Interview with Textile Artist Rebeckah Kemi Apara of Embellished Talk
Textile artist and embroidery expert Rebeckah Kemi Apara started Embellished Talk as a platform for conversation with other crafters and makers. It has since flourished into her own unique brand of textile design and embroidery. We caught up with Rebeckah to find out more about her journey, her many inspirations and what's next for Embellished Talk.
Rebeckah will be leading a workshop on denim repair for SAMPLE Spring at the Design District in the Greenwich Peninsula. You can book a free ticket to this repair workshop here.
How did you get into embroidery?
I studied fashion textiles at the London College of Fashion and graduated with a BA Honours degree in 2007. My course focused on printed textiles so I mainly worked with silk screen and digital printing. For my final major project I decided to incorporate some hand beading and digital embroidery into my garments. I really enjoyed the texture of embroidery and embellishments. After graduating, I taught myself how to hand embroider by watching YouTube tutorials and through various books. My favourite book is Mary Thomas’ Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches. I think hand embroidery is incredibly therapeutic and calming. I enjoy it so much and still find it fascinating after all these years. Plus, there are still so many stitches I’d like to learn!
What are your favourite materials to work with?
I really love embroidering on thick cottons and canvas because they’re sturdy and easy to stitch on. There are lots of different types of thread to use but I like DMC’s cotton strands the most. I enjoy making samples and playing around with different textiles more than stitching on or for clothes. I’ve created so many samples that now I need to find a purpose for them! I’ve been using a lot of embellishments to create delicate textures with sequins and beads. I really love the work of Danish fashion designer Cecilie Bahnsen and have been teaching myself to create samples similar to her beautiful dresses.
What inspired you to start Embellished Talk?
I started Embellished Talk simply as a blog to begin with. I was working a very boring office job and really wanted to do something creative. After graduating, I found it hard to look for textiles work so I settled for other jobs in order to pay the rent. Initially, my blog was a platform to interview craft makers to find out how they got into textiles and if it was their main source of income. I was nosey and wanted to know if people actually made any money from being a textiles designer. Interviewing so many people inspired me to leave my office job and start teaching embroidery through creative workshops. I worked part time for a few months while I was figuring out my brand so I had a safety net to fall on. I’ve now been fully self-employed for about 5 years.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by so many people. I really love the French make up artist Violette Fr. Her creative background comes from studying art so she has a very different approach and aesthetic to applying make up. She creates these ‘colour moods’ that I like and that inspires me when I’m working with fabric. I like watching her make up tutorials on YouTube while I’m stitching. My husband’s always commenting on how many times I’ve watched them all! I’m also inspired by Tylynn Nguyen. She’s a model, entrepreneur and influencer and she has such a clean and calming aesthetic that I admire. I recently went to the Louise Bourgeois exhibition in the Hayward Gallery and found her work and ideas inspiring as well. All of these women are mothers and that’s the biggest inspiration for me. I have two small children, Cleo who's 3 and Ruby who's 10 months old. Motherhood is hard, it’s exhausting and it takes up a lot of your time, energy and headspace, so any woman who can carve out some time for herself to be creative and financially sufficient is inspiring to me.
What’s in the works for Embellished Talk?
My maternity leave ends in a few weeks so I’m really looking forward to working again, especially after being pregnant in the lockdown. I want to continue to run embroidery workshops, and I’d like to work in colleges and universities to help fashion students find work placements and offer careers advice. I want to grow my following on Instagram and use my embroidery in the influencer space, working with exciting brands. I’d love to collaborate with brands to create homeware or kids clothing, and I’d love to create some packaging for a make-up brand and work with Violette Fr. I’m quietly manifesting all of the above and once my youngest is in nursery, I’ll make it all happen in good time.