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Natalya Aikens – A focus on architecture

Dormition Cupola by Natalya Aikens

Dormition Cupola by Natalya Aikens

I love architecture. It’s as simple as that. To me, city architecture reflects the mood, the personality, and the feeling of each city.  Every city has a recognizable signature no matter how many architects contributed to building it. For many years my art has been focused on my feelings about the architecture of St. Petersburg, Russia. These works are nostalgic in their content, as I am romanticizing the city that I was born in and miss so much. I use vintage linens with personal history, lace and crochet, and lots of intense hand stitching.

Lately I have begun exploring the architecture of NYC, my adopted city. The materials for these artworks have demanded to be different. I am repurposing plastic shopping bags and packing materials. The stitching, although still intense, is now machine embroidery and when hand stitched, the stitches are bolder and straighter.

Spring by Natalya Aikens

Spring by Natalya Aikens

I love composing work based on large city architecture, there is so much that inspires me. But frequently, especially as I hand stitch, I have been thinking of intimate buildings, smaller scale, and personal touches, in other words – home. A person’s home reflects and supports that person’s personality, much in the same way that a city has it’s own personality. I yearned to create highly individual works that would have special meaning to the owner of a home. So I experimented on a few of my friends.

The challenge to my friends was to collect a few things from their home that I could use in a home portrait. I left the decision of what to send me up to them with a few basic guidelines such as no large 3D objects, a selection of things I could stitch through, and a representation of what they have in their home. They could include things that were used and/or discarded, everyday or small meaningful mementos, but nothing too precious. They also provided me with photos of their homes and in one case I lived close enough to take photos myself.

Memphis by Natalya Aikens

Memphis by Natalya Aikens

I was amazed at how different the ephemera were from each friend and how it accurately reflected their styles. The friend that sent me her old mittens, could never have been the friend who gave me bits of her daughters lycra costumes, or the friend who gave me maps of local nature reserves. The ephemera provided the base of the home portrait and ensured that it would be uniquely theirs.

Now my job was to bring the collection of ephemera and the photo imagery into a cohesive whole. It needed to reflect the home, the owners personality and at the same time show the hand of the artist, me. I enjoyed the challenge of playing with the material: choosing which ones to use; arranging them in a myriad of different ways; layering them; figuring out which photos to use for the home image; how many images to use; how to collage the images in Photoshop; how to then stitch the image by machine; and the final step of how to hand stitch all the details that bring the whole together and make it the home’s portrait.

This new series has been gratifying to create. Each home portrait is completely different from the previous one. Each one has it’s own set of challenges which makes it new and exciting to me. I see no end to this series and am already enjoying the next challenge of the latest home portrait. To see the evolution of all the home portraits please visit my blog, or to acquire a portrait of your own home please click here.

NAikens-portraitNatalya’s art is architecturally inspired and delicately stitched. The core of it is deeply rooted in her Russian heritage and the architectural imagery of St. Petersburg and New York City. Natalya feels strongly about using recycled materials such as paper, plastics, and vintage fabrics. Computer photo manipulation, intense hand and machine stitching, and translucent effects are all her favorite techniques.
Marrying the disparate influences on Natalya’s art – heritage and recycling – is her greatest challenge and her greatest pleasure. It is what drives Natalya into her studio everyday. Her piece, The City, debuted at Quilt National 2013. See more of Natalya’s work on her blog and website.

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