The return of craftsmanship as a value of contemporary luxury is one of the reasons why embroidery has been taking control and becoming the protagonist of all kinds of garments and accessories over several seasons. In Magazine Horse, we talked about this trend for 2016, in an article where we discovered the talent of the South African designer Danielle Clough, known artistically as Fiance Knowles.
A few months later, we had the opportunity to see personally Danielle Clough’s work in her Cape Town studio, and to chat with about her career, concerns and plans for the future.
The originality of Clough’s work lies in her particular use of color and the supports on which she works, among which stand out her recognized badminton, squash and tennis rackets.
HORSE: How long does it take to embroider flowers on a racket?
DANIELLE CLOUGH: From two days to a week or a week and a half. Because it is a laborious job. I paint or draw before and then I transfer the line of work in the racket, I fill the base and I make the details.
HORSE: Why flowers?
DANIELLE CLOUGH: I think flowers have a kind of intelligence in color and give you tips; you can get a lot of depth and colors with them. And they go beyond age or time, in the sense that you can see someone with tattoos of big roses and a grandmother with a bouquet of the same roses. It is both an accessible and imaginative process. According to my mood, I choose a base color and a flower. I like poppies, lilies and proteas, which are the national flowers of South Africa.
This versatility has made several renowned companies such as Gucci, Vans, Adobe or even the United Nations to establish collaborations with the photographer and visual jockey DJ, customizing different types of projects.
HORSE: You recently collaborated with the Mexican artist David Madero. How did this project come about and what impact has it had on your work?
DANIELLE CLOUGH: It was an assignment from Adobe Photoshop to make a collaboration with this metal artist. It turned out to be an incredible challenge and the most exciting project I have ever done. David made the scorpion in Mexico, sent it to me and I took care of embroidering faces of people and animals in the pincers. We never met, just by Skype.
HORSE: Has Adobe made more collaborations with artists?
Danielle Clough: Yes, it is a new program; we have been the third pair in this initiative. I don’t know if they will do more projects, but they had a mosaic artist and a sign painter doing a piece that was an ode to Lemmy. There was also an illustrator and a pastry maker, he illustrated a mermaid and she transformed it into a cake.
HORSE: More and more companies are collaborating with artists.
DANIELLE CLOUGH: I think what is happening is that brands have realized that conventional advertising no longer works and that they need to invest in a story created by real people to see that it is authentic. I personally feel more interested in a brand that invests in creativity in an honest way.
“Brands have realized that the
conventional advertising no longer works
andthat they need to invest in a story”
HORSE: Do you usually do commissioned works?
DANIELLE CLOUGH: There are times when I do and other times I don’t take on commissions. Either because I have jobs on, or because it’s important for me to have free time to experiment and progress.
HORSE: How and when did you begin to experiment in this artistic line of embroidery?
DANIELLE CLOUGH: When I was very young, I wanted to do Fashion Design, but then I put it aside and started studying Art Direction and Graphic Design at in an advertising school. While studying, I made plush toys for friends, in order to get some extra money. I would stitch on the details of the toys, and those details started to gradually evolve to what I realize now were embroideries.
Initially I called them thread sketches, and had invented something, but quickly discovered it has been around for centuries.
HORSE: Can you name an artist who has influenced you and inspired you in your work?
DANIELLE CLOUGH: I find more inspiration in painters than in embroidery artists. People like Casey Weldon; I really like his use of color and textures.
There are other artists like Olive Keck, Lorraine Loots and Michelle Kingdom. Its not just the incredible work they create, but the kindness in which they do it.
But I am not very reasearched on art history, and I try to avoid looking at other people work too much. I consider myself more a craftswoman than an artist, I think art is more conceptual, where I like to just ‘make’.
“It’s important for me to have free time to experiment”
HORSE: In which projects are you working now?
DANIELLE CLOUGH: DANIELLE CLOUGH: I’m working on completeing some commissions, and working on a shop update (www.danielleclough.com/shop). There are a few collaborations in the works and I am connecting with a New York gallery (Castle Fitjohns Gallery). Mainly now I focusing on creating space to experiment and expand my skills.
Most of my clients are foreigners and I would like to do more collaborations with South African companies.I think the South African market is very interesting and supports me emotionally. It makes me happy to work here.
HORSE: When do you plan to launch the online sale on your website?
DANIELLE CLOUGH: As soon as I have enough works together.
HORSE: In what type of products do you want to focus your online shop?
DANIELLE CLOUGH: The things that end up in the shop are the ones I create for myself; in that space where I feel free to experiment and play. These are images or people that I just want to create and after I make them I put them towards the next shop update and hope someone else likes them too. I like to create things I want to do for some reason, based on what inspires me independently: small paintings, big things, prints, books, magazines, portraits… That’s why it’s a mix of everything and I don’t focus on just one thing. I like to stay flexible.
HORSE: Have you participated in the CAPE TOWN ART FAIR that was held from 17th to 19th February in Cape Town?
DANIELLE CLOUGH: No, because I’m not interested in the art world, I don’t understand it or the way it works. It is something that intimidates me, that is not on my list and that does not obsess me. I am in my studio doing things. I am into craftwork.
HORSE: Favorite color, movie, book and trip?
My favorite color is a combination of colors, a mixture of bubble-gum pink and forest green.
My favorite book is The book of human emotions by Tiffany Watt Smith, I think it’s really fascinating.
My favorite movie is Pain and Gain by Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson. I do not know why but I love it.
The place I’ve travelled that I liked the most was Australia. I would like to go to Taipei, it’s on my list.
The story of Danielle Clough is about a craftswoman who turned her hobby into a profession, thanks to a boom and a sudden fascination for a technique with so many years of antiquity as embroidery. Fashion and brands have seen in the style of Danielle a peculiar and special way of connecting with the public, and for that reason surprises us with very interesting collaborations.
Although, as she says, for a creative person is very important to have a free space to experiment and to know how to say no sometimes to commissioned projects that don’t provide anything new, despite of the importance of the brands.
Danielle Clough is a part of the rebellious group of artists we follow and support in Magazine Horse, for her non-conformism when creating works that join tradition and innovation and that stand out for the creative and different designs.
Translated by Raquel Sanchez