Lyon-based Patricia Larocque (AKA ffembroidery) has devised an artistic practice that merges illustration with textiles. Her distinctive drawings – a blend of comic-strip graphics and offbeat iconography – feature on her signature, highly detailed embroidered patches, rendered in an acid-bright colour palette and the characteristic bobbled texture of the French knot technique.
As Patricia describes her work: “ffembroidery is a collection of one-of-a-kind hand embroidered art, objects and bags. The designs tend to stem from my overactive imagination that braids in imagery from horror films and the stranger-than-fiction stories of reality TV.” Her training in art and embroidery techniques comes solely from self-initiated experimentation and practice. She says: “I took a semester at university and it wasn’t for me, I have a hard time focusing and had anxiety around big groups. Other than that I am completely self-taught. Just years and years, hours and hours, of stitching and creating.”
Having spent much of her free time drawing, Patricia began to embroider her designs when she moved from Canada to Berlin in 2011. Speaking of how ffembroidery evolved, she tells us: “These projects initially started as gifts for friends and they quickly turned into a gratifying hobby in-between work. I opened up a Tumblr account (as you do) and after receiving an overwhelming response to my work (and also stockpiling a bunch of bags), I decided to open up an online store in 2014.”
Patricia sources her ideas and imagery from a wide range of cultural references – even the name, ‘ffembroidery’, has passed through a variety of interdisciplinary iterations before being applied to her current practice. As she states: “I first heard ‘famous friends’ in a movie and immediately thought it would be the perfect name for my future high school electro-duo band. After learning the whole musician scene would take a bit more talent then I was willing to give, I kept the name in my mind vault for years. The band was never started but when it came time to pick a name for this solo project, I figured ‘famous friends’ was too good not to use. So, ffembroidery stuck.”
The horror movie, sci-fi and esoteric imagery – fire-breathing snakes, expressive faces, aliens and manicured hand symbols – that makes up the body of Patricia’s embroidery work is the product, she tells us, of “my crippling existential dread and a touch of anxiety thrown in for good measure. Really the inspiration happens in my everyday life – boring I know. I try to get out of the house first thing in the morning and I’ll see a colour combo I like and and an idea will pop into my head.” She says: “It has a lot to do with my moods; I’ll go weeks without feeling very creative and some days it just hits me and I’ll be stitching all day, so it’s very unpredictable.”
Translating her images into embroidery demands a painstaking process of making. Talking us through it, Patricia says: “Each piece begins with a drawing, I’m a huge fan of Posca so I mainly draw with those. I then transfer the drawing to felt and begin stitching. The stitch I prefer is called a French knot – very time-consuming but it has the most amazing texture. Every piece that I create has to have some sort of texture. The embroidery can take anywhere from 10-15+ hours. I kind of stopped timing myself; it’s too stressful and I’d rather just stitch and enjoy my time.” It certainly requires a lot of time, concentration and meticulous attention to detail, but Patricia prefers to focus on the therapeutic payback she gets from her creative process: “It’s a form of meditation to me, my therapy really. It’s very calming. I have a lot of patience for it.”
Although Patricia’s key pieces are her embroidered patches, she works with other textile techniques like screen printing to produce multiple copies of her designs and transfer them onto tote bags. As her practice picks up pace, she has also begun experimenting with techniques that allow her to create more quickly and in a more expansive format. She says: “I work primarily in embroidery, but I have started to use a punch needle which gives a similar effect to the French knot on a much larger scale, and it is very quick. I have also recently started cutting and stitching together felt to create bigger wall hangings. I’m loving the speed in which I can finish a piece, which is a very welcome change to the hours and hours it takes to complete an embroidered piece.”
Even as she delves into more time-effective methods, Patricia remains focused on honing the artistry and skill that makes her work so remarkable and delivers the singular quality of each one-of-a-kind piece. She tells us that: “Ultimately my goal for ffembroidery is to create high-quality products and personal custom accessories that are handmade with the highest attention to detail and craftsmanship. Every day I am constantly learning and improving my skills, and I have big plans for the future of ffembroidery.”