Heather Kerley Art

Heather Kerley Art

About The Artist

Heather Kerley • Bowie, MD

Heather Kerley is a fiber artist living near Washington, D.C. Committed to sustainability, she uses found and upcycled materials in much of her work. Her abstract embroideries using found fabric, such as vintage kimono silk scraps, are developed in an improvisational and intuitive fashion. Her designs "riff" on and transform the existing pattern with an eclectic mix of materials and different stitches. Kerley's abstract compositions in fiber are an extension of her fluid paintings.


Artist website

Q&A with the Artist

Tell us how your work is made.

I prefer to approach each piece from a fresh place without preparatory sketches. I choose a piece of fabric and start to think about a palette and first marks to lay down. Then, the work evolves intuitively and improvisationally. This results in very unique embroideries, but I also find that, in going from one piece to the next while also creating my paintings and quilts, certain palettes, shapes, and nature-inspired themes crop up over and over. I finish my piece either in the hoop with a felt backing or I stretch them over a small canvas.

What makes you passionate about the medium you work with?

I love the slow process of hand embroidery. It is a form of meditation, in my opinion. It gives my brain time to make intuitive, almost subconscious choices in the use of color, shape, and allusions to real world things such as moss and roots. In this way, the work often feels like it is revealing itself to me and I never get tired of that. I also feel privileged to keep the tradition of hand embroidery alive while also evolving as a contemporary art form.

What is something unique about you or your practice?

My experience with art-making has been totally circular. For my college application art portfolio in high school, I made a series of hand-embroidered and hand-dyed batik pieces. After two years in art school focusing on painting, drawing, illustration, and design (nothing to do with fiber), I made a total life detour and became a Middle East analyst for the government. Eventually, I returned to art, first painting and drawing, then printmaking. I eventually quit my civil service job to become a full-time artist. And then, after all that, I came back to embroidery!