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Armed with a needle and thread, artist creates enchanting tapestries of African wildlife

MARY JO DILONARDO
December 22, 2016, 11:06 a.m.
Sophie Standing Siberian tiger
Look into the penetrating eyes of this Siberian tiger. (Photo: Sophie Standing)
Take a look at the striking wildlife images created by artist Sophie Standing and you'll see intricate and beautiful images of colorful animals. But look more closely and you'll see that the details within the animals are flowers and other fauna and the images themselves are actually textile canvases.
"I have always been fascinated with the natural world: flora and fauna. So automatically mammals and nature have become the focus of my artworks," Standing tells MNN. Although she grew up in the countryside of Hampshire in England, she has lived in Africa with her husband for the last 16 years.
"We both have a love for adventure and African wildlife, and over the many years we have spent lots of time exploring and on safari in amongst the wildlife."

This African lion has daisies on her cheeks. (Photo: Sophie Standing)
Each of Standing's pieces can be up to 5 feet long and can contain more than 3,000 yards of thread.
"I start with looking at photos of the mammal I'm wanting to create and then I do a detailed drawing graphite drawing," Standing says. "I sometimes change the Image, move ears or legs, add tails or even montage whole body parts."

Sophie Standing's 'Silverback' features a colorful Eastern mountain gorilla. (Photo: Sophie Standing)
Standing then enlarges the drawing and copies it onto a canvas.
"I then start the process of choosing fabric and appliquéing it," she says. "Then it's sewing for many hours, drawing the details with threads and blending fabrics and enhancing areas like big flowers."

The appliques are made with different colored fabrics. (Photo: Sophie Standing)
It takes hours and hours to get all those details right, Standing says. She adds tiny scraps of fabric to make tiny flowers and to create intricate patterns and designs.

A single piece of Standing's art can contain more than 3,200 yards of thread. (Photo: Sophie Standing)
Sewing those details is her favorite part of the creative process.
"The other stages are just the starting place and the process I need to do to create the mammals ... as soon as I start sewing them with all the different threads then they come alive, this is the exciting part I love."

This creature is almost too colorful to be called a black rhino. (Photo: Sophie Standing)
"I have always been creative," says Standing. "From an early age I crocheted, knitted, embroidered so it was a part of me and I knew that somewhere down the line my art would be influenced by this."
The first two pieces she created in this way were for a friend in Cape Town, who had her make some textile artwork for a clothing boutique. From there, she began to receive private commissions from tourists who saw her art on the walls of the shop.

Look at the amazing long lashes of the African antelope. (Photo: Sophie Standing)
Standing has also created stained glass windows, and has worked in flower design and dressmaking.

The details of the animals are created by sewing different colored threads. (Photo: Sophie Standing)
Standing says she predominantly uses the fabrics of Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably and Philip Jacobs.
"They are amazing designers; their fabrics are very special and truly unique," she says. "This is what pushes me to create such bold and unusual work but the use of these eye-popping, mouth-watering fabrics that I choose and blend together with cotton threads to create long fur and hide, scales and horns."

The aardvark has flowers on the inside of his ears. (Photo: Sophie Standing)

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