Ulla-Stina Wikander – Reinventing disused tools with embroidery


Upcycling and Recycling might be a new trend for many of us, but for Ulla-Stina Wikander, this has been her mean of creation for the last 15 years.

Twenty years ago, the artist started to buy old (but not antique) embroidery pictures created in cross-stitches. They were kitsch oldies and a reminder of another time. She spent a lot of time looking at them and she thought she wanted to find a new purpose for them. She was not an embroiderer herself and was intrigued by the technique. So, to understand it, she started cutting these pieces inside out.

Sewing machine Greeen © Ulla-Stina Wikander
Electric Mixer Orange © Ulla-Stina Wikander
First Vacuum cleaner © Ulla-Stina Wikander

And one day, inspiration struck her and she associated an old, broken vacuum cleaner with an embroidered picture. She started cutting it and gluing the embroidered pieces to the outside of the machine. She kept on going like this until the old and broken tool as well as the kitschy embroidery created a new song for her, full of charm and humor. The machine was softened by the fabric, its forms revealed in a completely different way. “I love the idea that a thing that no one wants anymore could be desirable again, with a new value than the one it was created for.” Abandoning their functional role, those tools were now seen very differently and they started to be appreciated in a completely new way. Made for one particular action, they were given a new, meditative, resting value.

She also found that this way of transforming things had a powerful and socio-political meaning to it. The tools are usually household items from the 70s. The embroidered pictures are even older. Both are linked an older version of womanhood and femininity.

Family and friends © Ulla-Stina Wikander

They represent the quiet and domesticated woman living at home, taking care of a family, and who has time to decorate her house. Linking those two types of items, Ulla-Stina gives us, with a touch of humor, a new vision of what femininity is, and the new role of women in society.
All the tools and objects she re-creates are not necessarily broken, but they are out of date, obsoletes. All have been replaced by more modern versions. Therefore, with this new approach in embroidery, Ulla-Stina invites us to look at them as a form of expression instead of something to be thrown away.
The embroiderer’s work is respected “I have a deep admiration for the embroidery work of all these women. It is always a bit difficult for me to cut those pieces. But this way, they are saved and can exist in another plane. I feel I actually give homage to them.”

Iron Lady, work in progress © Ulla-Stina Wikander
But the child survived © Ulla-Stina Wikander

Today, it is more and more difficult to find those old embroideries. Sometimes, people use them to decorate their armchairs or bags. Ulla-Stina has to drive through a larger circle to find them, when once she could find so many in Stockholm, where she lives.

Best Pastry © Ulla-Stina Wikander
Hairdresser (détails) © Ulla-Stina Wikander
Painful work © Ulla-Stina Wikander
Watter Kettle © Ulla-Stina Wikander
Tools © Ulla-Stina Wikander
Flower Iron (Miami) © Ulla-Stina Wikander