Artist Creates Intricate Animal Portraits From Fabric and Thread

rhino portrait by artist Sophie Standing

Sophie Standing

Sophie Standing's art combines the detail of pen-and-ink illustrated field guides with the exuberant patterns of a crazy quilt. Her animal portraits not only capture the beauty of their subjects, but also seem to convey a sense of their movements and temperaments. Standing portrays the flora and fauna of Africa, including a number of endangered species.

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Elephant shrew

credit: Sophie Standing

Standing lives in Kenya, where the nature that surrounds her inspires her art. “I observe animals everywhere,” Standing told Treehugger. “On the way to dropping my kids at school, we see wild zebra, impala, bush pigs.” Standing said she also loves Kenya’s national parks, including the Mara, Tsavo and Meru.

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Elephant shrew detail

credit: Sophie Standing

To create her work, Standing starts by sketching an animal onto canvas. She then creates an intricate collage of fabrics on top of the drawing. The lines of the sketch are then re-drawn in many colors of thread using a sewing machine.

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Hyena

credit: Sophie Standing

Standing collects fabrics for her work from around the world. “I’m a sucker for fabric,” Standing said. “It’s like an addiction.” The fabrics used in her work are predominately Kaffe Fassett, Liberty Tana Lawn and Philip Jacobs. “All these designers together make up a wonderful array of colors and textures,” she said. “They have the right balance of contrast and blending.”

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Elephant

credit: Sophie Standing

Standing uses colors and patterns imaginatively. “I first choose a color palate, and really it can be anything,” she explained. “An elephant can be grey, pink and blue or burgundy and brown.” Then she picks fabrics from her collection in these colors, making sure there’s a balance of flowers, geometric designs, and large and small prints. She often works on commission, and enjoys finding a color pallet for each client.

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Dung beetle

credit: Sophie Standing

Standing’s work reveals the beauty of small creatures as well as it captures the majesty of larger ones.

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Wild dog

credit: Sophie Standing

Standing was born in England, and was raised in Hampshire. She attended Liverpool Hope University, where she studied ceramics, textiles, metal and wood. She moved to Africa in 2003, and lived in Cape Town before moving to Karen, Kenya.

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Mud crab

credit: Sophie Standing

Standing’s work draws from a number of artistic practices: drawing, needle point, quilting and collage.

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Lion

credit: Sophie Standing

Although many of Standing’s pieces portray endangered species, from rhinos to elephants, she doesn’t feel that her work has an explicit message about preservation. “But I suppose when you live in Kenya, you talk a lot about this subject with friends,” she said. Among her friends are safari guides, wildlife managers and people involved with running camps and lodges. “So poaching is a topic we talk about often,” she said. “It’s a big problem.”