Marie Elcin

Describe your work.

I’m a fiber artist working primarily in embroidery, but I also like to incorporate screen-printing and other surface design techniques into my work. I’m very inspired by the urban environment and landscape, along with interesting perspective viewpoints like aerials or panoramas. Lately I’m very into the panorama format, which forces the viewer into a particular action in order to see it properly. Unfortunately it’s not the easiest thing to photograph. I love maps and thinking about how places transform over time. I think it’s related to an interest in history- I live in one of the oldest cities in America, and I often think about how Ben Franklin walked these streets, or about how my home was built for a factory worker. Working in textiles is another way I feel connected to history. I’m very process- oriented.

What are you working on?

At the moment I’m working on a stitched piece that will measure 6 inches by 120 feet long! I’m accepting donations of meaningful, memory-filled cloth from members of the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral and stitching it into a long, narrow wrapping cloth that will be used in a prayer ceremony for All Saint’s Day to honor those who’ve died and those who mourn. I’ve got about 40 feet assembled so far, and I’ve been spending about 3-4 hours a night on it. Stitching is very meditative, and I’m very honored that people have entrusted me with their memories.

Do you collaborate with other artists?

I work with other artists all the time! I’ve done work for other artists’ calls for submission like Jude Hill’s “Magic Feather Project” and Hanne Bang’s “In a war, someone must die”. I’ve done book collaborations with Michelle Wilson, and stitch bombings with Johanna Marshall. Working in a studio all by yourself gets lonely, and working with other people opens up all kinds of new possibilities. I’ve tried to expand my collaborative work by making projects interactive or audience centered. The wrapping cloth is one example, and another is a recent piece I did for a Good Friday “Artists’ Stations of the Cross” at the West Kensington Mission where each person got a piece of the embroidery I made. As a teaching artist, I often have my students collaborate with me to make permanent art for schools, which I believe helps them gain a sense of belonging to a community. I think art is more meaningful if it’s done with or for community as it is something that can connect us together in shared experience.

Are you currently teaching?

I am definitely a teaching artist! I teach fiber arts and screen-printing to adults and children at Fleisher Art Memorial, and they’ve even got me involved in a CPA residency to do some mural painting with teens this summer. I also work during the school year as a residency artist in public schools doing integrated art/math/science projects with elementary classroom teachers and their students. I’m even beginning a new adjunct position in art education next Fall, which I’m very excited about. Artists reflect society back to itself and helping people learn to see, think critically, and work with their hands is great work.

Plans for the future?

More of the same I suppose. I hope to continue balancing teaching, art making, and family life. I’m very happy with life right now. I hope life keeps bringing me inspiration and opportunities.

What do you do for fun?

I’m happiest settled with a needle and thread in hand and Netflix on the TV… I like to get silly with my daughter, hike in the woods, and go to museums and galleries. Life is incredibly busy, so I take pleasure in small things- an iced coffee, a great song on the radio, a hug, seeing something quirky or beautiful.

What’s on your mind?

I’ve got all kinds of classes coming up, so I’m bouncing ideas around for projects and sequencing. I’m coming out of a very busy exhibition season, so I’m waiting for the next big inspiration.

Any exhibits coming up?

I’m currently showing in the Annual Fleisher Faculty Exhibition which will be up through July 27th. I’ll also have an exhibit in the Fall at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral at 38th and Chestnut to coincide with the presentation of the collaborative wrapping cloth for All Saint’s day.

Any past exhibits you’d like to mention?

During Fiber Philadelphia this past Spring I had work at B Square Gallery, the Shipley School, Nichols Berg Gallery, and the Painted Bride. I also curated an exhibit of fiber artists & the urban environment entitled “Softer Edges” at Fleisher.

Is any of your work political?

I wouldn’t say anything was aggressively political in my work, but there’s often an underlying concern for the environment and community connections. I worry about things like drug traffic and abandoned buildings in my neighborhood, and there are definitely pieces I’ve made that address those issues.

Are you involved with any organizations?

I’ve only recently graduated from grad school, and I’m focusing on my own work, which unfortunately doesn’t leave much time for work in organizations.

What are you currently interested in?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of creativity in people’s lives. As soon as you get involved in art education, you learn to become an advocate for why art is important for everyone to learn. We’re not all going to become artists, but creative expression is a natural part of the human experience. I read something by Michael Eisner about aesthetics being the opposite of anesthetics (something that numbs or deadens feeling). So experiencing things aesthetically makes us FEEL more and be more alive!

What are you reading?

I’ve just finished a book of love stories from the Storycorps project, a book of short stories called “What you Wish For”, and I’m working through Eisner’s “Art and the Creative Mind” which will be my student’s art ed text book.

What websites do you visit each day?

I spend way too much time on facebook (online Scrabble is my guilty pleasure). But I also love:

What types of music/ audio are you listening to these days?

I bounce between WXPN (88.5) and NPR radio in the car, and I have Pandora stations inspired by Beth Orton, Allison Krauss, and Sufjan Stevens. I like anything I can sing along to. Usually I put music on when I need to clean or cook, as usually my “studio time” is stitching on the couch watching movies. (That way I’m productive and don’t feel bad about watching TV).

Tell us about a few of your favorite spots in Philadelphia:

I practically live at Fleisher, and everyone should sign up for classes!! There’s a great place called Tres Jalapenos at 8th and Christian, where I often head for lunch between classes on Saturdays. In my own neighborhood my favorite hangout spot is Rocket Cat Cafe at Frankford and Norris- it was the only place I could actually focus while I was writing my thesis. When I want to escape the city I head to Forbidden Drive in Fairmount Park. I love the Crane building and the Perelman for going to see art. I usually head to Fishtown Library or Central Library for my literary needs. Finally, the Philadelphia Cathedral soothes my mind and soul each week- they have a wonderful art exhibition program and a progressive service that engages all the senses in beauty. I love places that are open and welcoming to all people.

Your website(s):

I’ve been blogging for about 3 years. I write about my studio work, art I see, and my students’ work. There’s also a gallery page you can check out. One of these days I’ll get around to a proper website….


Trailblaze, stitchbomb with Johanna Marshall
Girard, embroidery on shibori-dyed silk and rust-dyed cotton
1723 times over ben franklin, embroidery and silkscreen on linen
In a War Someone Has to Die, embroidery on handkerchief

Cityscape, embroidery on various fabrics 22×24 inches
Cumberland, embroidery on layered screen-prints, 4×5 inches

Tree of Life, applique, frottage, and embroidery, collaboration with 3rd grade students at Comly Elementary
The Shirt Off my Back, embroidery on man’s white shirt, made for Stations of the Cross, Kensington Ministries.

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