In this conversation for Vanity Teen, the artist opened her heart and gave us a gaze into some of her most personal reflections about her life, work, and the ways she has been transforming feelings into art.
VT: How was your journey to becoming an artist?
KM: At the age of 15, I was given a paint for ceramics on vases and saucers; they, of course, did not find applications, but I really liked to mix a lot of shades and watch them frosting, how they turned into bizarre shapes.
I think, from that moment, I had a great desire to work with color, and later, this desire found itself in the embroidery.
A 2016 sewing course inspired me to create an embroidered tulle blouse, and the following year I took an embroidery course at Ecole Lesage School in Paris.
The most fulfilling collaboration I had with Gigi Hadid for another magazine. I expressed the theme of quarantine through a girl in a mask; she can be anyone, a doctor, a nurse, an artist, an ordinary passerby. In a pandemic, we are all equal. Each of us wears a mask and other personal protective equipment for global security.
VT: Embroidery is an ancestral technique; so, how do you feel when you see new generations loving this form of art?
KM: I think it’s wonderful!
It’s a relaxing form of art that makes you forget all the hardships, concentrate only on one little piece.
For me, it also gives a feeling that I control something. I started embroidering in the hardest period of my life, so I hope that lots of people will find healing in embroidery progress.
VT: How is your creative process, and how much time does it take you to finish a whole piece?
KM: I skip the sketching phase and start each new piece with contours before allowing improvisation, and the process itself dictates how the final design will look.
Now I got used to working with a color, so it takes 3-4 days to create hand/ eye study and 2-3 weeks for portrait studies.
As embroidery isn’t about fast results, I usually work, at the same time, on 2-3 pieces, so I do not get tired of one piece.
I think that creativity is something symbiotic, with which you are born, and it never leaves you. You just see the world in this special creative way, and it also has an impact on everything you do. It excites me!
United by the desire to focus on a one little embroidery
VT: How do you consider you represent your roots and origins in your art?
KM: I was born in Moscow, Russia, but at the age of 15, my grandparents took me to Ukraine.
I was behaved in the Kharkiv region, in a cozy little town where no one is in a hurry; it’s a safe and calming place.
So this atmosphere of freedom and peace found representation in my works: free stitches, bright colors, transparent work.
I still visit my grandpa, and the sky at night is full of stars when they are unseen in Moscow. So it inspired me to create a set of works: Selenelion, which reminds me of my hometown, the sky, and the stars.
VT: We know you also offer online courses for those interested in learning embroidery. What is the most precious about these experiences with learners from all over the world?
KM: I know that embroidery helps many people to become much more emotionally stable. So, no matter from which place of the world the students are, lots of them are united by the desire to focus on one little embroidery piece, not on their crisis.
So I think it’s the most precious that people from all over the world can learn not only something new but also be healed by its progress as well.
VT: Do you consider formal education helped you become a better artist?
KM: I graduated from Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation; the specialty is project manager.
I had the amazing opportunity to observe the development progress of my group mates.
I’ve seen how an idea turned into a complete result, and for me, there was no greater inspiration.
From my childhood, I had a feeling that I would create something special, so this inspiring environment helped me a lot for sure.
I had the experience of studying Luneville embroidery at Ecole Lesage school in Paris in the summer of 2017. From that time, I used to decorate my work with Luneville embroidery.
That school is the only one where I studied embroidery, and everything I did before was intuitive.
I like when there is a moment of improvisation in my work.
Transforming feelings into art
VT: How do you take care of yourself and preserve mental health?
KM: Embroidery is the best way of meditation for me. When I see the result of my works, there is no better healing for me.
I also try to surround myself with people that understand and support me. Then I feel myself in safety, doing my favorite things, near the people I know I can trust.
VT: What are your plans for the future?
KM: I dream about creating non-standard wedding dresses with 3-dimensional embroidery, various models, and styles. I would also like to continue to combine drawing and embroidery, not only in paintings but also in products, to make multilayer compositions that would harmoniously blend.
VT: Which words would you like to share with those who may be finding out they can use art to express themselves?
KM: Stop criticizing yourself.
Be kind to yourself, your first steps will not be perfect, and they really shouldn’t.
In the world, there are a lot of disappointments, and embroidery should be just a joyful and fun progress, not something that will hurt you.
VT: Anything else you would like to share with Vanity Teen?
KM: Four years ago, I had a very difficult time in my life. I needed to turn my attention to anything, and this something became such a meditative process as embroidery.
I want other people to know that any sort kind of meditative activity can be a treatment.
After four years, it also helps me transform my feelings into small, bright, colorful art objects that make my life better and make others feel something.
Best wishes and joy!
Before we go
Feelings have no nationality, and Katerina Marchenko knows that for sure. In embroidery, she has found a way to canalize her emotions and connect with others in the world.
Her patience, persistence, talent, and kind heart have made her a current reference in embroidery as she has inspired lots of people to be part of this hand-crafted way of art.
We hope to keep seeing her thriving and inspiring others.
For more information about her work, you can follow her on social media @kathrin_marchenko.