Orbrey And The Modist – Mixed Media Intensity


Welcome to the Cutting (& Stitching) Edge - the best textile art in the world

Welcome to the Cutting (& Stitching) Edge, where we showcase people whose embroidered creativity is fresh and new!

Welcome to the Cutting (& Stitching) Edge, where we showcase people whose embroidered creativity is fresh and new!

Nade Simmons aka Orbrey And The Modist is a mixed media artist from the UK. Her vibrant hand embroidered embroideries are packed with texture, colour and energy, and are truly refreshing!

Orbrey And The Modist - Nade5

My hoops are created to a backdrop of my partner DJing Drum & Bass and our toddler running sand through the house. Since lockdown we’ve adapted my space into our space, so I am very grateful that I live so close to some beautiful meadow walks with streams and rivers snaking through.

I create abstract textile art using crewel embroidery, sometimes with acrylic or watercolour paint or merino wool underneath. It is a very tactile medium, I sew a variety of stitches over many hours to create texture, depth and dimension. I use a plethora of different yarns, from chunky wool to fine machine threads, layering them up to create a myriad of colours. I also use plenty of beads, sequins and jewellery. Most of my supplies are clothing and accessories sourced second hand from vintage markets and emporiums. I disassemble them and recreate them into something new and beautiful.

Orbrey And The Modist - Nade10

It’s important to me that my work is created sympathetically to the environment which I am recreating. I have a great fondness for the history of pre worn pieces – the idea of different stories being brought together in a hoop for a time is satisfying to the romantic bit of my mind!

My pieces are fun, playful and are made to recreate the feeling of those countryside rambles. I don’t seek to create an accurate representation, ( I’ll leave that to the thread painters!), it’s simply impressionistic. There is no hidden narrative to my work, aside from the fact that I am environmentally conscious and quite particular about creating sustainable art, the pieces themselves are purely aesthetic. I capture the movement of grasses and water with bright, swirling colours and tactile stitches layered together to create an abstract and energetic landscape. I also love to throw the odd flash of neon in there, like a rebellious piece of graffiti. Maybe it’s the Drum and Bass rubbing off on me.

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We wanted to find out more about Orbrey’s obsession and her creative process so we hit her with a few Qs!

How did your technique evolve?

My technique largely evolved through a mix of inherent impatience, lack of time and old fashioned trial & error. I am a huge advocate of play and experimentation, I believe that mistakes and play are crucial to the development of personal style.

My background is in mixed media, I Studied Applied and Media Arts mostly using collage, print, paint and a little machine embroidery. As soon as I picked up a needle and hoop it resonated so strongly with me and I have stitched daily without fail ever since.

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I had just had a new baby so in amongst the baby wipes and sleepless nights I immersed myself in online tutorials, podcasts and sewing groups, grappling with new stitches any moment I could. This was critical to how my sewing developed into the abstract freestyle it is today. I literally had sewing hoops stashed around the house, car and buggy and I would sew really really fast , trying to capture a swath of colour and a feeling of movement in just a few minutes. This way of stitching also meant I could work across a series at once, so if something really worked I could immediately push it further on the next hoop.

Having achieved a good grasp on stitching, I wanted to incorporate some other techniques so I began cutting up old canvases that I had painted and reassembling those into bright collages and adding stitch and beading on top. In this way I was able to add in the neons that I loved whilst still developing the textures. This really honed my colour palette and developed my personal style.

Orbrey And The Modist - Nade1

Where do you think your creativity is taking you?

I feel very strongly that it’s taking me to a place of self confidence within my work. I realised recently that I have felt quite pressured that I am ‘doing it wrong’ – embroidery has such a wonderful, unique history and heritage, and is steeped in such tradition –  It’s almost as if you can feel the weight of that when you pick up a needle. It’s like a responsibility. Within that there has to be room to grow and I feel ready to push back at those self imposed boundaries. 

Recently I have been creating much larger pieces on square canvases and am developing a much looser style incorporating graphite, watercolour and acrylic. Bolder stitches with thicker threads and brighter colours are appearing, the pieces show spontaneity and convey more fluidity, invoking a sense of movement that is relatable to everyone on some level.

Orbrey And The Modist - Nade9

What other artists inspire you?

My all time favourite artist is Patrick Heron – I never tire of looking at his work. I love the way he conveys so magnificently the use of non figurative colours. How he captures them so they appear to float is mesmerising to me. I also carry a fondness toward his work in that he was also a textile designer!

Cy Twombly is also a huge influence, his energetic, slightly violent lines remind me so much of when I first start a hoop – it’s a feeling, something swift that you just have to get out. His dynamic mark making is something I am always trying to capture in my own way.

I also find Matthew Downham’s work really resonates with me – there is something about the way he uses stitch for stitches sake that I find so inspiring. His Bears are not there to be cute, or neatly sewn, they’re ironic, primal and fascinating.

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What is your favourite tool to use in your practise?

Very early on in my sewing I bought a large jar of vintage threads from a market and inside was a pair of stork scissors and a beautiful battered tin which ironically would originally have held plasters. It was full of lovely old needles of every shape and size I could possibly wish for and it’s my favourite bit of kit both for its whimsy and practicality.

Can you share a creative tip?

Play, experiment, push boundaries, do it often and don’t stop. Mistakes are where the magic lies.

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Visit Orbreyandthemodist on Etsy to buy prints and original pieces, and follow her on Instagram, where you can also see her observation inspiration! Tell her Mr X Stitch sent you!

Are you at the Cutting (& Stitching) Edge? Do you know of an artist that we should feature? Get in touch!

Mr X

Jamie Chalmers, aka Mr X Stitch, aka the Kingpin of Contemporary Embroidery is the founder of the Mr X Stitch site, the world's longest running embroidery blog, the curator of PUSH Stitchery and the author of the Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch. He is also the founder of XStitch, the game-changing cross stitch design magazine which launched in Summer 2017.

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