These Incredibly Detailed Embroideries Look Just Like Oil Paintings

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

When you think of embroidery, you might be imagining dainty little flowers and birds, all stitched lovingly on a piece of clothing or a wall hanging.

But there’s actually so much more this medium can achieve — just ask artist Cayce Zavaglia!

She was trained as a painter, but instead of using paints and brushes to create her complex, intimate portraits, she uses a needle and thread.

Her skill is incredible, even for us crafty types, and if you can’t sew a stitch, it’s even more amazing (but there are still plenty of projects out there for you, too).

Using what must be miles and miles of embroidery thread, she layers stitches to create portraits that are startlingly lifelike and brimming with emotion and personality.

These truly unique pieces of art show us that you don’t always have to use materials in the traditional way. Breaking out of the box can produce some amazing results!

(h/t: My Modern Met)

A photo posted by @caycezavagliastudio on

From a distance, you would never guess that Cayce's work is not, in fact, paint.

A photo posted by @caycezavagliastudio on

Instead, it's all cotton, silk, and wool embroidery thread — and a lot of patience!

A photo posted by @caycezavagliastudio on

A closer inspection, though, lets you see the layers of stitches.

A photo posted by @caycezavagliastudio on

"My stitching methodology borders on the obsessive," Cayce admits, "but ultimately allows me to visually evoke painterly renditions of flesh, hair, and cloth."

The "obsessive" layering also lets her create a three-dimensional effect through shadows and highlights.

A photo posted by @caycezavagliastudio on

Her pieces also hide a secret — another side! "A few years ago, I turned one of my embroideries over and for the first time, saw the possibilities of a new image and path for my work that had been with me in the studio for so long, but had gone unnoticed," she says.

A photo posted by @caycezavagliastudio on

She decided to incorporate that other side into her work, exploring the theme of the different "sides" of ourselves.

A photo posted by @caycezavagliastudio on

The choice has made for a startling way to look at her work. "Highlighting the reverse side of my embroideries, which...traditionally has been hidden from the viewer, has initiated a conversation about the divergence between our presented and private selves."

A photo posted by @caycezavagliastudio on

For Cayce, a person's less perfect side is just as important as the polished side. "As a Mom, I'm trying to help my kids turn their attention to this 'other side' that is developing in them," she explains, "so it has the potential to be as beautiful as the front."

Watch Cayce in action, and see what goes into creating one of these pieces of unique art:

You can see more of Cayce’s beautiful work on her website, as well as on Twitter and Instagram. And be sure to impress your sewing friends by SHARING her art with them.