When you think of embroidery hoop art, you are probably more likely to imagine a grandmother stitching old sayings like “home is where the heart is” than a tattoo artist stitching images of cannabis plants. But Chloe O’Malley, a 28-year-old artist from Leeds, England, might change the way you think about embroidery art forever.
O’Malley’s incredible creations feature images of living cannabis plants in a realistic style, reminiscent of scientific illustrations. Each piece depicts a different strain and, working with color, shape and texture, she somehow manages to capture the unique quality of each cannabis variety.
Formally trained in embroidery arts at Manchester Metropolitan University’s embroidery degree program, O’Malley shifted her profession to tattooing, but says she picked embroidery back up a few years ago. At first, she stitched subjects that feature strongly in her tattoo work, such as flowers, animals and insects. Then, last year, O’Malley got the idea to make a cannabis embroidery hoop as a gift for her partner’s birthday. “He’s an avid smoker, so it seemed like the perfect gift!” she explains.
But what started as a simple gift idea has since become an artistic statement. As her cannabis hoops developed, O’Malley became more motivated by changing people’s perceptions of cannabis to be more positive and less judgmental.
“Personally, I enjoy the concept of using an old craft like embroidery to stitch something a little bit tongue-and-cheek like cannabis,” she says.
O’Malley says she enjoys being a part of the larger community that is pushing cannabis art forward.
“The stigma attached to cannabis is slowly lifting and people are wanting to celebrate cannabis in all its forms, one of which is in art,” she says. “There are some great Instagram accounts showcasing cannabis art through lots of different mediums.”
A recreational cannabis user herself, O’Malley says that it wasn’t until recently that she started to realize the healing properties of cannabis and how it helps everyday people in so many positive ways.
“Through my embroidery work, I have also learned so much about the beauty and diversity that this amazing plant has, and I try to portray that,” she says.
O’Malley’s process begins when she chooses her next strain, searching through Instagram accounts from different growers. She sometimes chooses strains based on an interesting name, the strain’s popularity, or her personal preference (“I like the fruity flavored strains, so Tangerine Dream is probably one of my favorites,” she says.). But most of the time, O’Malley chooses the strains she wants to embroider based upon the colors of the strain.
“I love the endless color variations with cannabis and sometimes the choice can be overwhelming,” she says. “But when I make a bunch of cannabis hoops, I like to make each one have a different color palette and I like to offer a variation between sativa, indica or hybrid strains.”
From there, O’Malley chooses an embroidery hoop size and roughly outlines the shape she will follow. Then she picks the colored threads that she thinks will best match that particular strain and starts building up the layers. She starts with leaves, then moves to the buds, next to the textured layer of hairs and finally ends with glitter accents.
Currently, O’Malley’s cannabis artwork is something she does in her spare time. However, she is considering taking on custom requests and expanding the business. Because she doesn’t tend to stitch the same strain twice, she says it’s hard to determine which strains are more popular than others.
“I’m still in the process of figuring how to make this an easy process for my customers,” she says, but she hopes to soon make an option where people can choose a custom size and strain.
In the meantime, O’Malley is continuing to make cannabis art on the side while working as a tattoo artist. Perhaps cannabis tattoos are in her future? She says, “I haven’t [done one] yet, but it’s definitely something I would love to do!”
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Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE