Inside the Studio

Visit with Erin Zhao

Reflecting on the tradition of embroidery passed down from her grandmother, a Bouyi ethnic minority from China, Erin Zhao gives us a closer look at her Poem series. Incorporating embroidery and colored vinyl film on top of rainbow-roll monotype relief prints, she creates prismatic meditations on light, color, and the intangible qualities of perception.

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“Similar to how I mix and layer translucent oil-based ink to create monotype relief prints, I cut and compose translucent vinyl films with the monotypes to create additional depth and interest. I then sew them together using needle and embroidery floss.”

— Erin Zhao

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“There’s something so magical about the stitching process that feels healing to me: the meditative motion of hand repetition, the delicacy yet the resilience of the materials. Embroidery reminds me of my late great-grandmother, grandmother, and my Bouyei ethnicity. My great-grandmother and grandmother were both Bouyei ethnic minorities from Guizhou, China. Embroidery is one of many practices that all Bouyei women learn and master. Incorporating embroidery into my work knowing this special connection made me feel nostalgic.”

— Erin Zhao

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“I often incorporate modern technologies with traditional techniques to create images, objects, or hybrid installations. While I’m embracing the efficiency and innovation of modern technologies, I also deeply appreciate the process of traditional techniques like printmaking and hand-embroidery.”

— Erin Zhao

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“Poet Billy Collins mentioned that he had once heard someone say that poets are people who can’t say one thing at a time. I think this is also true for many visual artists. For me, the process of creating visual art enables me to say more than one thing at a time and opens up broader conversations.”

— Erin Zhao

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