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Hanecdote: rebranding embroidery one stitch at a time

21 Jul 2017

Finding out about the art of Hannah Hill, also known as Hanecdote, through a friend (cheers, Dan) earlier this year, and following her on Instagram has probably got to be one of the most refreshing things I’ve done this year. You’ve probably seen her work, one piece in particular, which went viral during the Arthur meme craze back in 2016, but I never thought to dig deeper and find the maverick behind the stitched madness.

Her Instagram is a collation of her life, from the personal to the professional. Body-positive pictures sit beside images of her work, detailing the emotions, the feelings, the struggles of being a woman of colour. Her art is akin to a breath of fresh air, openly exploring issues that so often have a barrier surrounding them, such as mental health and sexual pleasure. It has been a joy and a privilege watching the progression of Hannah’s work because of its profound craftsmanship and the depth of the message being portrayed, offering images of everyday aspects of our lives in a unique and stereotypically underestimated manner.

In my eyes she’s a woman on a number of missions and using needle and thread to address the injustices face by virtue of being a woman of colour. I managed to catch up with her to shed light on her insightful talent:

gal-dem: What got you into embroidering initially? How long have you been doing it for?
Hannah: I started embroidery at college when I was 17. I did an Art and Design BTEC, where we were introduced to many mediums and techniques over the two year course. Embroidery was a new way of mark making that I instantly enjoyed more than painting or drawing.

What is it about embroidering that attracted you, as opposed to other forms of art?
I never really had confidence with other mediums and when I found embroidery I think it just made sense to me. My mum is creative and has always sewn and knitted, and my ancestry, being from India, has strong connections with textiles. The more I learned about feminism, and the exclusion of textiles from the art world due to sexism and classism, the more I felt like embroidery was an amazing tool for communicating socio-political messages throughout my artistic practice.

How has embroidering helped you? Has it been a form of therapy?
It can be really meditative and relaxing to focus on something which does take a lot of time, especially compared to the fast pace of technology and social media. For me, the process of hand embroidery is really important, when I’ve finished a piece and can look back and appreciate every single stitch I’ve made with my own hands.

What do you hope to bring/showcase through your embroidery? As you embroider things that many women can relate to!
Pretty much all of my work is autobiographical, so I’m just making art about what I experience or see in the world. Sometimes that’s period related, sometimes that’s Grime related. The subject matter is vast but all connected through me. It’s a bonus that so many different people can relate to my embroidery.

What do you see in the future for you and your art?
I wanna shake up the art world and demand that it be more inclusive. I hope to continue doing that through visual art and using my platform to highlight talent which has historically been ignored. I would love to have my own art/community space one day, encouraging and supporting the creativity of young people of colour. I truly believe art is for everyone, and I want to commit my life to making sure people believe and live that truth.

More than just respecting Hannah as an artist, her dedication to this medium and to helping other people and their creativity only emboldens my admiration for her. Since the last time we spoke, Hannah and her work has continued to spread out and impact more people. Her final year degree show saw her take home two awards, commending her on her outstanding pieces. She has been on BBC’s Women’s Hour, and her work was just exhibited at the Hand and Lock Exhibition House, honouring 250 years of embroidery.

Her talent is undeniable. What her art represents is powerful. She is unstoppable. All hail Hannah Hill.