public embroidery

by kath_red on 16/03/2007

in Fibre+Needlework

Ulrika, a Swedish artist, performs random acts of “public embroidery” – small images or short words that she cross-stitches on seats in public transport. What a great way to make a long journey just a little bit brighter. Embroidery kits can be sent for free, or download patterns at the website. Send photos of your own public embroidery for the public embroidery blog. [via wooster]

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michelle March 17, 2007 at 6:15 am

Love it! I saw the public knitting stuff, but this seems like it would be more permanent and cuter, if that makes sense.


2 Pink March 17, 2007 at 7:09 am

I’m all for freedom of expression, free speech, etc., but I do have a problem with people defacing other people’s property, no matter how cute the graffiti. If this is the kind of work you will be promoting in future I’ll be finding somewhere else to read about other people’s work and talent.


3 Looby March 17, 2007 at 11:20 am

I have to agree with Pink on this one. The embroidery is very cute but it’s really no better than a graffiti tag. Perhaps leaving little embroidered bookmarks or similar for people to pick up. I appreciate the sentiments behind this, but I do feel other’s property needs to be respected.


4 Jennifer March 17, 2007 at 11:49 am

Acts of vandalism make a “long journey a little bit brighter”?!! I have absolutely no idea why this would be considered a good thing. Sewing motifs onto public transportation? Does she also enjoy randomly cleaning the upholstery on those same seats that she is defacing? My guess is no.

And all of this is being encouraged by whipup? I am guessing that offering spray paint and graffitti stencils would not be considered as charming.

You just lost a reader.


5 kelly March 17, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Is this really so upsetting? The stitches can easily be removed with a seam ripper. BFD!
I hope that whip up continues to promote and encourage any and all forms of creativity. I have been reading whip up since the very first post. If I see something I don’t like, I scroll past it – without making a big deal about it.
Please keep up the good work!


6 Katherine March 17, 2007 at 1:10 pm

I really like it. It would make me smile if I were on the train and saw one, better that than mind-numbing homogeneity.


7 Heather March 17, 2007 at 1:16 pm

I like it, too … but then, I’ve occasionally seen graffiti I liked, too. Just because I like it doesn’t mean it was put there legally. However, I have visited the artist’s website, and she has pictures from several exhibitions of her public embroidery … So perhaps she obtained permission to place her artwork where she did? Well, I’ve written her to ask more about that part of things anyway, and I’ll post about it on my site when I hear from her.


8 Keiko March 17, 2007 at 1:57 pm

wow, who would have thought creative people be so uptight and wedded to thinking in the box! what is the REAL difference between “vandalism” and “art”? who gives the official sanction, and under what authority? what makes commercial advertising in public transportation, for example, morally justified, and graffiti immoral? who is the authority for this morality — god? why bother being creative if you’re just going to parrot everything you’re told?


9 admin March 17, 2007 at 5:24 pm

I hope that readers who find this upsetting do manage to find a website more suited to their sensibilities. I didn’t consider this to be ‘defacing’ anything. Graffiti is a form of public art and in many countries/cities graffiti is considered to be an important aspect of the culture of the city. Graffiti is also a way for street culture/youth culture and the disenfranchised to ‘take back’ their city from bureaucrats and rich folk who want everything homogenised and clean. Graffiti culture has western society divided, its either seen as urban expression, an art form or mindless vandalism – a product of delinquents or the unsuccessful lower classes. Whip up is a website that encourages art and craft and creative expression in all of its many forms, not just artists who make it to galleries, or crafters who successfully sell their wares but the underground movement where change to society begins.


10 Looby March 17, 2007 at 11:22 pm

I certainly had no intention of “boycotting” Whip-Up when I posted, I love this site. My only point was that at the end of an 8 hour shift of sweeping and scrubbing public transit a cleaner might no find it such an insignificant task to grab a seam ripper and unpick someone else’s embroidery without damaging the upholstery, as I’m sure their bosses will insist they do. If this installation was given permission I’m all for it. If on the other hand, my sparing a thought for those forced to clean up means I am not cool or creative enough for the readers of this site, so be it.


11 emilydimovgottshall March 18, 2007 at 7:40 am

I agree permission needs to be granted on these exhibits. It would be the same as placing scupltures on the grass/sidewalk in front of someone’s business/home.

Another point, what if the artist decided to try something less “cute” such as the bird and say put in something political or a symbol that was negative?

I’m all for avante garde work however, doing something like this can have bigger consequences as well. And in today’s world we have to have permissions for most things…just the way it works. I don’t always agree with it and I believe there are times to resist.

This one seems like a harmless art exhibit and I’d ask permission. Reminds me of the hugs video:


12 Michelle March 18, 2007 at 10:51 am



13 completely cactus March 18, 2007 at 4:36 pm

i entirely agree with Keiko. What makes the visual pollution we’re forced to live with every day in the form of advertising images or corporate signage more valid or worthy of our attention than somebody’s personal creative expression? Just because someone’s paid to inflict their message on our landscape? I love coming across artistic moments in unexpected places and enjoy them all the more for them not being sanctioned.


14 MissMeshell March 18, 2007 at 5:23 pm

For those who have a problem with this, check out Paul Curtis aka Moose, a British street artist who creates graffiti by cleaning surfaces rather than adding to them, interesting! =)


15 Orangeblossoms March 18, 2007 at 9:57 pm

I wanted to see what the fuss was about after reading about this on another blog. Now I see; and, for the record, defacing public or private property is vandalism, no matter how justified or charming or cute it might seem. I’m just saying: you might want to call it what it is when you highlight it on your blog. You could always have a ‘cute vandalism’ section. So that we who don’t agree with it could simply avoid it.


16 Korallin March 19, 2007 at 7:22 am

This is cute and if I saw it while riding a bus it would probably put a smile on my face BUT that doesn’t make it right and I wouldn’t encourage other people to do it. It is defacing someone else’s property. Just because it’s art shouldn’t mean free license to alter something that doesn’t belong to you. If I take someone’s pictures from their blog and alter them and say it’s art does that make it right? No, I don’t believe so. Or if I hijacked whipup and changed stuff around without their permission in the name of art. Is that ok? No again. It has to do with respecting other people’s property.

I completely disagree with Keiko. There is a difference between vandalism and art. There is graffiti where it is an artistic expression but still vandalism and there is some where it is just a tag, no artistic expression, just a way to say I’m here. Why would that be considered art? Wouldn’t you say there is a difference there? And the question of what makes advertising morally justified and graffiti immoral is permission. Also in response to completely cactus, advertising isn’t more worthy of our attention. Who says it is? I’m just thinking about if it were my property and someone else putting their message on it without my permission say on my house. I don’t care if it’s art. They didn’t have the right. And I know people who have graffitied. And I can tell you they weren’t taking back their city from the rich. They were marking their territory.

And I will continue to read whipup. Just because I don’t agree with this view doesn’t mean I won’t read anymore. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. And I don’t think I should be told to go read elsewhere because I don’t share the same view.


17 Dan Anon March 19, 2007 at 8:43 am

Hmmm. On one hand, we have someone that promotes defacing the property of others, and on the other hand, we have some “crafty” folks that think this is no big deal.

Okay. Crafty folks: I’m gonna come over to your house and leave some nice “crafty” stuff all over your belongings. And if my “cute” folk-art is really not to your liking, you can hire painters and carpenters to clean it up, k? BFD, right?

This is the way we do it in the 21st century, folks. Some spoiled brain-child has an idea that they just go ahead and implement, and they get pissed when others want them to stop screwing with the way things are.

Child, get over it, grow up, and start taking pride in your own things. That way, when people come along and F&^k with your stuff, you’ll have a sense of what us conservative folk are saying.

just my 2¢


18 stringy March 19, 2007 at 9:01 am

But isn’t public transport *our* property? Buses and trains aren’t privately owned (are they in some areas? not where I live). If our taxes pay for it, then how come coporate interests can cover it with their political/commercial messages but we can’t add anything to it ourselves?

I don’t have a problem with whip-up showing this stuff, especially if it generates debate over the grey areas of art and craft. Just because whip-up shows it, doesn’t mean that we all have to approve of it, there’s room for disagreement, surely?


19 Tonya March 19, 2007 at 9:44 am

I agree that while cute, things like this are defacing property. As for advertising, those are PAID placements. If someone wants to pay for the placement of their art, so be it. Perfectly acceptable in that case.


20 emilydimovgottshall March 19, 2007 at 10:20 am

BTW, I don’t have any problem with Whipup talking about this type of artwork or others. I agree with stringy and think it’s just what needs to be debated/discussed/defined or left open to interpretation.

Actually, I respect Whipup for bringing these issues/topics out and I’m glad to see a place to discuss this. Thank you!


21 Heather March 19, 2007 at 4:39 pm

As mentioned above, I had contacted Ulrika and asked if she had sought permission to place her artwork, and if she’d experienced any difficulties as a result of being “caught” while in the process of stitching a piece of her public embroidery. As I said I would, I’ve reported back with her answers — and some additional and hopefully entertaining information: (Or just click on my name, and it should take you there.)


22 admin March 20, 2007 at 4:54 pm

thanks Heather
thats wonderful


23 Goblinko March 20, 2007 at 10:59 pm

Such uptightness! It’s 2007, street art is a mixture of art & crime, which is why it is so sweet. Whatever your argument against it is, it’s not a big deal either way. It’s small potatoes. Lighten up & enjoy the added details to your life. & this was cool, embroidering public transit seats is a cool thing to do, criminal vandalism or not. F*ck the law!


24 emilydimovgottshall March 22, 2007 at 4:44 am

If you do vandalism at least do it for a reason:


25 samplerstitcher April 6, 2007 at 5:53 am

Keiko, perhaps unimaginitive souls who are freaking out about this are all that creative.

Stringy, you are so right. Our taxes make public transportation possible. Advertising, often offensive to many, is forced upon the riders. So what is wrong with a little harmless self-expression?

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that many of these law-abiding posters think nothing of chattering endlessly on their cell phones whilst riding public transportation. That is certainly more annoying than a small motif embroidered on a train or bus seat.

However, I imagine that public embroidery is probably better done in a country like Sweden. I can’t even begin to imagine the grime and other questionable substances which would quickly obliterate the little motifs on the Chicago El trains.


26 samplerstitcher April 6, 2007 at 9:52 pm

Eek! May I correct the first paragraph of my post? I meant to say “perhaps the unimaginative souls who are freaking out about this are not that creative.”


27 laura r. September 28, 2007 at 12:10 am

i am inspired by the dialogue this has generated.


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