Ameliorating Art with Wine Stains

It’s Valentine’s Day- the perfect time for red roses, red hearts, and most importantly, red wine! But if you happen to spill some tonight- don’t go reaching for the club soda right away. With a little help from Amelia Harnas– that wine stain could be transformed into a stunning piece of art.

Amelia’s idea to use wine stains and embroidery to create beautiful portraits evolved over the past year and a half in a process she described to me as a “slow series of cascading lightning bolts.” It started when her sister gave her a silk painting kit- which led her to wonder if she could embroider drawings over the silk painting to make something wearable that looked like a watercolor with an ink drawing. That idea got buried and months later she was looking at illustrations done using ink and washes of coffee and wondered if she could produce similar results with wine. She combined these two thoughts, but was disappointed with her results because the uncontrolled wine stains just bled all over the fabric. Fast forward another couple of months to a conversation she had, with a close friend who lived in Niger, about wax-resist dyeing techniques on batik fabric and the puzzle began to come together.

Although, now that I think about it, years prior to all of this, I was in Paris at an art opening; I happened to look down at the floor to notice someone had spilled red wine on the concrete, and the splash looked exactly like a skull… (I can see it now in my brain like yesterday, that’s how much of an impact that made on me…) and of course, I drew it in my sketchbook.

In order to create each portrait, Amelia uses a batik and “repeat[s] wine stains to build up a light/dark pattern.” While the stains are drying on a wood-burning furnace, Amelia practices trick shots with beer can targets on her BB gun (which I think is essential to the process). Then comes the tedious part, which tends to take a couple of months, where Amelia adds split stitch embroidery to outline and emphasize the figures.

The last 3 pictures of the post are works in progress from her newest collection- which should be finished in a couple of months! It’s amazing to see how vivid and detailed the images are with the stains alone- before she has even added the threading. Stay tuned to and Amelia’s website to see the finished products.

Pre-Embroidered Stains for Amelia’s Next Collection:

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