Christel Gouze is a French designer and founder of Un Chat dans l'Aiguille. Her passion for embroidery stems from her grandmother who taught her to stitch. Inspired by nature and everything Zen, Christel's designs give traditional stitches a modern French twist.
Describe Your Style in Three Words?
Sweetness, poetry, sharing... Embroidery is a form of artistic expression that allows me to tell stories and share a universe that is unique to me and really peaceful.
What's Your Favorite Stitch?
My work is constantly evolving, particularly in recent years. At the moment, I use a lot of filling stitches. I love stem and chain stitches which allow me to fill in entire areas while creating texture in my projects. So with simple stitches, I manage to fill areas that are usually filled with more complicated stitches (shaded stitch, satin stitch).
How Did You Learn to Stitch?
I started to embroider when I was a child. During the summer school holidays, I used to stay with my grandmother Marguerite, who was a seamstress by trade for a department store in France. Every afternoon we would spend a few hours around a table where she arranged fabrics, threads, buttons, needles. While she was making me dresses, she would show me how to sew a button, assemble two pieces of fabric together, embroider simple stitches to decorate a pocket, a napkin … the goal was to keep me busy, while teaching me what she thought was essential for the education of a little girl.
My very first embroideries were printed wool canvases. Then, as I got older I created my own very simple naive designs using traditional embroidery stitches. I also embroidered things for my trousseau (a collection of items created for marriage) handkerchiefs, napkins and clothing. It was very important to my grandmother than I participated in its development.
Then came adolescence. My interests changed somewhat, and the needles and thread remained in the drawers. It was when I knew I was going to be a mum that I got back into it.
What Are Your Embroidery Essentials? (Thread/Accessories)
A 10cm hoop. A 10cm hoop allows you to keep fabric taught, see your work clearly and stitch more precisely. A good source of light. A good light source is essential to protect your eyes (a very precious tool!) and to be able to see colors and details clearly. My embroidery bag. It goes wherever I go so I always have my work-in-progress with me. A good stock of threads and all my embroidery supplies. It also houses a collection of needles, specifically one needle per color (number 9, perfect for traditional embroidery). One needle per color, you can imagine the number of needles I carry constantly!
What Inspires You?
Everything inspires me; fashion, nature, trends. I force myself not to draw too much because I don’t have enough time to develop all my ideas. I love the seasons, nature, and everything that encapsulates feeling zen and mindful. Color... is my favourite thing. Choosing and combining them. My very first designs for Un Chat dans l’Aiguille were more classic, with lots of red, burgundy and white. This was the trend in France 17 years ago. Then very quickly, I felt the need to add color to my embroidery. I like them to be soft and always in harmony. I like the colors I use to reflect my own character and they express my joy, quest for serenity and sweetness. However, in recent years, and at the request of embroiderers, my creations are more and more colorful, and I like it. Today, we are fortunate to have an inexhaustible source of inspiration, particularly through social networks. I am therefore receptive to trends and everything that pleases and inspires me to be continuously up to date. Combining modern designs and colours with the spirit of traditional embroidery is what makes my creations successful.
What’s Your Favorite Piece of Work?
The flower of life has a strong meaning for me. It symbolises life and is a great source of energy. The colors used resonate with me and reinforce this strong symbolism. This is why I really like my flower of life model. In the same way, the trees of life are works that are close to my heart. These are works that I took great pleasure in working on and developing. Working on the seasons wasn’t easy, I had to get out of my comfort zone to work with colors that I wouldn't necessarily have chosen. And of course, there is my little Salomé. I created this character a few years ago as a little mascot that would always be there for me. Salomé travels, Salomé takes care of herself and others, Salomé lives! I like to make her live all these adventures. My work is constantly evolving. I am constantly experimenting and reinventing myself. I am currently very inspired by nature and flowers which involve a lot of filling stitches.
What Difference Has Stitching Made to Your Life?
Embroidery provides a sense of escape where nothing matters except creation. It is a real source of meditation. Thanks to the embroidery, I feel soothed and aligned with myself. I used to have a huge lack of self-confidence, but embroidery has helped me enormously. Seeing my projects come to life, managing a company and a team, making decisions, speaking in public and passing on my knowledge are just a few of the many things I have achieved as a result of embroidery. Thanks to Un Chat dans l'aiguille and embroidery, I’ve been able to travel the world. I’ve been to Japan, Brazil, Jakarta and more, which has allowed me to experience different cultures, meet enriching people and explore new ways of working with threads.
How Do You Choose Which Stitches to Use or Which Areas You Are Going to Embellish With Filling Stitches?
My creative process is quite intuitive. First I draw the pattern on the fabric. Then I work by feeling. I take my needle and the inspiration comes by itself. It’s like I’m in front of a blank canvas, a brush in my hand! I choose my points as I go along, the initial design being only a pretext for my imagination. Very often my original design changes as I begin to stitch. I also undo a lot when the stitch or color don't look right. I'm not afraid to start from the beginning if I don’t like how it’s turning out.