Inside Marie Sophie Lockhart’s Embroidery Studio
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon when we drove to Brooklyn to interview Marie Sophie at her charming home and studio in BedStuy. The apartment is a vibrant reflection of Marie Sophie’s life and travels. It's layered with tribal art, antiques, and ethnic rugs. It feels like the home of nomadic travelers who yearn for the myths and mysticism of the past. Every nook of the apartment is filled with mini shrines, or masks, each placed there with care and love. We felt right at home drinking hot tea surrounded by paintings and masks of Japanese spirits, and talked about our mutual love of hoarding rugs and mementos from our travels like gypsies.
Marie Sophie’s nomadic spirit has taken her from her home country in France to travel in Asia, America, and live in Australia. Her travels and the cultures she came across clearly influence her subject matter. The varied works of art in her home from different cultures and countries would seem like it could not fit together yet somehow create an eclectic harmony that works, just like Marie Sophie’s artwork. Her embroideries combine many different themes and styles, mixing Coptic icons with Japanese textiles, and putting Nepalese symbols on a classic jean jacket. This can be seen in the style of the artwork itself, which is done with such modern playfulness when the subject matter itself is more serious.
We met Marie Sophie at a Nest Benefit, an organization that helps artisans worldwide. She was teaching people how to embroider at the event. We fell in love with her artwork and admire her determination to create art with hand embroideries. Marie Sophie has been actively promoting embroidery art by teaching people how to take up embroidery themselves.
It is a treasure to meet other artisans who understand how vital it is to keep these traditions alive in a fast fashion world, and we are so happy to share Marie Sophie’s wonderful studio and work.
We had a lovely afternoon chat with Marie Sophie about her studio, home, travels, and art.
Marie Sophie’s studio is filled with beautiful works of art and embroidery that she loves and inspires her.
What drew you to embroidery? How did you get started in embroidery?
I loved art and I wanted to draw and was practicing how to draw for a while. I always wanted to be involved with art and drawing, it was difficult at first but after practicing I was able to draw better and better. I got started in embroidery because I was collecting patches, especially vintage patches from the 70’s and tribal textiles from my travels around the world. Then one day I came across some tools and thread from the Salvation Army and thought it would be great to try embroidery and make my own patches. This was before embroidery became quite popular. I started making embroidery patches and traded with friends, we traded art for a patch, etc. This kept growing.
Dragon Embroidered on Nepalese top
What's your cultural background? I know you've moved around quite a bit, has being a global citizen influenced your work?
I grew up in the suburbs of Paris, it is not like the American suburbs, it’s a mix of people coming from everywhere. A good melting pot of cultures with everybody interacting with each other. You have the rich next to the poor, the churches next to the mosques, it teaches you how to live together and feed from each other's cultures.
My travel definitely influenced my work everything is inspiration for me. I often need to pack up and go on a trip to get away from NY to recharge and find new inspiration. I lived in Australia and I traveled in Asia. Everywhere I was going I was collecting fabrics and textiles, especially vintage textiles and vintage fabrics, trying to reinterpret it in my own way so when I was in Nepal I brought back some fabric and I tried to use the same pattern, but mix it with something a little bit more modern. Every place I go inspires my work, when I was in New Mexico I was really inspired by the Chimayo weaving.
What is your current project or obsession?
I have just finished a series of Coptic designs inspired by old tattoo stamps that they would use in Egypt to tattoo Coptic Christians. I used Japanese textiles to have a contrast between Western and Eastern philosophies.
I loved the simplicity of the designs and the religious meaning behind it, I myself am not a Christian, but I was always interested in religion and philosophy since an early age. I was raised as a Catholic (French Italian family), I went to Catholic school pretty much my whole childhood. I remember having nuns as teachers at early age, then I traveled and discovered Eastern philosophy, Hinduism, Zen Buddhism... and felt more connected to Eastern philosophies.
Triumphant Coptic Angels defeating Demons
When did you first move to New York? What made you choose New York?
I moved to NY 6 years ago, I was living in Paris with my husband and we decide it would be easier to go back to NY and start our married lives there. He’s from the US.
We came back to NY because it was at the time the best and only place for my husband (a tattoo artist) and myself to live for our artistic career and be able to make art and earn a living at the same time. NY is a place where you find so many different cultures and also find yourself.
Would you say living in NYC has influenced your work and how so?
Oh totally I feel like I grew up so fast in this city, I was so poor when I moved here I was working 3 jobs at the time and had to struggle to pay rent and be able to eat anything else than rice and pasta. This city made me so tough, I didn't know many people and had to make my own family here. I was lucky to meet the right people too, I feel really blessed.
How do you feel about the local artist community?
That's also why I love NY, most of my friends are creative people or artists making things by hand. My neighbor on my block is a local BedStuy fashion designer making everything from his home. I have amazing friends who are musicians, painters, photographers, natural dyer, poet, even artists who work with stained glass and flower arrangements, and of course tattoo artists.
What’s your favorite thing to do in New York?
Just walking on the street or riding my moped. Going to the museum chilling in Chinatown, everything is inspirational for me. I love this city so much I feel like it’s home now, but I know I’ll have to leave one day because it's also a really expensive and stressful city. I’m getting older and have other expectations in life, I just want to have a little house with a big garden full of vegetable and animals.
What piece or project is your favorite?
The jacket I did for my husband, but he’s wearing it right now, it has an embroidery of Shiva and Parvati. It was kind of a trade, I asked him to tattoo my other hand, and he said okay but you have to do something for me. (Marie Sophie’s husband tattooed her before) I never made anything for him and he said you are making something for everyone except for me! So I did the jacket and it has Shiva and Parvati it was inspired by our trip to Nepal because we survived the earthquake in Kathmandu in 2013, so for us it was like Shiva coming to us, destroying everything but to wake us up. In Hinduism, you choose the God who represents you and Shiva is very important to us. Parvati is one of Shiva’s wives and when we were backpacking in Nepal at the end of the trip we stayed at a gueshouse named Shiva Guesthouse and the husband was named Shiva and the wife was so kind and she was named Parvati. Shiva and Parvati represents the love of two people. It’s a very special jacket.
Marie Sophie’s life is filled with art and travel - her tattoos embody that. She recently had tribal Berber symbols tattooed on her arms by her husband. The Berber symbols are ones she grew up with and loved when she frequently traveled to Tunisia.
What are your thoughts on the current fashion industry?
To be honest I don't follow current fashion and I’m not interested in the new Gucci shoes or the last H&M collaboration this is just meaningless for me. I’m really sad to see how fast fashion is playing such a big role in destructing our Planet and environment.
I only shop local designers made in America but most of my clothes are vintage or from my travels. I would prefer it if fashion was slow like the slow food movement.