12TH AUGUST 2019
I became fascinated with the art of Chainstitch Embroidery. I was drawn to the incredible stitching on band & motorcycle jackets.
Tell us a bit about yourself! What do you do? How did it all start? What you’ve been doing/what’s coming up?
I’m a Chainstitch Embroidery artist, musician & designer from the Northern Beaches of Sydney & currently living in Venice, California. Apart from my art work, I have a passion for surfing & travel, both of which are strong sources for my inspiration to create. I originally moved to the US in 2008 to pursue my music career & about 5 years ago, I became fascinated with the art of Chainstitch Embroidery. I was drawn to the incredible stitching on band & motorcycle jackets & my research into Chainstitch Embroidery art, revealed that this very old art form - which can only be summarized by describing it as drawing on fabric with thread - can only be created by hand, on specific vintage machines. The whole art form & detailed creative process really resonated with me & I decided to teach myself. Chainstitch Embroidery art, & my passion for all things vintage was a perfect partnership, & thus AMR was born.
Describe yourselves in 5 words…
Passionate, creative, loyal, spontaneous and adventurous.
You’re lucky enough to go between Sydney & LA! How did you set yourself up to do this and why?
I’m going to say that it just flowed that way, but of course there’s been a lot of hard work along the way as well. I have truly followed my passions & been prepared to commit. I always loved summer and thought it might be a cool life hack to see if I could live an endless summer. It’s worked out pretty well so far!
Fave things about each location?
I love the community and creative energy in LA. Some of the projects I’ve been lucky enough to work on & the opportunities I have had, could only have happened by being on the ground in LA.
There’s nothing like coming home to Newport, where I grew up. When you’re fresh off the plane & you partake in a real ozzie coffee and a few clean waves at the Peak, your jet lag just melts away! I think living away from Oz for so long, I’ve really come to appreciate Australia even more. I feel very lucky to be an Ozzie.
Tell us about a day in the life of yourself…
Wake up pretty early and like to hit a hot yoga class, or go for a run or a surf. I then head into the studio and start the day. It’s always something different, some days are design meetings and other days are all production and stitching. I don’t have a real knock off time & pretty much work until all the projects & deadlines are on track. There is an awesome community of super inspiring people where I live in Venice so I really enjoy catching up in the evenings for dinner with friends when I can.
What's your creative process for your pieces? How long would you spend on each item?
The creative process is different for every project because of the individualized nature of every project. Collaboration & understanding clients’ aspirations for their pieces is usually the initial phase of the process. I do like to work on layouts and design before I start stitching. I also do a lot of research and study of the Chainstitch Embroidery Artists that came before me to perfect style/design. I visit a lot of rag houses around America that keep stock of the vintage pieces. I really am inspired by being able to breathe new life into these pieces by ultimately repurposing them.
The time factor for each piece has multiple variables, depending on the design requirements. Suffice to say, Chainstitching is a very old & labour intensive craft.
What inspires you and your work?
Freedom, collaboration & joy! I love to work “with” people! I love to see a client’s reaction to their one of a kind piece of wearable art, a piece that has unique meaning to them whether we’ve designed it together, or they have purchased in-store or online. People are my biggest inspiration. From a design perspective, I am inspired to repurpose clothing & my surroundings also are a strong inspiration.
What’s been one of your most memorable jobs?
I’d say working with Kelly Slater, John Moore and the Outerknown team last year on project for Ron Herman, a retailer here in LA. It is hard to express just how much I respect and truly appreciate the creative work and the strong leadership John provides. He has such an incredible eye for detail and really pushed me to create some of my best work. And, just to top it off, I was invited to surf with Kelly at the ranch which was a total bucket list experience & one I’ll never forget!
What’s your fave fit of Wrangler jeans?
I’m a big fan of the denim western shirts. I’m actually using 10 original 1970’s shirts right now for a project in Japan.
What does “Freedom” mean to you and when do you feel most free?
Freedom to me is having time to work on projects I love, to be surrounded by family and friends and to be out in the ocean and nature. I’ve always subscribed to the notion that the only non-renewable resource we have in life is time.
How does your work/lifestyle create freedom for you?
I think working for myself plays a big part. I don’t have set hours or a 9-5 mind set. If I need to work on a Sunday I will- I don’t care. For me, work is life and life is work.
When do you feel at your most expressive?
I’d say when I’m in the ocean, playing music, yoga or anywhere I can clear my mind and step back from what I’m doing.
Why do you think it’s important for people to be able to express themselves?
I think expression connects us to the core of who we are, & ultimately to others. It gives us meaning. I believe we all have a gift that the world needs, and that we can all find our voice and express whatever that gift may be.
Thank you! I am really grateful for the support and the collaboration with Wrangler!
Discover more of Kai’s work here
Images thanks to @austinmidnight_ctve
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