Richard Saja revitalises traditional toile with embroidered characters

Richard Saja is an accomplished textile artist based in New York and the man behind the “Historically Inaccurate Decorative Arts” design firm. His originality lies in his ability to give a new lease of life to the toile de Jouy with bright embroiderY and, above all, with a wicked sense of humour.

 Probably because he is a funny guy who has a particular interest in all kinds of hairy creatures (go and look at his Facebook page if you have a doubt), his embroidery intermingles with traditional toile – which depict an otherwise banal pastoral scene – to give it a fresh and humorous interpretation. Therefore, while looking at his pieces, it is common to come across burlesque characters such as clowns, werewolves, freaks, wealthy people and Greek mythological creatures in surrealistic situations.


Behold: Electricity!


Down in the Orchard


Dionysos in candyland


Those are the ones I like the most I think:

boy-on-a-horse              D1

Boy on a horse                                                 The Darwins


Fur Man Blue

Endowed with a vivid imagination, the unconventional artist was offered several commissions, but his talent was also drawn on in the fashion industry. He has collaborated with the shoe brand Keds, the fashion designer Christian Lacroix and the British fashion house, Mother of Pearl, among others. In this last occasion, Eloise Moran, the blog contributor at Opening Ceremony, described Saja’s work as “the perfect collection for any modern-day princess”, which is quite a nice compliment…

 Richard-Saja-e1357155993349     iiiinspired _ richard saja _ keds 2

 Miniatures for Keds and Opening Ceremony. (See more).


« This is the first of a 23 piece collaboration with Christian Lacroix’s home line. It’s a cushion.The scene depicts tourists strolling through a Roman ruin in Arles, the place of CL’s birth. The bird-god at the top of the obelisk glows in the dark. »

 mother-pearl16 mother-pearl22

Mother of Pearl AW14 collection in collaboration with Richard Saja. (See more).

On several occasions, Saja’s fine art pieces were featured in Elle (UK), Vogue (Italia) magazines, on the Telegraph website, and also in museums and galleries in London, Paris, Berlin, South Korea, Boston, Philadephia…


How long have you embroidered for?

I’ve been stitching for about 15 years now. In retrospect, it’s interesting to see how my technique has evolved. It’s become much more labor intensive, coverage-wise and I’ve even developed a custom stitch.

Is there a family tradition for working in the arts or in the fashion industry?

There is. I lived with my grandfather’s first cousin, The Lady, for 17 years up until she died 2 years back. Immediately after graduating high school, she went to work for Schiaparelli here in NYC and then worked as a designers assistant for the next 60 years –  up into her 80’s. A designer would hand off a sketch to her and she came back a few days later with a finished garment, overseeing the drafting, cutting, draping and sewing rooms. 

And what have you done with your ceramics?

I still have a few of my favorites and I’m thinking of going back to the medium after having been away for so long just to muck about and see if anything comes of it. 

Can you describe your work in three words?

Funny, sexy, disturbing. 

I can’t help it, I’m sorry but I have to ask: where does you love for hairy creatures come from?

A childhood immersed in junk culture, no doubt: Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, The pajama-clad rabbit in Goodnight, Moon.

 Are you afraid that you will tire of using toile as your principal medium?

Not at all. I like working within certain parameters and toile presents a challenge: how to keep it fresh and derive something new from it each time. The embroidery is one course of exploration but I also love to collage prints to come up with something completely other. Should I ever tire of toile, I’ll just move on to something else. 

Do you embroider having everything in mind or are you inventing things on the spur-of-the-moment?

I’m very much into the spontaneity of the process. I may begin with a general idea or theme depending on the piece’s destination but most of the work happens very much in the moment. 

What part of the process do you enjoy the most?

Something great happens while working which I think must be akin to meditation. I lose myself and just feel an inner thrum. Time passes very quickly when this happens. 

What is the best compliment you’ve heard about your work?

I really appreciate hearing that someone has found it inspiring in some way. I don’t think that’s something one can imbue in ones work, it either happens or it doesn’t. 

What scares you in life?

I try not to be scared by anything at all, feeling it’ll make my own path easier, but the continued destruction of the planet due to rampant greed and corruption certainly kills my buzz sometimes. 

I think Historically Inaccurate started ten years ago, did you ever think you would take part in London Fashion Week one day? How do you imagine your work evolving for the next decade?   

I love the fact that I do absolutely nothing to market myself or my work and that people find me for interesting projects like the Mother of Pearl collaboration.  I usually tend to stay away from the fashion world b/c of perceived value of the work but a few projects I just couldn’t say no to. London  Fashion Week was a blast…an elegant freak show! The future is about the work literally getting larger. I recently finished a 7 x 11 ft tapestry for the Anya Hindmarch Boutique on Madison Ave. and found that I really love working on such a large scale. I’m now preparing very large toile tapestry murals which will feature both embroidery and collage. It’s a very exciting time. 


 You can find and follow Saja’s news on his inspiring blog “Historically Inaccurate”.

Thanks a lot Richard, I love your embroidered creatures !

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