Modern Needlework That’s Precisely Executed and Disconcertingly Designed

“My Mom loves Fleetwood Mac, hence, ‘tusk’, and my dad owns a custom home building business named Cardinal Construction”, Lindsay Swearingen tells us when we talked to her about her fascinatingly crisp and contemporary embroidery work, presented under the moniker Tusk + Cardinal.


Including handmade embroidered hoops and patches crafted in northern California, Lindsay’s collection of work focuses on natural elements, with a twist: more conventional floral compositions are intertwined with severed hands and rabbits sliced neatly in two. The simplicity is disarming, and cast all in a muted colour palette of black and dusky hues. It’s a contemporary twist on a traditional artistic technique, pushing creative media into ever-new territory – you can check out more of her work over on Instagram.


The Plus: What drew you to this art medium – were you always a dexterous person?
Lindsay Swearingen:
My Mom taught me to sew when I was pretty young, but I was too impatient and gave up after just a couple projects. I always loved making things, and a few years ago I picked up a modern cross stitch kit. It inspired me to see such a traditional medium updated and cool.


TP: Your embroiders work wavers between dark and light backgrounds – are you more of a day bird, or night owl?
I’m an early riser, but I’ve always preferred a cloudy day over a sunny one. That’s probably part of the reason I’m so drawn to a moody colour palette.

TP: Speaking of colour – you have a distinctive palette of monochrome, plus dusty colour tones. How did this develop, and why are you drawn to it?
If I’m honest, I just really loved the spooky and gloomy qualities of this palette. I like to make things that I imagine spark a conversation or a new way of looking at things. I try to curate my work enough so that I feel like the majority of the items I make could be displayed side by side and have cohesion. This gives me parameters to work within, which works best for me.


TP: Rabbits and disembodied hands feature a lot in your work – what significance do they hold for you?
There’s no real symbolic meaning to the rabbits or the hands, but I do like that they tend to spark a conversation with anyone who sees my work. The rabbits are especially uncomfortable for some. It’s not always positive, but I love that something I’ve made affects someone enough to tell me their thoughts on it.


TP: What’s the most inspiring thing that’s happened to you recently?
I have a group of local artists in my town that I meet with monthly to talk shop, get advice, and just hang out. I definitely recommend reaching out to other creatives for support and inspiration. It’s made all the difference to my creativity.