Celebrating the beauty of feminity through etches and stitches

By Shelton Chang

Teresa might look like your average girl next door, but with a massive following of 68.3k on Instagram, she is an artist we ought to look out for. Her well-curated Instagram feed, showcases her love for embroidery art, travel and her boyfriend on social media. Having graduated from Lasalle College of the Arts with a First-Class BA Honours in Fashion Design and Textiles, Teresa amalgamates three of her interests together: Illustrations, Embroidery and Surface pattern design. Her design philosophy and designs seek to blur the lines and boundaries between being an illustrator and a textile designer. Inspired by themes revolving around gender and womanhood, her works were showcased in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Japan and were even picked up by international brands such as H&M, Swarovski, Gucci, Coach and Olympus. Aside from creating embroidery art, Teresa loves reading and catching up shows on Netflix like everybody else.

Tell us your relationship with embroidery and illustrations. Why this particular medium over other conventional ones?

I majored in textile design when I was in university, we had to go through a short course in basic embroidery and that was the start of my embroidery journey. As part of the coursework, I started out working on embroidery samplers. Very soon after, I got so addicted to the process of embroidering that I found myself hoping that the course never ended. With embroidery, it takes much more time to “draw” on fabric with thread compared to drawing on a paper with ink. So in a way, I feel like I have more control over my medium with embroidery. Furthermore, the process speaks to me more.

It must be a headrush of joy and elation when Gucci featured your work in their GucciTian campaign, was there any motifs and meaning you were trying to imbue into the piece when you were creating it?

The Tian print is beautiful and when I see the flowers in full bloom and tall leaves, it translates the feeling of maturity for me. Because I have this thing for contrast and juxtaposition, I knew I wanted to focus on contrasting the maturity of the print with something more “playful” or youthful. For the Tian pieces, I was inspired by the young energy and mature mystique of school girls who come in a group. The image in mind that I had was to portray not just beauty, but an air of nonchalance and power, which is how I perceived the GucciTian print to be.

Tell us all about the meaning and significance of your work “The Twelve Rooms”

I started “The Twelve Rooms” series after listening to a conversation amongst some 10 to 14-year-old young teenage girls. They were battering themselves for being too fat when clearly they were far from it. I wondered where they were getting their ‘ideas’ for the ‘perfect’ body image from and most of it came from social media and magazines. I remember from my own experience growing up, I accepted whatever society and the media threw at me and I was unhappiest then. I grew up thinking that I was the only one with these feelings and I wished for someone real to tell me that I wasn’t alone. “The Twelve Rooms” is my response to that. It is the grown-up me telling the young ‘Me’ in the past that I’m not alone. It is the ‘Me’ now, using illustrations and art as a form to tell any young person who might be feeling the same way, that they’re not alone in this. Just to name a few, some of the struggles the subjects depicted in “The Twelve Rooms” are bullying, problems with body image, feelings of not fitting in and conforming to gender expectations and stereotypes.

Would you ever go back to doing fashion?

No, I don’t think I will. It is an industry that moves too fast and focuses on all the wrong things. So it’s not for me at the moment.

Your skin looks immaculate in your photos, you got to tell us about your skincare secrets.

It is not immaculate hahaha. I have blemishes, large pores and oily skin. What most people see online is curated. Although I don’t edit my photos to cover up all these flaws, sometimes on a camera you cannot tell! But in real life, I have quite a number of skin issues. No secrets to share! If I were to say anything, it would be to drink lots of water. The right kind of water matters too though. Oh, and my must-haves are Dr.TWL Dermaceutical’s Hyaluronic Acid Serum and Mineral Booster™. They contain purified deep sea mineral water which calms, moisturises and hydrates my skin all through the day. It also smells really nice and leaves my face feeling very refreshed.

We hear the term ‘starving artists’ in Singapore, but it does not seem to be the case for you. Any advice or quotes you have for aspiring and budding artists who may be plagued with challenges?

I would say to refrain making comparisons. It’s so easy to look over at what others are doing and then feel like you’re inadequate or not good enough. But the thing with comparing is that there will always be someone better than you. If not now, there will be. So I would say to focus on your own race and tell your own stories through your work or business, and let others do their own.

For more of Teresa’s work, follow her on her Instagram @teeteeheehee and her website teeteeheehee.com.