The colourful universe of multidisciplinary textile artist Shishi San had us at hello. Unapologetically exuberant and adorably playful, her work includes “fluffy”, hand-tufted vases, tapestries and rugs which stand out as much for their vivid colours and floral and tribal motifs as for their exquisite craftsmanship. A keen drawer since a young age, her practice combines meticulousness and attention to detail with a child-like imagination and creativity. Self-taught in a range of techniques such as embroidery, sewing, crochet and punch needling, Shishi has been pushing the boundaries of tufting with Fluffy Vases, an ongoing series inspired by traditional Chinese vases which she first exhibited last year at that’s what x said gallery in Brussels. Yatzer recently caught up with Shishi to chat about the series, along with her interest in textiles and art practice.
(Answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.)
Tell us a bit about your background. Did you always want to be an artist?
Yes, I’ve always wanted to be an artist, I studied art when I was younger and have always liked creating things with my hands. I taught myself embroidery, crochet, knitting and tufting, and have been working exclusively with textiles ever since.
How did your interest in needlework and textile art emerge?
I started customising my clothes, mostly with embroideries, when I was a teenager. Once I get comfortable with a medium, I always want to expand and explore it further, so I quickly tried to make my own clothes instead of only customizing them. From there, I started exploring different mediums and son realised that I have a knack for textiles. I currently mostly work with knitting and tufting, but have worked with more mediums before, and will continue learning more in the future.
What initially inspired you to create the series of Fluffy Vases? Was it conceived as a whimsical riff on traditional porcelain vases?
I started tufting in 2019 and have explored the medium extensively in 2D. In 2022, I wanted to start exploring the sculptural potential of tufting and created my first vase. I’ve always been inspired by Chinese vases, by their motifs, colours and shapes. I wanted to create my own version of them inspired both by my own experiences, and by their visual identity.
How long does it take you to craft a Fluffy Vase? How laborious is the crafting process?
It really depends on the size, level of details, and creativity that goes into each vase so I can’t give an exact answer.
Which needlework techniques do you find more creative and why?
Definitely tufting because it allows me to be the most creative, combining drawing, tufting and most recently a 3D element as well.
How would you describe your style?
My style is colourful, inspired by nature and a bit of kitsch but in a fun way.
You have a penchant for floral motifs. Where do you draw inspiration from?
Yes, I’m definitely inspired by nature a lot, which provides an endless number of ideas. I often turn to flowers for inspiration because of their diversity in shapes, colours and varieties.
Your work can be described as playful and exuberant. Is this what you want to convey through your art? Is it a reflection of your personality?
You could say my work is a reflection in my personality in a way. I’m pretty introverted, especially in social situations, so my art is a way for me to put myself forward. I think that the most important thing for me is that my work speaks for itself and brings something positive and colourful into people’s lives.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on a collection of vases that will be released with my gallery in Brussels, that’s what x said, in April!