über embroiderers: Max Colby

detail of Role-Play by Max Colby

I’m trying to keep up a sort of regular ‘feature’ on über embroiderers on The Smallest Forest: These are the big kids, the crème de la crème, the leet of needle and thread…that runts like me long to play with, but will never even exist in the same universe with. *stabs herself with a #24 chenille* Oh, crewel world!

✂ – – – ✂ – – – ✂ – – – ✂

Where are all these really fantastic male embroiderers coming from? It’s as though there were some secret monastery in the hinterlands of, say, Romania, where men are being taught to master the sorts of things that women used to learn in convent schools a hundred years ago (but no more).

You know what? I don’t think I’ll say anything at all about Max Colby’s hand embroideries (and some fabric, mixed-media collages) on collagraph prints (on handmade paper). His work takes me out of this world, it’s just so…ah, heck, go have a look for yourself. I sit here trembling with excitement, joy, and wonder…but also (I’ll be honest) with a touch of unease and miserable yearning. This guy is good. Really good.

But enough. His website and his blog are choc full of printmaking prowess and embroidered tremendousness, and I am impatient to put this post up now, so that I can go and look at more of his art. I’ll probably run into a few of you there!

On his website, his biography reads:

Max Colby is a mixed-media artist currently working in Boston, MA. He is a self-taught tailor and fibers artist with a formal background in printmaking and papermaking. By utilizing extravagant embellishments and applications in conjunction with fragile and dwindling figures both ephemeral (print) and physical (sculptural), the stress of Max’s work is placed on external manifestations of identity construction as a highly performative act. In 2012, Max received a BFA with a concentration in printmaking and papermaking from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

installation of "Role-Play: Microscopic Views" by Max Colby


8 thoughts on “über embroiderers: Max Colby

  1. Awesome! My mother is in Boston right now! She’s on the Quilting tour of a lifetime in the U.S. Or at least she was, right now she’s locked in her hotel because of the Hurricane! Looks like they’re going to miss the big quilt fest in Houston.

    I Can’t see any reference to an exhibition in Boston at the moment… Only in New York and it finished last week.


  2. Embroidery used to be a male profession, centuries ago. I’ve noticed that these days, when it’s been exclusively a female occupation for about 100 years, those men that do take up embroidery tend to excel at it. Rather as though the only excuse for a man to embroider is if he is really, really good at it…


    1. I don’t know enough about the European traditions, though it’s true that in India professional embroidery of the highest quality is still the sole territory of male craftsmen. I wonder if Christianity had something to do with the eventual relegating of embroidery to females? I’m not up on my history of these things, as you no doubt are! I do know a lot of men personally, who cross stitch…I wouldn’t say they excel at embroidery, and they buy their charts, but it’s good to see a well-rounded human being who wants to know how to do everything reasonably well, without hang-ups about gender clichés.


      1. I believe most seventeenth and eighteenth century professional embroidery for fashion was done by men, and the last time I looked into the Bayeux tapestry it was thought that it was embroidered by English monks. Remember that some of these gender clichés are quite recent – a fashionable 17th or 18th century European man was expected to take an interest in everything, from recent scientific and philosophical thinking to the cut of his coat and the choice of his furnishings – none of this “Oh, I leave all that to the little woman!”

        It’s hard to find a suitably renaissance man these days, so if you’ve got one, hang on to him!


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