The Embroidered Portraits of Sorrell Chrystal Kerrison

Sorrell Chrystal Kerrison’s embroidery work looks like paintings, but take a closer look: what seems like brush strokes is actually intricate needlework. “In the beginning, I felt that my work looked a bit like topography; a two-dimensional, birds-eye version of the map of a face,” said Kerrison in an interview with Textile Artist. “As my work has developed it has become more and more complex, taking on more of an expressionistic, brushstroke approach.”

Her hand-embroidered textile portraits remind us of expressionistic Fauvist paintings. Using a range of unconventional and improvisational approaches to textile work, her work is colorful and exciting – a visually controlled chaos that brings her subjects to life.

“My techniques are a bit punk and raw,” she says. “I want to improvise as I go and I love it when accidental mistakes happen, rather than planning every aspect of a piece.”

Once she’s picked a subject matter, she sketches it a number of times until she feels like she’s captured something she likes. She then scans and prints that sketch, and using a lightbox, traces on the black of the design using a heat transferable fabric pen. She then irons the design onto a piece of fabric, sews up the edge to prevent fraying, and attaches it to a hoop or frame before finally beginning to sew.

“I don’t have a full, detailed plan for what and how I am going to sew,” she says. “I have a synaesthesia-like sense of an aura from individual subjects, which gives me their base color. I hunt out that colour range from my box of threads and go from there. I always start by sewing the eyes as that is where the soul of a person resides. If I can get their eyes right first, then I know the rest of the piece will follow.”

Most of her pieces take over 250 hours to complete. “I just zone in and enjoy the flow and movement of the embroidery,” she says. Take a look at some of her incredible artwork in the gallery below.