Interview: Teresa Lim
Teresa graduated from Lasalle College of the Arts with a First Class Ba Honours in Fashion Design and Textiles. Her personal design philosophy is to fuse three of her interests together: Illustrations, Embroidery and Surface pattern design. Her designs seek to blur the lines and boundaries between being an illustrator and a textile designer. She gets inspired by themes revolving around gender and womanhood.
She has showcased her works in exhibitions in Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Japan.To date she has also worked with international clients such as H&M, Swarovski, Gucci, Coach and Olympus to name a few. She absolutely loves reading and catching up on tv shows on netflix.
You have such a distinctive style working with embroidery. What inspired you to begin using embroidery in your artistic practice?
I majored in textile design when I was in university. We had to go through a short course in basic embroidery, and that was the start of my embroidery journey. I started by working on samplers that were part of the course work, but I got so addicted to the process that I found myself hoping the course would never end!
How does your background in textile and fashion design influence your current creative process?
Because of my background and training in textile and fashion design, I am always thinking of application onto women’s (I majored in womenswear) bodies. Being exposed to this made me think more frequently about the female body and how we view it in society. This, in turn, also led me to ponder a lot more on gender issues, body issues, stereotypes and archetypes of women. At the end of my degree, I found myself being not so interested in the superficiality of design but in using it as a medium to highlight issues and tell stories.
In your series The Twelve Rooms, young girls appear unsure as they go through the pains of growing up. What struggles are these subjects, along with the girls in Sad Girls Club, going through?
I started The Twelve Rooms series after listening to a conversation amongst some young girls (about 10-14 years old). They were battering themselves for being too fat, when they were far from it. I wondered where they were getting their ideas for the perfect body image… and the ideas mostly came from social media and magazines.
I remember from my own experience growing up, I accepted whatever society and the media threw at me, and I was mostly unhappy. I grew up thinking that I was the only one with these feelings, and I wished for someone real to tell me that I wasn't alone. The Twelve Rooms is my response to that. It is grown-up me telling the young me in the past that I'm not alone. It is the me now, using illustration and art as a form to tell any young person who might be feeling the same way, that they're not alone. Some struggles these subjects depict are bullying, problems with body image, feeling like they don't fit in, and conforming to gender expectations and stereotypes.
Can you talk a little about your choice on using such a traditional and historically feminine medium to create works that defy the rules of femininity?
I honestly feel that things shouldn't have gender. In fact, all of these "gender tags" we give to activities, colors and things, are all imagined and shaped by years and years of history and people in the past. So, imagine my curiosity when one of the most common comments people gave when I started embroidering was "Oh, you'd make a good housewife!" My choice of this medium is mainly a tool of rebellion against the common view of what femininity is or what it shouldn't be.
Your series Pistil Thoughts exudes an honest sense of vulnerability, as each embroidery piece is accompanied by a thought that challenges feminine ideals and expectations. Do these thoughts come from your own personal experience?
Yes. A lot of my work comes from personal experiences, also sometimes from people I personally know who are going through certain challenges and phases in life.
When did your series Sew Wanderlust begin? How many different places in the world have you created through embroidery in this series?
Sew Wanderlust began because I was unhappy with the way I was traveling. I noticed that my travel experiences mostly consisted of taking lots of photos, eating lots of food and then moving on to the next place, repeatedly. At the end of the day, there wasn’t much element of traveling there to me. It felt very superficial and meaningless. I started Sew Wanderlust as a different way to experience my travels. When I sit at a place and stitch it, embroidery is my form of photograph. My eyes pick up so much more detail. My ears listen to people talking in their languages... it’s so much more meaningful to me than just a photograph that people snap and walk away. I think at this point I have more than 30 different places. :D