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Throwback Thursday: Valak, The Nun - Embroidery as Therapy During Lockdown

Updated: May 20, 2022

I don't think I'd have believed it myself if you'd told me that only three months into my stitching journey I'd be stitching a 12" version of Valak, using a technique which I had to Google... but here she is!

I think people get fed up with me posting pictures of this on Instagram now, so I thought I'd share her here as my first throwback, and maybe tell you a little more behind the story of why I stitched her in the first place. Let's face it, it's not every day you decide to start embroidering one of the scariest film faces in current times... (apparently it is for me - this is my job now).

I hadn't even decided to start embRUDEry in July 2020, when I started stitching her. I'd experimented with two other small pieces - Michael Myers and Slimer from Ghostbusters - but I was looking for something that was a bit more... well, challenging. And challenging she was! I'd never really used a thread painting technique, and, I'll be honest here, my drawing skills are shocking. As in; REALLY BAD. From the start I struggled with even getting good outline, but once I found a general shape that I was happy with I just stitched. For hours. And you know what? As her terrifying face came together under my fingers, using various pictures as sources from the web, and countless tutorials which I watched and re-watched until I was more confused than when I started, I actually began to feel as though, maybe I was good at something after all...

Don't get me wrong; I've been a crafter since I can remember. I actually used to sell my knitting (Tom Baker scarf was the ultimate achievement), crochet (little Pokemon dudes which were Christmas gifts), and folk painting (roses and castles; a lost art); but something so intricate... I just never thought I had the patience for it. I've always marvelled at other people's creations. Such detailed drawings and paintings that I couldn't even replicate, let alone try doing my own design. But there was something about that needle and thread. The way I could make it do what I wanted it to, or easily pick it out when it didn't. And the colours of the thread; the photos here don't really do this piece justice at all. When she catches the light she really begins to look radiantly unholy. Exactly what I was after from a serpent-summoning legion-leader from a 17th Century grimoire of demons.

Lockdown was a funny thing. It gave me far too much time to think, and stitching seemed to help. I could think about things whilst I was doing it, but at he same time I was so troubled by what actually might be unravelling before me that the things I did think about were mindless and almost all of no importance. It gave me a chance to analyse things and find different perspectives. It was during one of these mindless "thinking and stitch" sessions with Valak that I actually decided to start up embRUDEry. Lockdown, and having to shield throughout it, made me realise that life really is too short. It's also shit, but it's far too short to keep worrying about the shit. At some point, you have to try to focus on actually living. Even if you have no money and no actual place to live. Sometimes, you just have to say "fuck it", and go all in. And that's what Valak did for me. I was actually sad when she was finished - our little therapy sessions were over, but without them I wouldn't be where I am today. And because of her, I now have big ambitions to start alternative stitching kits for mindful stitching sessions. Eventually, I'd like to get out in the community and hold stitching sessions for mindfulness and mental wellbeing. It's a long way off yet. But I've had a long time to think about it.

I remember the first time I posted a picture of her. I was so nervous - I had posted so many dodgy photos of her progress that I knew she needed to be something good or else I'd be the next crafter to be shamed in one of those hideous "craft shaming" Facebook groups. (If you're in one of those, the shame is all on you...). However, I had so many wonderfully supportive comments, and I even ended up doing an interview on the Civil Gore podcast in December about my horror-themed embroideries! She was the first thing to go in my shop in August, and she's still there now! She's had countless comments but I keep being told that she's far too scary to hang up.... Personally, I think it's the price tag that's scary, but I already took the price down from £180 to £120, and after the time and effort that went in, I'm not budging unless someone from The Conjuring franchise buys her as a prop for the next movie, (hint, hint, hint...).

The Director of The Nun approved on Instagram and Twitter!

She also means a lot to me. If I could afford to keep her, I would, but I'd love to see her go to a good home now. I also need to make room for the next big project which I'm working on right now - a 10" version of Krampus, complete with 3D beard and teeth... I just don't think the two would get on... Wherever she ends up, I'll always have a fond memory of stitching her though lockdown, and every time I watch a Conjuring movie, I'll never forget that Valak saved my mental health.

You can find Valak in my online store, priced at £120 but open to sensible offers.


#ThrowbackThursday #Valak #TheConjuring #embRUDEry #embroidery #threadpainting #embroideryartist #contemporaryembroidery #gothic #spookyart

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