Transylvania University art professor Zoé Strecker has a not-so-secret goal with her ongoing embroidery art installation, “Lavish!”: to make people fall in love with Pine Mountain.
The project features community-embroidered images of scenery from the southeastern Kentucky mountain printed onto silk organza panels. It was featured in the school’s Morlan Gallery last year, but Strecker isn’t finished. Through mid-December, volunteers have the opportunity to participate in a campus embroidery workshop, where they can learn more about the undertaking of the project and different embroidery techniques and apply them to the communal pieces.
I recently participated in one of these workshops, where I was able to talk with professor Strecker more and experience just how she structures and runs the class.
The workshop starts with a PowerPoint presentation, where Strecker explains why she chose the mountain to be the focus of her work. “In the temperate zone, [Pine Mountain] is the second-most biodiverse place in the world” — over 100 rare species have been found there. She then moves to a slideshow of photographs that depict all the different species that were printed onto the silk organza panels and are now the works of art being embroidered onto it.
The workshop then moves to a lesson of different embroidery skills and techniques for the volunteers. The less experienced ones can try their hand at different stitches on a practice panel, while the more experienced can go directly to the panels of the art installation. While teaching the class, Strecker also explains the reasoning behind choosing the medium of embroidery, claiming that the practice of embroidery “has a nice social quality,” and that “when we embroider things, we [tend to] embroider the things we love.”
Though I’ve only participated in one workshop, and subsequently only learned one stitch — the French knot — I have plans to return. What Strecker is doing on campus with the continuation of this particular art installation is not only a fun and informative event, but it is also a successful one. I have fallen in love with Pine Mountain, and I’m sure every other volunteer can say the same.
Annebelle Klein is a senior at Transylvania, majoring in writing, rhetoric, and communication. She is a work-study student in the Office of Marketing and Communications. Photos in this article are by Josie Cunningham, a junior work-study student in the same office.