Jonathon Beaver Merseyside, United Kingdom
I am an animator, embroiderer and arts educator based in Liverpool. I use this traditional craft, often used to mark family occasions and decorate homes, to evoke queer family. My current practice stitches and blends language, words and motifs which connect, root and bind us all. Vocabulary, phrases and speech can give us a sense of community, a sense of belonging and means of reaching out.
I began working with needlepoint at the age of nine, encouraged by my auntie. I use this traditional craft, often used to mark family occasions and decorate homes, to evoke queer family. My pieces range from small scale to larger tapestry work reminiscent of period samplers from a bygone era, but bringing an old craft into a contemporary setting through subject matter. My practice allows societies' construction of what gender roles should be, to be emancipated and fluxed by the craft itself and permits me to explore the personal gender preferences of myself as an artist and person.
I appropriate screen-grabs, personal portraits and challenge masculinity via experiences, lived and heard from dating apps and cruising sites. Additionally, I draw on childhood memories where I was told 'Boys go out to play sports and girls stay here to do embroidery' as well as tackling direct and indirect homophobia. These moments have shaped who I am and continue to do so in my adult life.
I don't use an embroidery ring to hold the cloth in place, as I believes it’s restrictive. I want to have the hands-on, close experience of the threads weaving into the material so I can feel my work slowly progress. Collectively, when stitched, these delicate cotton threads are strong, though malleable – I can pull the cloth taut, see the strength against physical resistance; something that I recognise in our ongoing well-being for LGBTQ+ rights. My works are reflections on the unnatural – normalised behaviour, cruel language, repression – and the natural – bodies, sexuality and flowers.
Recently, a lot of my current work has involved loose threads hanging down reflecting on linguistic connections/grounding us all as well as words from beyond the grave and words which 'bleed' or merge after being said so many times; the construct of language.