The Art of Disaster

When Philadelphia-based sculptor Shelley Spector began her artist’s residency at NextFab, the city’s fabrication studio, she hadn’t intended to embark upon an embroidery project. “I originally imagined myself using the residency to make wood sculptures, but when I saw their digital embroidery machine, I was immediately intrigued with the idea of drawing images on fabric with thread.” Inspired by the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, and massive storms and flooding in the U.S., Spector decided to create a series of embroidered pieces based on them.

Spector worked exclusively with NextFab’s digital sewing machine, which she nicknamed “Gwen.” She enjoyed the process of learning complicated new equipment: “The geeky part of me was happy to draw digitally and push the limits of the computer program,” she says. “Since I generally spend hours, weeks and months on individual sculptures, I loved that once I was done with the digital drawing and programming, Gwen would finish up, with just a bit of help from me to change thread colors.”

Her website is Spector’s newest work will be showcased at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in March.