Painting with Thread: Cayce Zavaglia

Painting with Thread: Cayce Zavaglia

Cayce has a very unique and amazing talent. Her “paintings” are not your typical works of art. She paints with a needle & thread. Let’s take a look at her life and work.



cayce detail_02 (1)


cayce detail








Zavaglia 163, 9/2/14, 9:31 AM,  8C, 2408x3048 (578+985), 62%, ten stop S cur,  1/25 s, R61.6, G53.0, B79.5


Enjoy this short video by ZFilm.

Cayce’s Statement

(from her site)

I was originally trained as a painter, but switched to embroidery 12 years ago in an attempt to establish a non-toxic studio and create a body of work that referenced an embroidered piece I had made as a child growing up in Australia. My work focuses exclusively on the portraits of friends, family, and fellow artists.  The gaze of the portrait toward the viewer has remained constant over the years and in my work…as has my search for a narrative based on both faces and facture. The work is all hand sewn using cotton and silk thread or crewel embroidery wool. From a distance they read as hyper-realistic paintings, and only after closer inspection does the work’s true construction reveal itself.

Over the years, I have developed a sewing technique that allows me to blend colors and establish tonalities that resemble the techniques used in classical oil painting.   The direction in which the threads are sewn mimic the way brush marks are layered within a painting which, in turn, allows for the allusion of depth, volume, and form. My stitching methodology borders on the obsessive, but ultimately allows me to visually evoke painterly renditions of flesh, hair, and cloth.

A few years ago, I turned one of my embroideries over and for the first time saw the possibilities of a new image and path for my work that had been with me in the studio for so long but had gone unnoticed.  It was the presence of another portrait that visibly was so different from the meticulously sewn front image…but perhaps more psychologically profound.  The haphazard beauty found in this verso image created a haunting contrast to the front image and was a world of loose ends, knots, and chaos that could easily translate into the world of paint.

This discovery led to a “return to paint” in my work and the production of a series of intimate gouache and large format acrylic paintings of these verso images.  Highlighting the reverse side of my embroideries, which historically and traditionally has been hidden from the viewer, has initiated a conversation about the divergence between our presented and private selves.  The production of both Recto and Verso images is now the primary focus of my studio work.

video from  Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

Zavaglia, 9/27/12, 9:46 AM,  8C, 2072x3586 (591+826), 62%, Default Settin,  1/40 s, R49.3, G35.1, B57.1

Verso is the back side of the embroidery


This is one of Cayce’s paintings

Visit Cayce’s website to see more of her amazing work.

Leave a comment and tell me what you think about Cayce’s work.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Barbara Coulter September 9, 2015 at 12:50 am

Hard to believe. Her work is amazing. Looks like photos, only better.


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