Open Exit (2017)
22 x 22 inches
Hand embroidery, cotton threads, stretched canvas on wood frame
Victoria Potrovitza was born and raised in Romania and studied architecture before becoming a fashion designer. She settled in California where she creates her colour filled geometric embroideries.
What is your background in art and textiles?
I was born in a family of scientists and a society that valued engineers over artists and felt I had limited choices in what career path I could choose. I settled for architecture as a middle ground between art and technology so I became on architect but my heart was not in it. I was fortunate that in my native county, Romania, from elementary to high school the curriculum included some embroidery and hand stitching techniques. This was my favourite class even though it was the least popular among my peers. Embroidery was a fundamental element of the Romanian cultural traditions but my generation was no longer interested in it.
My family had a rich and diverse collection of hand made and hand decorated clothes, pillows, tablecloths and rugs made by my grandmothers or inherited from their families, going back generations. Fascinated by the artistry of those works, I spend all my free time making my own stitching projects inspired by what was around me, in my house.
Once in college, I developed a taste for fashion, making my own clothes and knits. I hand dyed fabrics and wool yarn designing and executing shirts, dresses and accessories for myself, my family and friends. Soon, people started to notice their unique style and eventually I began to sell to specialty boutiques stores.
With each year I gained more experience and developed further as a fashion designer. Life took me places. We moved to Israel and then the USA and somehow, I managed to keep doing fashion. Twice a year, I participated in fashion shows during the New York fashion week, selling my wearable art line to specialty stores and art galleries around the country.
As a fashion designer, I made my own fabrics by hand dyeing and designing patterns using gutta resist techniques. Sometime, my fabrics were embellished by block printing, embroideries and hand beaded designs. After ten years, the pressure of running a fashion design business was too much for my introvert personality. In the fall of 2003 I completed the last orders for the stores carrying my clothing lines and decided to take a different path. I had a lot of doubts and it wasn’t an easy decision. After a lot of soul-searching, I remembered the enjoyment of hand stitching as an option to continue my work in textile arts. It felt right to return to hand embroidery.
How do you describe your embroideries?
In the beginning my embroideries were simple interpretations of Romanian folk art. But soon, the geometry of my architectural background start mixing in. The compositions become abstract, geometric, modern art works made with needle and thread on canvas. Shapes were there to be filled with colours, as my art was foremost the work of a colourist and compositions followed.
Where are you based and where do you work? eg. in a home studio
I live and work in Lancaster, California. For the last 28 years this desert town located north of Los Angeles is my hometown. In contrast to my fashion years when my work space extended over the entire lower level of a large Californian home, my embroidery workplace is a fraction of my living room in my new small house that we moved in after my kids left and started their own family. I use very little room for my boxes of threads that I organise by colours. Two small cabinets are more than enough for all my supplies. A comfortable chair and good lighting is all I need. My spouse assembles the wood frames on which I stretch canvas.
How do you work?
I no longer use a sketch book. I start drawing geometric shapes which eventually I connect. When I begin I don’t know how the finish work will look. I fill some shapes with colour threads until I feel that the composition is balanced. Sometimes, I cover space in different ways than originally sketched sewing on top of lines so it will look totally different form the point I started. The work takes a long time. The repetitive stitching movements allows my mind to imagine new shapes and colour combinations different form the initial lines that I laid with a disappearing ink pen on the canvas. A finished work is a source of inspiration for the next variations of similar designs that leads to coherent collections.
What type of thread do you use and why?
I use mostly DMC cotton threads. I remember these threads from the time of my childhood when I was learning how to stitch on scraps of fabrics. I always enjoyed the colour palette and shine of these multiple strands threads. The fact that the coloured threads can be combined and overlaid to create shades and the illusion of volume keeps me a loyal user. The colour of these threads will last for many years and not fade. The DMC threads are widely available and reasonable priced. Sometimes, I use DMC metallic or satin threads too.
Do you use the same stitch each time or vary it?
I use straight stitches laid at various angles in a similar fashion as creating shades in a pencil drawing. In the beginning, the entire canvas was filled with layers of threads to create vibrant colours, shades and the illusion of depth. In my latest works, I used densely laid stitches to fill small geometric details connected by lines but there are empty spaces between the groups of shapes to balance the compositions. Overtime, I transitioned from relatively muted colours to vivid and bright colours using a rich pallet in the same work.
What influences your work?
Every image I see is mixed in unconscious abstract representations. The only choice I make is colour. In time, my designs evolve resembling hard edge paintings. In a way, every work I make is inspiring the next one.
My biggest inspiration are the works of quilters from Gee’s Bend and their story. This is a small and isolated community in Alabama where a group of woman descendants of slaves that worked on the plantation, came together to create the most amazing quilts. Their work is compared to masterpieces of twenties-century abstract art. Now they are displayed in prestigious museums and are admired by millions of visitors. Their story gave me confidence and courage to pursue my artistic path.
Being a textile artist can be difficult, do you have any tips or advice for others who are keen to become professional?
I can give advice from my own experience, only. The challenge, in the beginning was the feeling of isolation. Later, through social media, I discovered other textile and embroidery artists and that made me feel validated. Don’t get discouraged by digital art that is so trendy these days. Build a voice and seek others textile artist. Get connected through all possible avenues, local and international groups. Only a strong community of textile artists can support your endeavours in the competitive art market. Believe that textile art is a legitimate art.
Two of Victoria’s works will be featured in the Fiber Artists of San Antonio (FASA) 43rd Annual Juried Fiber Art Exhibit organized at The Semmes Art Gallery and The Student Gallery at University of the Incarnate World, Kelso Art Center, San Antonio, Texas. October 13th – November 17th, 2017.
“Victoria Potrovitza Textile Art”