Embroidered portraits as paintings by Cayce Zavaglia

Published on March 14, 2013

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She still considers herself 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, she was unable to mix the colors by hand. Progressively, 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.


Her work unabashedly nods its head to the tradition of tapestry and her own 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”.

Cayce Zavaglia


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