Carly Owens

Breaking with Tradition

Carly Owens, <em>Broken Yolk</em>, 2022,  hand embroidered soft sculpture.
Broken Yolk, 2022, hand embroidered soft sculpture. (Images courtesy of Carly Owens Weiss.)

Multidisciplinary artist Carly Owens grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, near the site of an old textile mill. “Textiles were always in the back of my mind,” she says. In college, during a study abroad at the Royal School of Needlework outside of London, she learned the historic craft of Jacobean crewelwork. “I’ve always been a slow and meticulous worker, so embroidery worked really well with my creative process,” she says. After graduation, Owens interned for a summer as a couture embroiderer at Marchesa, a high-end fashion designer in New York City, before moving to Boulder in late 2019 to join an artist’s collective. There she began creating detailed soft sculptures of women’s bodily autonomy.

Earlier this year, at the base of an old tree near her studio in Boulder, Owens came across an empty bird’s nest and scattered fragments of blue shell. The image stuck in her mind, and after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, she began exploring the motif of cracked eggs as a metaphor for the Dobbs decision. Inspired by the tradition of 17th-century Dutch still-life painting, Owens started sewing life-size broken eggs, made from cloth, to help her make sense both of the larger implications of the decision and of how she felt about it personally. After completing an egg, she spends hours sewing on glass seed beads and embroidering the soft sculptures to resemble breakfast meals. The pieces are intricately detailed and freighted with heavy political themes, but Owens hopes viewers will approach them with a light heart. “It shouldn’t be taken too seriously because life shouldn’t be taken too seriously,” she says.

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Noelani Kirschner is a former assistant editor for the Scholar.


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