Lithuanian textile artist Aušra Merkelytė stitches her love of nature into sparkling embroidery.
Aušra Merkelytė of Vilnius, Lithuania, creates delicate embroidered works of art in her home studio, and her love of nature comes through in every piece. From lawyer to full-time creator, Aušra shared her artistic journey with Cuppa Wow.
How did you get started as an artist?
I have always had craft-addicted hands. As a kid, I was a big dreamer. I imagined a lot, played a lot, and had a thousand ideas. In my spare time, I found comfort in making all sorts of things out of whatever was near my hands—paper, fabrics, pebbles, chestnuts, and so on.
I still don’t know how it happened that I chose to study law at university. I have a master’s degree in law and worked in labor law for some years after graduating. After my second child was born, I had to decide whether to go on building a successful law career or pursue something less stressful and slower-paced so I’d have an opportunity to spend more time with my children.
It wasn’t a very hard choice for me. I let go of all my lawyer’s ambitions and started designing and making soft toys with a talented friend of mine. My passion for various fiber arts started to grow as I was sewing toys. And here I am now working from my home studio in Vilnius, Lithuania, enjoying every stitch I make and trying to make a living from my embroidery art.
How did you discover embroidery in particular?
I learned some simple embroidery stitches from craft lessons at school, and I was using them to make facial embroidery for my toys. Then I started to search the web for new ideas and ways to improve my stitching. And suddenly Pinterest opened a whole new world of amazing textile artists, such as Junko Oki, Lesley Richmond, Julia Wright and Roanna Wells. I was really shocked, in a good way. I wondered how anyone, just with a piece of cloth, thread, and imagination, could create such amazing things. And I decided to try it myself.
Luckily, there are tons of embroidery tutorials on the internet, and you can learn to stitch by yourself if you want to. You just need some time and patience. I’ve got patience. Not so much time.
In the beginning of 2017, I ran into a helpful project on Instagram called #1yearofstitches. Participants needed to work on the same piece of fabric for the whole year, make at least one stitch every day, take a picture, and post it on their account daily. I decided to take part in that project to constantly practice my embroidery skills, and that’s how my embroidery journey started.
How do you feel when you do your embroidery work?
I always feel comfortable with these tools in my hands—a pen and a needle. I can express my thoughts, feelings, and mood trough both of them. Stitching is a form of meditation, and sometimes it serves as a nonverbal diary. I usually embroider alone accompanied by only my dog and music. It’s quite enough company for me while stitching, and when I have these two (a dog and music) by my side, I feel like I’m the lucky one to have the best work in the world.
What’s the hardest part of your embroidery work?
It’s a tricky question. Maybe when people ask me when I’ll get a normal job [laughs]. Speaking seriously, sustained embroidery is a heavy load on the eyes, back, shoulders, and arms. It’s important not to forget to take breaks even if creativity is flowing over the edges.
Besides embroidery, do you make other types of art?
I take some nature pictures [see above]. It’s not serious professional photography but amateur nature shots. I really like nature and always used to love it, but I never considered taking pictures of flowers and other plants until a couple of years ago when we got a puppy. Long early-morning walks with a dog sniffing all the plants and everything around for hours (he must a botanist type) made me take my camera for those walks and focus on dewy grass and flowers while waiting.
What are some of your other interests?
Music and books make the planet spin for me.