Ms Teo (center) at her booth at Artas 2017 where she conducted a live embroidery demo
Photo by Sherlyn Sim

Whenever 22-year-old arts manager Jamie Teo is on the train, she receives curious glances from commuters. Some even silently snap photos of her.

She is not dressed in an eccentric fashion nor is she creating a commotion. Yet, she gets the “zoo exhibit” treatment for doing what she enjoys: embroidery.

Unlike most millennials whose eyes are peeled to their screens, Ms Teo is hastily adding a pop of color to her hoop art, piquing the curiosity of surrounding passengers.

First utilized as a form of embellishment in 30, 000 BC, hand embroidery is seeing a resurgence through hoop art, the craft of hand stitching on a fabric framed by a compact wooden hoop.

Although the originators of the craze are unknown, artists Sarah K. Benning and Teresa Lim’s intricate hoop arts have garnered massive popularity on Instagram. Following their success, more hoop art enthusiasts Ms Teo and Marie Toh have jumped on the bandwagon.

The art of sewing and embroidery threads through Ms Teo’s family; her grandmother was a tailor and her mother is deeply passionate about the craft.

A maker at heart, Ms Teo’s interest in hand embroidery sparked when she saw an elaborate Japanese embroidery in 2013. Inspired, she challenged herself to recreate the piece and later dabbled in hoop art.

“It [Hoop art] can be a form of self-expression, …[and] embroidery can be very versatile to be adapted into any style of illustration.”, she said.

Earlier this year, she was invited to conduct a live embroidery demonstration involving hoop art at local youth arts festival, Artas 2017, on July 1. Many event-goers were initially surprised that she’s so good at an “old-fashioned” craft.

Youths slowing down to appreciate Ms Teo’s (extreme right) hoop arts and embroidering process at Artas 2017. Photo: Sherlyn Sim

In March, she launched her hoop art series, “Singlit Stitch” in conjunction with independent bookstore BooksActually for the #BuySinglit Festival.

Six of the fifteen six-inch hoop arts featuring quotes from local poets created by Ms Teo
Photo by Jamie Teo

A tremendous amount of work went into perfecting these entrancing pieces. Stitching one hoop required up to seven hours, a pair of sharp eyes and nimble fingers that must endure momentary pricks from the needle.

Nonetheless, Ms Teo believes the crafting process is far more rewarding than the final product. She gushed: “That journey of making, experimenting and exploring is a lot more valuable as it helps me de-stress and I enjoy watching my creations take shape!”

Since the exhibition, the artist has been keeping her hands busy with two upcoming embroidery projects.

Ms Toh holding up her recent hoop arts focusing on plants. Photo: Sherlyn Sim

Graphic designer Ms Toh is another hoop art enthusiast who has created over 50 hoop arts over three years.

Fascinated by how different embroidery stitches could add a 3-dimensional (3D) touch to a flat fabric surface, she has been seeking to challenge the boundaries of the wooden frame.

Ms Toh’s recent hoop art (top) involves thread dangling gracefully off the hoop
Photo by Marie Toh

Her most recent works include pieces of thread transcending the hoop, mimicking a flowing movement.

She added: “It’s [Hoop art embroidery is] like paint, but in fiber form… It’s a very nice blend of 2D or 3D!”

To Ms Teo, hoop art embroidery offers endless possibilities due to its versatility. Uncovering what hoop art embroidery can achieve fuels her enthusiasm for the craft. She added: “I want to find out how I can push the limits of the medium [hoop art]. Does it have to be flat or 2D? How can I combine it with other mediums, like painting?

There’s so much more to experiment and explore!”