Bold knitwear is what we do. So when given the chance to collaborate with Ciara LeRoy, the artist behind Pretty Strange Design, we jumped at the opportunity! Ciara’s bold embroidery takes a needle and thread to today’s most important issues. Through hand stitched lettering, Ciara speaks on subjects including the Black Lives Matter movement, body positivity, women’s empowerment and breast cancer awareness. While Ciara is best known for her embroidery, she also creates gorgeous typographic prints, pen and ink drawings, paintings and more. Be sure to check out her online shop. Read our Q&A below to learn more about Ciara and her unique approach to embroidered art.
The Endery: Tell us about yourself.
Ciara LeRoy: I’m Ciara also known as, “Pretty Strange.” I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, but also spend a lot of time in Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky. I’m an independent artist specializing in hand lettering, illustration, and hand embroidery. The goal of my work is to inject imagination and justice into everyday life.
TE: Tell us something interesting about yourself that most people don’t know.
CL: I briefly worked in the home decor department at Martha Stewart Living, and Martha herself signed her latest cookbook for me on my last day there.
TE: How did you learn to embroider and what made you pursue embroidery as your craft?
CL: I grew up doing fiber art crafts in my grandmother’s kitchen after school and during the summer months. More recently, a close friend and fellow artist taught me modern embroidery techniques and I started using that medium to form letters and messages in my artwork.
TE: One of the things that drew us to your work is your focus on lettering, as opposed to florals and other more common embroidery elements. How did text become the focus of your designs?
CL: Words are a huge part of my life — I like to read them, hear them, and express them to people I love. I formally studied writing and publishing at college, but even before that, reading and writing has been a safe space for me to be completely myself and imagine a judgement-free existence. I use text in my work to send messages of self-love, justice, compassion – and frustration.
TE: How do you deal with your ‘ends’ – the leftovers when you’re done with your work?
CL: I have several small scrap bins in my studio for various fabrics and papers. I use scrap paper to make colorful shipping labels, and random art pieces. I use scrap fabrics as stuffing for other three-dimensional pieces. Recently, I turned a bunch of my scrap thread into a wacky face mask!
TE: Why do you believe craft is important in today’s society?
CL: Craft is contemplative, meditative, and encourages deeper connection to others.
TE: And finally, what can you recommend to anyone who is new to embroidery?
CL: Be patient. Embrace slowness and thoughtfulness. Don’t be afraid to rip out stitches and start again. Much like human beings, what is underneath or behind your embroidery isn’t always pretty, but it is part of the process of creating something beautiful.