Friday, January 22, 2010

Margaret Cusack

Check out Margaret Cusack, an artist in Brooklyn who creates unique stitched artwork! Margaret told me, "Since I was a child, I have always enjoyed creating artwork. I had minimal art training in grammar school and high school, but was accepted at Pratt Institute and graduated in 1968 with a BFA cum laude degree in graphic design. In 1972, after working for four years as a designer/art director in advertising and publishing, I began exploring fabric collage--doing portraits, pillows and hangings. As an illustrator with an unusual technique, I had an agent for the first six years, However, since 1978, I have represented myself. My clients include AT&T, Aunt Millie's Spaghetti Sauce, Harcourt, Macmillan, Random House, Absolut Vodka, The Village Voice and Vanity Fair."

How or why did you start working dimensionally? 
I have always been intrigued with dimensional artwork and I am delighted to have been able to create a career with my appliquéd, embroidered and soft sculpture artwork.

What or who has influenced the way you work? 
I have always been interested in realism. Artists that have influenced me are: Norman Rockwell, Edward Hicks, Milton Glaser, Toulouse Lautrec, Edward Hopper, Grandma Moses, etc.

Please describe your working process.
With both my flat appliquéd artwork commissions and my dimensional soft sculptural images: I discuss the concepts and the project itself with the art director. Then I create pencil sketches and we discuss them. Once the sketch and the direction is chosen, I do a line drawing, which becomes my pattern.
For the flat appliquéd artwork: To show the juxtaposition of the fabrics, I create a "rough color paste-up" of the fabrics chosen for the image. I prepare the fabrics (ironing them and adhering iron-on "paper-backed fusible webbing" onto the back of the fabrics). I trace the outlines of the pattern's shapes onto the back of the fabrics. Then I cut out the shapes, peel off the paper backing and spray the back of the shapes with spray glue. Using the light box I position the fabric shapes onto a backing fabric and then iron them in place. I stitch them down with a zig zag stitch on my Bernina sewing machine. Usually, the image is stretched on canvas stretchers. Throughout this process, the art director can have input.

For the soft sculpture images like the "Bill Gates Voodoo Doll," I show sketches and fabric swatches to the client and then stitch the image and stuff it as needed. In some of the soft sculpture images, I include embroidery and or/other elements.  All of these techniques are included in my book, "Picture Your World in Apppliqué".  The photography is very important. 

My flat stitched artwork is photographed either digitally or as an 8 x 10 chrome (usually by Gamma One Conversions in Manhattan. Their process captures all the detail of the fabrics' texture and yet their lighting technique does not create harsh or uneven shadows).  I also work with my husband Frank Cusack and Brooklyn photographer, Michael Hnatov, who both shoot my dimensional images (soft sculpture, pillows, etc.) and some of my flat appliquéd  artwork.

What do you the enjoy most / least about working dimensionally?
Most: I enjoy the challenge of working with fabric--its instant color, texture, pattern. In many cases, my fabrics connect the viewer to nostalgic moments in their past. I like the fact that dimensional artwork will stop the viewer for a moment longer than traditional illustration or computer art.
Least: Fabric can be quirky and difficult at times. And though most of the time I have enough of a chosen fabric, there is always the chance that, at midnight, I might run out of a particular fabric or thread color that is crucial to the project.

124 Hoyt Street in Boerum Hill
Brooklyn, New York 11217-2215
phone: 718.237.0145
cell: 718.909.4402
fax: 718.237.0145

All images and content © Margaret Cusack


  1. What an interesting review of a very fine artist who has given the world of art stitchery a whole new face!

  2. Wow, fantastic work! The details are just outstanding!

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