Arielle Salkin is the designer at The Materials Design Co. Her background is in embroidery design and she keeps her hands busy creating unique embroideries for The Materials Design Co. bags.
You’ve been asking me a lot about my embroidery process and background, and I wanted to take the opportunity to answer the questions you’ve asked! I launched a few Q&A sessions on Instagram and Facebook, and have collected and organized the questions into a few sections below.
I'll start with the #1 most popular question!
Q: Do you do your embroideries by hand? How long does it take to finish?
A: Yes, all of my embroideries are done completely by hand. I actually don’t know how to use an embroidery machine! I move pretty quickly, but when I am working in the Japanese sashiko (running stitch) style, most of the bag embroideries I’ve been doing take between 3-6 hours to complete.
Q: What inspires the geometry of your designs? Where do you look for inspiration?
A: I keep my eyes open for inspiration at all times! I love catching a glimpse of unique textures or interesting color combos and I usually try to take photos to remember them later (although I’m not as good about organizing and archiving these inspiration shots as I should be!)
I absolutely love architecture as inspiration and I love the shapes and patterns made by shadows on architectural features. I get a lot of texture inspiration from nature and sometimes just very close-up looks at things people would often overlook, like layers of torn signs or rust patterns on the side of a subway car. My threadwork embroideries often mimic these little moments of visual interest. I live in NYC which has some incredible museums available, and I go when I can! But having a baby at home doesn’t give me as much time to get out and spend time inspiration-searching. I’m grateful to be able to explore an endless amount of beautiful imagery online, particularly on Instagram and Pinterest.
Embroidery inspired by a trip to New Haven and the incredible architecture of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Q: How do you plan out your patterns? Do you use special tools for embroidery?
A: To embroider I use an embroidery hoop, and a needle and thread. I rarely mark my embroideries in advance with a pen or marking tool; although occasionally I’ll thread trace (outline with long stitches in a contrasting thread) an area to stay inside the lines if necessary. I do most of my placement by eye and since most of the TMDCo pieces are canvas I can see the woven threads of the fabric easily enough to make sure the stitches are lined up. I don't fuss over it too much- it's a handmade craft and doesn't need to be 100% perfect!
The new sashiko techniques I’m exploring now aren’t very planned out at all. Occasionally I’ll reference other sashiko work online to see what might be possible using running stitches, but I often just do the running stitch set-up and then enjoy designing the pattern free-hand as I stitch or weave back through.
Q: How long have you been doing embroidery professionally? Where did you learn?
A: I was introduced to embroidery as a career path about 5 years ago when I began to freelance as an embroidery designer for fashion designers in New York City. I mostly learned on the job (though I had experimented with embroidery from time to time during and after college) and was very lucky to have some great mentors in the industry. The majority of my embroidery techniques are self-taught, but I did participate in an artist residency in Oaxaca, Mexico for about a month where I studied Oaxacan embroidery threadwork techniques. I find embroidery very meditative and relaxing and like to keep my hands busy!
One of Arielle's embroideries based on Oaxacan woven embroidery techniques
Q: Which companies did you work for before launching TMDCo?
A: I worked as an embroidery designer through my own design studio for a number of fashion brands in all kinds of categories! I did everything embroidery-related from original concept design and development to embroidering runway looks (sometimes hours before a show!).
Some of the brands I’ve worked with to create designs and embroideries include J. Crew, Proenza Schouler, Tory Burch, Amsale, Tanya Taylor, Michael Kors, and Julianna Bass.
I also sold my original embroidery designs to companies including Victoria’s Secret, Boden, Adrianna Papell, The Gap, Dolce Vita, Frances Valentine, and Talbots. Large fashion companies like these will buy embroidered swatches and use those designs for their clothing and accessories, so occasionally I'd end up seeing those embroideries on designs in their stores!
I’ve worked on dresses that walked the red carpet at Met Gala, royal and presidential events, and international runway shows. My embroideries have been worn by celebrities and appeared in magazines as well. It's always exciting to see that a piece I embroidered or designed the embroidery for has been picked up by Vogue or Bazaar!
I love working on embroideries for my own pieces now. I enjoy being able to have a closer connection with the final buyer and knowing that TMDCo shoppers are enjoying my embroidery work!
Embroideries in process for TMDCo One of a Kind Studio