

Explain the more organic side of the images.

I was doing my last project at university and I realised that I couldn’t draw a flower. If I was going to be a textile designer, I should probably learn to draw one, so I went to a botanical garden to draw from them and they became incorporated in my designs.

The beetles and animal motifs that are in some of them were to take things away from pure tribally inspired designs.

Where do you take your inspiration from?

I get my inspiration from historic art and things that I have found and seen. There are some textile artists which make me think ‘wow,’ when I see the work of the embroiderers Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn, they use really vibrant colours and interesting techniques with more domestic machines.


Where do you hope to take your practice in the future?

I’m seeing how it goes at the moment, I’ve done quite a few big fairs and a few little ones. I am preferring the art route where I get to be more experimental than with the jewellery, but then I can only do that if my art sells. I may do more talks, workshops, and teaching to subsidise the art side of my work so that I can continue making my designs. 

Laura took place in Focus LDN's Winter Exhibition 2016 and more of her work can be found here on her website.