Jahier Studio Shows Off Hawai‘i’s Gorgeous Landscapes from a Needle’s Point of View
Punahou alumna Chloé Selarque’s intricate embroidery pieces capture the grand grooves of the Ko‘olau, the perky peaks of the Mokes and the wavering blues of the Pacific. We asked the Kāne‘ohe resident to stitch together the steps and process that define her Hawai‘i-inspired mini masterpieces.
In my last year of study at Emily Carr University of Art and Design [in Vancouver, British Columbia], I began experimenting with fiber arts such as table-loom weaving, embroidery and natural fiber dye. I started using embroidery thread as a means to paint. My life at the time was fairly nomadic and embroidery tools were tidy, small and mobile.
How does each piece start?
I begin by sketching. Once I’m happy with the composition of the image, I sketch it with graphite on a stretched piece of linen. If I decide to paint [the background], I’ll do that next. If that paint is too thick, piercing it with a needle would be difficult. Each thread of the floss I use contains six individual threads that are spun together to create a singular, thicker floss. For greater detail, I cut and split the floss so that I only work with a maximum of three threads for thickness.
Painting with embroidery is unusual. Can you expand on that?
I like to see what can be expressed visually with different ratios of paint and embroidery. In general, I prefer to only paint skies. However, I’ve experimented with also painting the Ko‘olau, as well as the sky, and using embroidery floss when filling in the highlights, the shadows, and various middle tones to bring more dimension to the image. Art for me has to be fun and experimental!
It’s impressive how much detail you can create on a flat surface.
As a two-dimensional artist, I have to be able to look at a three-dimensional subject matter, such as mountain ridges, and judge where the various values of light and dark are, and translate that using a variety of colors. Something farther away is typically lighter in color and smaller than something close up. When drawing a mountain range, the closest ridges will be broader and overlap the smaller farther away ridges.
I’ve attended eight years’ worth of art classes varying from color mixing and life-drawing to human anatomy. And I still have a lifetime of learning ahead of me.
How long does it take you to create a piece?
I’d say on average it usually takes me around five to seven hours. The most I’ve ever spent on a single hoop was about 40 hours; the least would be three hours.
You must be in a creative zone during this time.
Embroidery can be experienced as something tedious and repetitive—I see it as a flow state. I’ll put on some music, set up good lighting, keep my phone on “do not disturb,” select a palette of colors to work from and begin. I often lose myself for hours at a time and reemerge shocked that the day has turned to night, or even night to day!