Growing up surrounded by textiles in Antigua, Guatemala provided the perfect inspiration for artist Brielle DuFlon. She’s since taken her love of color and texture to the U.S. where she works creating intricate embroidered art pieces. We caught up with Brielle to learn about what life was like growing up in Guatemala, what her creation process is like and what advice she has for aspiring artists.
Full Name: Brielle DuFlon
Hometown: Antigua, Guatemala.
Astrological Sign: Gemini
Nahual Sign (if you know it): Aq’ab’al
What brought your family to Guatemala?
My father moved to Guatemala in 1960 when he was really young because of my grandfather’s job. He later went to high school and college in the United States but returned to Guatemala when he was finished because his family was still there. At that time, my mother was traveling through Central America and was taking Spanish classes in Antigua and selling her art. They met at a life-drawing class hosted at my father’s childhood home (they are both artists). They were together in Antigua for some time and then moved to Texas where they were married and I was born some years later. Right after I was born they decided to move back to Antigua because they both missed it, and I ended up spending the first 18 years of my life there! They still live in Guatemala.
What’s your favorite place in the country?
That’s an incredibly difficult question! But I would have to say Antigua and the surrounding towns that are so familiar to me. I also absolutely adore Lake Atitlán and all of the lake towns, and the magic and remoteness of Semuc Champey. I also think Xela, with its architecture and history, is really cool.
What inspired you to start your embroidery art pieces?
I’ve always been fascinated with texture and I would say that Guatemala had a huge part in planting that seed in me. Guatemala is so visually stimulating and full of texture everywhere you look – the walls, the plants, the cobblestones and obviously the textiles. My grandfather collected textiles and they’ve always been in my life and have been treated with great respect. I began my own little huipil collection about 5 years ago – some of the pieces I keep for decoration and some I wear.
I guess the reason I turned to thread in my art was to add that dynamism, depth, and texture to the stories and compositions I wanted to create. I also appreciate the delicacy and femininity of embroidery, and the patience required to execute it. It is an old-world art and I really am drawn to that. My fiber arts are mostly self-taught, I actually graduated with a degree in printmaking, but the lines and textures I used to love creating in my woodcuts (and still love and practice) have also made it into my embroidery.
What inspires your designs?
I enjoy storytelling and capturing shared human experience, or relatable feelings. I also am deeply moved by nature and the environment, our impact on it and it’s impact on us. My favorite figurative scenes often use visual metaphor to describe human emotion and loss through natural scenes, characters or personalities (often plants and flowers).
As for my abstract work, my favorite compositions come from real places. They come from real compositions that were derived naturally through gravity or decay and because they’re real they feel familiar. Sometimes it’s the entire arrangement, sometimes just a segment of it. In the same vein, I’ve recently become very interested in creating pieces that ask people to reconsider discarded material and waste, or to reconsider objects and plants that are passed their prime. How can I make discarded things tender and beautiful for people? It’s quite a fun challenge.
Where do you find your materials?
I’ve been extremely lucky to have received gifts over the course of the last few years – a friend and ex-coworker passed on lots of embroidery thread to me, and I recently received a beautiful weaving loom and more yarn than you could ever imagine from another friend who can no longer weave due to arthritis. I feel extremely lucky every day. When I don’t have something I need thread or yarn-wise, I buy it from the store, which isn’t so exciting! I buy my paints from the store, too. I would love to eventually get into dyeing my own yarn and thread but I have a little ways to go and some yarn to work through before I get to that point.
For my sewn assemblages that have to do with discarded material, that is all collected by me – In the case of Summer Harvest, all of the plants and seed pods and insects were personally found and collected from my backyard or the forest. For the pieces having to do with collected litter, I personally pick it all up while I walk around Charlottesville, Virginia U.S.A. where I currently live. As for the rose petals I’ve been working with recently, I have a special situation with a local florist here in Charlottesville where I pick up old roses unfit for sale and let them age gracefully, pressing and drying them when they begin to droop. They would have just been thrown away and the idea is to cut down on waste.
How would you describe your art in three words?
Reverential, Precise, Vulnerable.
Can you tell us a little bit about the new loom you received and your plans for using it?
An amazing woman, Carter Howards, who was a weaver here in Virginia for around 40 years, passed this loom on to me. It is a Macomber 10–harness loom, about 6 feet wide and about 5 feet deep (when open). She is teaching me how to use it now. I’ve never used a loom like this before and it’s quite technical. There is a lot to learn but it will all become intuitive eventually, I think.
Because I am already all booked up this year as far as art shows are concerned, I’m going to spend this year just getting comfortable weaving and with the loom – learning and testing patterns, practicing whenever I can. Besides weaving wall hangings for pleasure and as art pieces, I would eventually like to run a small business that revolves around creating housewares and home goods alongside my fine art. The plan is to work directly with people looking for something specific to integrate into the color scheme and design elements already present in their households or spaces – pillowcases, rugs, bedspreads, placemats, napkins, table runners etc. I would create high quality weavings that begin as art and end up useful in the house. I’m in the process now of getting together some smaller items (miniature art, jewelry and wearables) that will fall into the same brand. I’ll initially be selling things on Etsy but might graduate to having my own website and shop someday, that is the idea!
Favorite huipil design?
I am absolutely drawn to Nahualá because of the dreamy colors and tie-dye effect of the running ink, but I also like Santiago, Atitlán’s a lot, San Juan Sacatepéquez (yellow and purple is one of my favorite color combinations), and also Totonicapán and Nebaj’s huipiles.
Do you have a style icon?
I don’t know that I have a style icon – my favorite runway designer might be Alexander McQueen because of his absolutely magical dream clothing but I would say that my own personal style has developed over time as a combination of my trying to express my love for color and fabric, my wanting to celebrate my Guatemalan upbringing and influence and my appreciation for line and simplicity. This often results in my combining color or pattern saturated clothing with simple pieces as well. I’m quite tall and learning what works best on my body has been pivotal in pulling me toward certain brands and choices. I’m also totally drawn to vintage clothing – it’s my guilty pleasure! The women in my life – close friends and family members, as well as some of the men have influenced my personal aesthetic as well through honesty and example.
What advice can you offer to budding artists?
I guess I would tell budding artists what my mother always taught me, which is that without discipline, your talent might not take you anywhere. It’s really important to put in the time and to make a routine, to consider your art important and take it seriously, to defend the time you set aside to work on your art and not let other things interrupt that time. Practice really does make you better – sometimes it’s not the actual technique but it’s the way the ideas come to you, or how you communicate them, or how long it takes you to make something.
The other thing I would say is that as hard as it is to market yourself with confidence, it’s absolutely crucial to how people perceive and receive you and it’s the only way to get to a place of establishment and respect. There is always going to be more to learn and you can always be better but the fun is in the process of that growth, of feeling and seeing yourself taking on challenges and working through discomfort. Bring people into your process – document things, make your audience feel included, prompt conversations. It’s also important to acknowledge the progress you do make, personally, even when you feel you could do better – I am a firm believer (because I’ve experienced it first hand) that when you are kind to yourself and accept your accomplishments, no matter how small, your foundation for further growth is stronger, your altogether growth is greater and your feeling of fulfillment in life deeper.
Favorite Guatemalan slang word?
This is really hard but I want to say all the derivatives of “De a Huevo” (huevona, huevón, hueviar, qué hueva, a huevos, mi huevo etc.). They are so Chapín to me and there seems to be one for every occasion!
Thanks Brielle for taking the time to talk with us. We find your work so inspiring and we can’t wait to see what you create in the future!
[Portrait photos taken by Meredith Coe.]