With a needle and thread, artist Julia Fioravanti brings a vision to life on fabric. "Night Life" shows a woman pursing her red lips while her hand rests under her chin. Her gold hoop earrings and a kelly-green necklace stand out against her brown skin. Her black hair is in tight curls. She’s sitting in a room, and it’s evident something is on her mind. It’s one of the many embroidery works Fioravanti has produced. The artist says she enjoys making things and staying busy.
“Creating things is key and it makes you feel good about yourself,” Fioravanti said. “I try to make them dynamic as possible or, you know, at least have something about them that catches your eye.”
The fiber artist excels at catching the viewer’s eye. From her use of varying bright hues of thread to simple phrases like “no money, poor honey,” Fioravanti’s work stands out. At times her art is influenced by her work as a teacher at an early-education Waldorf-based school. “Have a Care” is a phrase used at school, and it’s also on one of her works. In it a woman wears seafoam green shades, and she’s blowing a bubble with gum. In another, a cityscape is shown against a setting sun. She’s also branched out to putting designs on vintage denim jackets. Fioravanti prefers subtlety in her work but often includes text.
“I think that that’s where you can make it more meaningful and kind of direct whoever’s looking at it into what you were thinking,” she said.
Her work has been showcased at several venues around the city. In April her work was a part of a group fiber art show at Virago Gallery in West Seattle.
At times Fioravanti has received unexpected feedback about her work, which gives her an opportunity to see her threaded creations through a different lens.
Fioravanti’s path to artistry was set out for her from the beginning. She’s the daughter of two arts-driven parents. Her mother, Mia Fioravanti, is a clothing designer. Her father, Monad Graves Elohim, is known for bronze and ceramic work, notably an installation at Pratt Park in the Central District. Fioravanti also went to schools that prioritized the arts. By first grade she knew how to sew, and in middle school she learned how to knit.
Fioravanti earned a degree in art history at Western Washington University. There she took a class on papercuts, which is a medium centered on effectively using positive and negative space. Papercuts are also versatile. She’s proud of a design she created for a client who had it made into an iron railing for their home.
“People really love them because they’re not representational,” Fioravanti said. “You can have them anywhere and you’re not making a big statement.”
After papercuts Fioravanti moved onto embroidery. The medium is under the fiber art umbrella, which includes crocheting, tapestry and wearable art. In recent years it’s exploded in popularity. She likes the work of Sarah K. Benning, a New Hampshire-based artist with nearly half a million followers on the social media platform Instagram. Benning primarily creates embroidery centered on plants. Other artists use the craft to promote feminist messaging. The techniques utilized by artists producing embroidered works also varies.
“It’s kind of interesting to see how other people interpret it because some people will go, you know, all their stitches are everywhere but it comes together,” Fioravanti said. “Other people are very, very meticulous where the whole thing will be stitched next to each other.”
Because she can sew, picking up embroidery was relatively easy. Her very first piece, a field of small multicolored flowers, took nearly two months to complete. Today she works much faster and can finish a piece in a week. Since embroidery is portable, Fioravanti is able to work on her designs while at her day job. Kids love to watch her and rub the stiches.
Fioravanti is balancing a life of doing two things she loves — working with children and using her hands to construct embroidered gems. She expresses concerns with the vitality of artists in a city she thinks could improve its support of artists that aren’t on the main stage. Not just going to museums and galleries but also becoming patrons of storefronts like her mother recently owned on Beacon Hill.
“It’s hard to keep these little places open,” Fioravanti said. “People love to see them but they would rather go on Amazon.”
Fioravanti said being an artist helps complete her and wishes more people felt like they could do it too. Ever the encouraging instructor, she asserts if you can hold a pencil, you can hold a needle.
“A lot of people feel like because they’re not good at it that they can’t do it. I wasn’t good at it when I started,” Fioravanti said. “The only way that you learn how to do things is by trying.”
Lisa Edge is a Staff Reporter covering arts, culture and equity. Have a story idea? She can be reached at lisae (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @NewsfromtheEdge, Facebook
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