Shaun Kardinal’s embroidered vintage postcards

Shaun is a Seattle-based artist, born in 1982 in Tracy, California, who likes to create, curate and follow visual art online from websites such as Tumblr.

I was amazed when I first saw his postcards, but while doing some research about the artist, I discovered that Shaun isn’t just good at embroidering old pictures, he’s also a video-producer, a photographer, a sculptor and a musician… Is there anything this man doesn’t do?! (I’m sure he’s good at cooking too). And you know what? I’ve read somewhere that Shaun is self-taught. You can’t say this guy isn’t talented.

Shaun used to do lot of collages before starting embroidery. He would exchange small pieces with his friends by post. Once, a friend of his sent him a hand-painted and stitched collage. As a reply, Shaun cut some postcards and stitched them together to make an abstract landscape. He loved the result and hasn’t stopped embroidering since.

This multidisciplinary artist’s favourite hobby is to wander around second-hand shops in search of inspiration. This is where he gets his raw material from: vintage postcards, mostly of buildings and natural landscapes.

Enough talk, let’s have a look at Shaun’s embroidered postcards:

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As you can see, these combinations of photography and embroidery are the result of a very neat and meticulous process. Not only does Shaun use thread to draw geometric figures on postcards, but he is also extremely carefully with the thread he uses. The artist selects the thread colours according to the postcard’s colour-palette. This combination of colours highlights the landscape and creates beautiful connections between the thread and the picture.

I particularly love this piece, which looks like the threads and the rocks are in symbiosis, it’s incredible!

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If you’re trying to make some sense from the geometric patterns Shaun threads, I should stop you right there. According to the artist, it’s the aesthetic that takes precedence in his work, there’s no metaphysical implication whatsoever. Moreover, his patterns seem to get more minimalist in design, which is just another reason why I enjoy it.

Look at these pieces. Why should we try to find a reason behind beauty?

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Kardinal’s embroidery is sophisticated and takes all forms: going from a very intricate rosette to a simple but still very delicate plain circle, passing through all kinds of geometric shapes like stars, triangles, diamonds, etc.

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I also love his pieces because Shaun isn’t just threading postcards, he’s going further than that, whether he wants to or not. In my opinion, Shaun is questioning mathematics. Why do I say that? It’s simple, have you ever tried to make a circle out of straight lines?

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When I look at the piece above, I can’t help thinking of the great kinetic artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, who is redefining the concept of colour destroying the form. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, you need to have a look at this video (starting from 2m10.) What Carlos Cruz-Diez and Shaun Kardinal have in common is they are both interested in colour and forms. Both of them destroy the pre-established form, converting it into patterns and generating colours; superimposing one colour onto another. Maybe that’s something to think about: Should we destroy something in order to create something new?

/ INTERVIEW /

– How long have you embroidered postcards for ?

S: In 2009 I began making little dreamscapes with embroidered, collaged postcards. These were pretty rough beginnings as I learned to find my own style and process. In 2010 the pieces slowly withdrew from the altered-landscapes and more into the geometric style I would eventually embrace in so much of the work; the last thing I made that year was really the first embroiderd postcard that would lead to all the others.

– I’ve seen you’re a bargain-hunt specialist, what do you collect apart from postcards? What was the last find you made?

S: Any paper ephemera with beautiful imagery and bold colors, really–promotional lithographs are a favorite, when I can afford them. I found this beautifully rich set of six great lithos that were part of a campaign put on by an old oil company, trying to get people to visit state parks and collect one at each location. The colors are amazing.

– How would you describe your work?

S: Most of the embroidered paper work is an ongoing exercise in aesthetic, consciously avoiding any implications of meaning. On occasion I make attempts to convey meaning and feeling within the abstractions, but in general they are simply about composition and color, and intended as a honing of craft. How this craft may yet be incorporated into other works over time is an exciting proposition to me.

– I see you’ve collaborated with your girlfriend, the artist Erin Frost. One of your joint pieces involves pictures tied together with thread. Could you tell me about it? How did it happen?

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Erin and I lined up a show at Vignettes, our favorite art space in Seattle, and wanted to include both solo and collaborative works. Erin was also beginning to work with embroidery at the time, so we knew we wanted thread involved. One afternoon soon after we decided to collaborate, one of us suggested the visual of threading our heads together, and we very quickly sketched out three ways in which we wanted to make this visual happen. Though each piece was a tangible and physical challenge, the final triptych was presented precisely as initially conceived; one of those great and rare occasions of inspiration leading directly to result.

– You have inspired a lot of people to embroider collages and postcards. Alisa Peti is just one of them. How does that make you feel?

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S: It’s always exciting to see work explicitly inspired by my own. I was especially pleased to see Alisa’s pieces, which expertly recreated designs from three of mine.

– The stars you embroider and their style lead me to think that you’re interested in the solar system. Am I right? Where does this passion come from?

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S: What’s not to love about the solar system? The infinite telescoping outward an inward at every given point in space; the consistency of pattern and shape no matter the relative scale; the thrill of the unknown…

– Do you agree with my last statement? Should we destroy something to create something new?

S: I think destruction is an inherent part of creation. There is no end and no beginning. Nothing and everything and all that. In this way I have always thought of the work as alterative, as opposed to creative. The substrate and the medium are simply altered.

–  I’ve read that you’re a musician too. Tell me, what instrument do you play? What kind of music are you into? What are you listening to at the moment ?

S: I play bass guitar and I sing. I would love to take up the drums someday. As for taste, I subscribe to the idea that there is 10% good in every medium (and 90% shit). I seek out the good! I’m always checking out new bands and albums–right now I’m giving a Sam Flax record a first spin–but lately I’ve had a bunch of favorites on repeat: Kurt Vile, Pulp, Devendra Banhart, Magnetic Fields, Andrew Bird, Hot Chip, Broadcast… I really could go on and on about this one. Music is the love of my life.

Thank you so much, Shaun.

For those of you want to see more of his pieces,don’t hesitate to browse his stunning tumblr.

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