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Work Samples

"Hanging Them Out to Dry" Installation

Hand embroidered , endangered birds, thread painting, installation, fiber art , environmental art
Hand Embroidered birds on vintage linen napkins, installed at New Germany State Park, cabin loop trail, Grantsville, MD 2020.

Ms. Queenfisher dips her Feet

fiberart, thread drawing, figure, bird headed women, king fisher, woodcock
Freehand machine stitching, fabric, and felt applique on toile decor fabric stretched in a 24" wooden Embroidery hoop, 2020.

COVID Artifact Masks : Protectors of Greed & Truth

political art, hand embroidery, image transfer, cover art, mask
Image transfer and hand embroidery on cotton, hand-sewn on disposal masks commonly used for COVID-19 protection. 2020

Magpie Costume & "Not for the Shooter Gallery"

fiberart, birds, soft sculpture , environmental art
View of the artist in her Magpie costume with her piece "Not for the Shooter Gallery" at the Peale Museum, Baltimore, MD 2017

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About Jennifer

Baltimore City

Jennifer McBrien's picture
Jennifer McBrien is  a thread illustrator, who uses hand and freehand machine embroidery to illustrate her thoughts of our natural and complicated world. Her process begins with ink drawings from observation and photographic resources. The rest relies on  mind ramblings, juxtapositions and compositional techniques. In her prior life as a painter, she would always begins with a wall paper pattern that she would layer onto, to hide and reveal. Currently Toile, decorative fabrics, or... more

Hanging them Out to Dry , 2019-2020

“Hanging Them Out to Dry” is about man’s influenced on climate change through everyday life activities. The embroidered birds represent a wide range of birds that are on the sliding scale of endangerment: the Piping plover to the Boat-tail grackle, the American Woodcock to the Mourning Warbler, the Brown Pelican to the Upland Sandpiper. Stitching them all from hand was done as a dedication as well as an act of preservation. The vintage napkins, as well as the clothesline, were selected for their function and history. We have traded in the health of our earth for our convenience.

This is the first work of art that exclusively features my hand embroidery. Thanks to a course at Penland School of Craft titled "Stitching as Drawing", I had been updated beyond my pre-teen experience of stitching embroidery kits on long road trips. I was amazed that I did remember most of the stitches. Now the "kit" is of my own design, with the mission of rendering living birds. I had to go back to my painting knowledge and color theory to figure out the art of blending colors with thread. Stitching is definitely a three dimensional act and a color thread stitched with or next to each other can blend and make new colors.

To photograph this piece, I took them out to New Germany State park, to find a place that I could install to bring it to life. I really have to admit there is something amazing about seeing them in this beautiful environment that truly brings them to life. I plan on adding more birds, with a kingfisher in progress , as well as find new places to install them.

"Hanging them out to Dry", was originally created for the show : "Unnatural Causes, an Exhibition about Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss" that was to be at the Charles Mansion in Baltimore, MD, for the spring of 2020. It has been postpone indefinitely due to the COVID-19 crisis. Hopefully it will happen at the Peale Center some time in the near future.

The Emergence of the Bird Women

My bird women first came as a reaction to the Alexander McQueen’s show : “Savage Beauty” , at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the summer of 2011. Not right at first. I had to go see the show again at the Victoria and Albert in London in 2015. Still not emerging in my work. Not even in my sketches, but that duck wing dress, I could not forget. The incorporation of animal parts in his headdresses and dresses could not escape my mind. I remember my first thought , “ If I wore that I could do anything," like a super woman, a fighter.

The bird portraits that I began to draw in thread started in 2015, first as small hoop pieces. But not until 2017 , that they became my ancestors in my piece “The Genealogy of My Imaginary Family”, made up of 13 freehand machine-stitched bird portraits, ranging in sizes from 3” to 14”, canvas stretched circular hooped birds portraits resembling a genealogy tree of human personalities. My portraits evolved from shape and size, ruff to helmeted guneafowl, black thread to color.

Then 2016 happened along with the Trump administration and my world got rocked with constant news blast and mistrust of my government. Watching the rights of my fellow human beings getting stumped on while environmental protections were snuffed out! I needed strength to fight this evil power, and the bird woman emerged from that vision of Alexander McQueen. I kept seeing myself with added uniform of wings and helmet at the end of my yoga routines when I would envision my younger self staring back at me. These are the pieces that grew from this period of rage. My new characters and plants play and interact within the scenes of the toile and decor fabrics. I’ve used a variety of materials to stitch on, depending of its opaqueness and color. Fabrics range from vintage barkcloth to organic cotton to felt.

This is the most recent series that Ihave been working on since 2019. I see them growing and evolving even now that Trump is out of office, knowing very well, what he represents and what he has uncovered and brought to the light. I can see me turning myself into a bird woman in the future.

Covid 19 Mask Project

Covid 19 Mask Project

A series of images that illustrate moments during this current period of the Coronavirus. Images are transferred onto cotton then manipulated with hand embroidery. Each of these have been converted into a mask, which just seems to be the best symbol to represent COVID- 19 in America where the Mask has become as politicized and controversial to our continual divide under the Trump administration. Since I am talking about social and political current events I have used photographs from various news publications to manipulate.

Figures in Thread

Figures in thread have been a focal point for my work since my first piece “Girl with Bird” in 2014. I was doing figure drawing during an open studio session at Maryland Institute ,College of Art to keep my drawing skills up to snuff. I have always enjoyed drawing the figure and using the female figure as my vehicle of communication. It was only natural for me to challenge myself with stitching the figure on my sewing machine.

“Lost in Collaboration” is the first piece that felt like home to me. It captured the layers that I used when I painted. Having the figures and birds collaborate with the pattern background revived my painter past of painting wallpaper backgrounds as my ground, adding layers of line work with color shaping in and out with playful levels of opaqueness of paint , now translate in fabric and felt.

The two studies of woman based on Works by Richard Deibenkorn are my first works that incorporate felt into the background for color.

  • Lost in Collaboration

    fiberart, thread drawing, figure
    "Lost in Collaboration" 2018, 18" X 18" X 1" Freehand machine-stiched drawn figure, trees, and bird on toile fabric and canvas stretched in an 18" embroidery hoop.
  • Lost in Collaboration, detail

    fiberart, thread drawing, figure
    Freehand machine stitched line work on fabric, felt applique.
  • Dream

    Dream, freehand machine stitched figure, on  vintage barkcloth
    "Dream" 2020, 20" X 12" X .5" Freehand machine-stitched figure and dandelion on cotton fabric, freehand machine flower on felt, appliqued and reinforced sewn on vintage barkcloth. Stretched and framed in a vintage wooden embroidery hoop.
  • The Sign of the BlueBird

    fiberart, thread drawing, figure
    "The Sign of the BlueBird", 2020. 27" x 18" x 1" Freehand machine-stiched figure, bluebird, and coneflower plant on fabric, flower diagrams freehand machine stitched on felt, all applique on toile fabric. Stretched and frame in the vintage wooden embroidery hoop.
  • Jenny the Wren

    fiberart, thread drawing, figure , bird
    "Jenny the Wren " 2020. 16" X 16" X 1" Freehand machine-stitched figure, wren, hibiscus outline, and dandelion plant. Hand Embroidered flowers, on toile fabric. Stretched and frame in a vintage embroidered hoop.
  • Girl with Bird, 2014

    fiberart , thread drawing, figures, freehand machine stitched
    Thread Drawn figure with Bird, 2014. Freehand Machine Stitched figure with felt appliqué bird on decor fabric, in 12" embroidery frame.
  • After Deibenkorn Girl with Flower Background

    fiberart , thread drawing, figures, freehand machine stitched
    Freehand machine stitching on canvas and felt. Based on Richard Diebenkorn's "Girl with Flower Background" 8" X 10" , 2019
  • After Deibenkorn, Seated Woman No. 44

    freehand machine stitching, thread drawing, figure, Deibenkorn
    "After Deibenkorn, Seated Woman No. 44", 2019 . Freehand machine stitching on canvas and felt 8" X 6" x 1.5"
  • I Dream of Scotland

    fiberart, thread drawing, figure
    "I Dream of Scotland" 2014. Freehand Machine Stitched figure appliqués on fabric collage. Adhere to wood.
  • Sleeping Seasons

    fiberart, thread drawing, figure
    "Sleeping Seasons ", 2014 Freehand machine stitching on canvas and vintage barkcloth 15" x 10"

Postal Pillow Project

With the threat from the Trump administration to privatize the Postal System, I wanted to speak up on my support of one of our countries oldest and most popular systems that I have definitely relied on to do my everyday business.
In collaboration with artist, MattMuirhead, who started a campaign for the USPS by selling silkscreen mailboxes on fabrics that he would mail through our beloved system. I started to elaborate and asked Matt to silkscreen mailboxes and specific fabrics for me.

These pillows are perfect to scream or cry into as we deal with the insanity of 2020 and beyond.

  • If a Woodcock Could, a Woodcock Would Postal Pillow

    fiberart, decor pillow, freehand machine stitched, felt appliqué
    “If a Woodcock Could, a Woodcock Would” postal pillow features all linework by freehand machine stitching except the mailbox, which is silkscreen. Measuring 16” x 16”, the front has national park symbols in the surrounding fabric, and airmail symbols in the center panel. The back panel is a leaf pattern in grays. Iris and manhole cover are stitched on felt. 2020
  • Ms.Queen Fisher and her Kingfisher wait for the mail decor pillow

    fiberart, decor pillow, freehand machine stitched, felt appliqué
    Ms. Queenfisher and Kingfisher Wait for the Mail, postal pillow, 2020 measures 20" x 20"features freehand machine-stitched bird woman and kigfisher on cotton and flowers on felt, piping, zipper closure with a cotton fabric base. Mailbox is silkscreened by artist, Matt Muirhead. 2020
  • Save ME Postal Pillow

    fiberart, decor pillow, freehand machine stitched, felt appliqué
    Save ME Postal Pillow, 2020. Freehand machine-stiched figures, text, and lily bulb on handwriting paper pattern cotton fabric, with piping and zipper closure. Mailbox silk screen by Matt Muirhead. 14" square pillow.
  • A Woodcock Would, if a Woodcock Could 2, postal pillow

    fiberart, decor pillow, freehand machine stitched, felt appliqué
    “If a Woodcock Could, a Woodcock Would” postal pillow features all linework by freehand machine stitching except the mailbox, that is silkscreen. Measuring 16” x 16”, the front has national park symbols in the surrounding fabric, and airmail symbols in the center panel. The back panel is a leaf pattern in grays. Iris and manhole cover are stitched on felt.
  • Ms. Song Sparrow pouts over no Mail Postal Pillow

    fiberart, decor pillow, freehand machine stitched, felt appliqué
    Ms. Song Sparrow for her Letters Postal Pillow measures 14" x 14", features freehand machine-stitched bird woman on cotton and flowers on felt, piping, zipper closure with a cotton fabric base. Mailbox is silkscreened by artist, Matt Muirhead. 2020
  • Ms. Sage- Grouse Waits for her Letters Postal Pillow

    fiberart, decor pillow, freehand machine stitched, felt appliqué
    Ms. Sage-Grouse measures 16" square and features freehand machine-stitched bird woman on cotton and flowers on felt, piping, zipper closure on a cotton base. The back is a pattern organic cotton fabric from the Grassland series by Sarah Watson, that is produced by Cloud9 fabric.
  • I WANT MY MAIL! Postal Pillow

    fiberart, decor pillow, freehand machine stitched, felt appliqué
    I WANT MY MAIL! Postal Pillow , 2020 measures 14" x 14"features freehand machine-stitched bird woman on cotton and flowers on felt, piping, zipper closure with a cotton fabric base. Mailbox is silkscreened by artist, Matt Muirhead. 2020
  • Jenny the Wren Has a fit Postal Pillow

    fiberart, decor pillow, freehand machine stitched, felt appliqué
    Jenny the Wren HAs A Fit Postal pillow, 2020, measures 16" x 16" features freehand machine-stitched bird woman on cotton and lily bulb and Madonna's head on felt, piping, zipper closure with a cotton fabric base. Mailbox is silkscreened by artist, Matt Muirhead. 2020
  • Postal Pillow Grouping

    FIberart, decor pillow, freehand machine stitched, felt appliqué
    Freehand machine stitched bird woman, flowers, figure and manhole cover; silkscreen mail box. All pillows have piping, zipper closures , complementary fabric backs and removable high quality pillow forms.
  • Postal Pillow Grouping

    fiberart, thread drawing, political art
    Freehand machine stitched bird woman, flowers, figure and manhole cover; silkscreen mail box. All pillows have piping, zipper closures , complementary fabric backs and removable high quality pillow forms.

"The Genealogy of My Imaginary Family"..Birdland and the Anthropocene and Beyond, 2017- 2020

In 2017, I turned my little 3” hoop bird portraits into a larger family that became my ancestors in my piece “The Genealogy of My Imaginary Family”. This piece was to fill a case that was in the Peale Museum for the “Birdland and Anthropocene” exhibit. My family tree was made up of 13 freehand machine-stitched bird portraits, ranging in sizes from 3” to 14," canvas stretched circular hooped birds portraits resembling a genealogy tree of human personalities.

I selected a variety of native birds that range from the familiar to the extirpated breeds in Maryland. I wanted them to feel like family portraits, arranged to create a narrative of subtle expressive reactions and silent dialogue. Each portrait is created freehand on the sewing machine. Drawing each mark, value and detail by manipulating the canvas under the moving needle. Each has a final result of a line drawing but with a more labor intensive method that I chose as a dedication towards their preservation.

I've continued to add more to my "family" throughout the year. My portraits evolve from shape and size, ruff to helmeted guineafowl, profiles to full body, black thread to color.

My bird portraits have become quite popular with a number of bird lovers who are now purchasing and collecting them. You can see all of my bird portraits here on my online shop.
Check out the show here for the Birdland and the Anthropocene catalogue

  • Broad Billed Hummingbird

    This Broad-billed Hummingbird is one of the newest and the first full-color bird portraits of my bird portrait series. This one is more than a portrait that emphasizes his full and brave body! !This drawing is based on a photograph from a bird app. on my iPad. This bird is created completely with thread, layering colors to create the form of the bird. This bird portrait has been created by freehand stitching on a sewing machine! Otherwise, I draw with my sewing machine. There is absolutely no programming involved.
  • Eastern Blue Bird

    Freehand machine drawn blue bird on canvas
  • gallery view

    Gallery view of the Installation in the Peale Centre . Piece was arranged and installed in the white case. Photo by Joe Hyde.
  • The Genealogy of my Imaginary Family"

    fiber art,  freehand machine embroidery, art installation. climate change, birds
    Preliminary arrangement of "The Genealogy of My Imaginary Family" for the "Birdland and Anthropocene show at the The Peale Centre in Baltimore, Md., October 2017.
  • Starling

    "Starling" , 12" Embroidery Hoop, Freehand Machine Embroidery
  • Freehand Machine Drawing of European Starling

    Freehand Machine Drawing of European Starling on my long arm quilting machine, 2019
  • great gray owl.

    fiber art,  freehand machine embroidery, art installation. climate change, birds
    freehand machine stitched great gray owl on canvas, stretched in 12" embroidery hoop
  • Burrow Owl

    "Burrow Owl" , 10" Embroidery Hoop, Freehand Machine Embroidery
  • Bird Portrait grouping

    fiberart, thread drawing,  bird
    Freehand Machine stitched Sage Grouse, plover, flamingo and chicken on canvasin 4 and 3 inch embroidery hoops. 2020
  • helmeted guineafowl

    fiber art,  freehand machine embroidery, art installation. climate change, birds
    Freehand Machine stitched Helmeted Guineafowl on canvas. 2018

Edible Plants and Seeds Stitchings

A series of freehand machine embroidered plants, flowers and seeds . All designs begin with watercolor and ink drawing studies from observation and researched references. I gravitate towards the edible plants commonly mistaken as weeds, such as dandelions, purslane, and thistle. I am constandly picking up seeds, leaves, twigs and dead plants on my everyday walks amd forest bathing hikes. I trace my ink drawings onto tracing paper, then trace onto canvas or cotton fabric using my light table. I then go over my lines using my long arm quilting machine where I freehand stitch by moving the fabric underneath the moving needle. I then add the felt to the piece. Then I have to redraw over the felt by following the lines stitched on the back of the piece. I've been playing with patterns and colors with the fabric choices I select.

  • Water Smartweed and Seeds

    fiberart, thread drawing, plants, nature
    "Water Smartweed and Seeds", 2021, 10" X 10" X 1.5" Freehand machine-stitched plants and seeds on fabric and felt. Stretched on wooden panel.
  • Blue cones.jpg

    fiberart, thread drawing, nature, seeds, trees
    Blue Cones, 2021Freehand machine embroidery on cotton and felt. 10" X 8"
  • Lady's Thumb and Remains 2020

    fiberart, thread drawing, plants
    "Lady's Thumb and Remains" 2021 10" x 8" X 1.5" Freehand Machine-stitch plants on cotton and felt. Stretch on wooden panel.
  • Heather Scape

    fiberart, thread drawing, nature, plants
    Freehand machine and hand embroidery thread and yard on linen, organsa, felt and hand made paper. 18" x 10" 2019
  • Haselnuts

    freehand machined embroidered, nature art  , felt appliqué, leaves, decor pillow, plant illustration d
    Freehand Machine stitching on canvas and felt 8" x 8"
  • Gumballs

    freehand machined embroidered, nature art  , felt appliqué, leaves, decor pillow, plant illustration d
    Freehand machine stitched on canvas and felt 14" x 14"
  • sassafras

    fiberart, thread drawing, nature, plants
    Freehand-machine stitching on canvas and felt, 10" X 10" X 1.5". 2019
  • coneflower

    fiberart, thread drawing, nature, plants
    Freehand-machine stitching on canvas and felt. 8" X 6" X 1.5" 2019
  • Dandelion and Clover

    Freehand machined embroidered, clover, dandelion, felt applique, felt, illustration, edible plants, pillow, canvas,
    Freehand Machine stitching on canvas and felt
  • Catnip Plant

    Freehand machined embroidered, catnip, felt appliqué, edible plants, decor pillow, plant illustration
    Freehand Machine stitching on canvas and felt

Not for The Shooting Gallery, 2017

For the Birdland and Anthropocene show at the Peale Museum, I was given two cases at either end of the lounge room.I created “ Not for the Shooting Gallery,” for the second case. I wanted to create a diorama that included stuffed birds that were created to be somewhat of a hybrid of the stuffed animals (like the ones you win when winning a game at a carnival) with a stuffed replica. Subjects were selected by either their popularity or their un-popularity. Made of wool blend felt, recycled polyfilled stuffing and freehand machine stitched detailed and wire feet. Magpie costumes and owl masks were made and worn to the closing reception for the Birdland exhibition.

Link to exhibit Birdland and Anthropocene Exhibition: https://www.thepealecenter.org/birdland-and-the-anthropocene/

  • Magpie costumes and Owl mask

    For the closing of the Birdland and Anthropocene exhibit, I made 2 magpie costumes and an Owl mask for my friend for the costume party. All made form felt construction. Photo by Gregory Dobler
  • Magpie Costume & "Not for the Shooter Gallery"

    fiberart, birds, soft sculpture , environmental art
    View of the artist in her Magpie costume with her piece "Not for the Shooter Gallery" at the Peale Museum, Baltimore, MD 2017
  • Not for the Shooting Gallery

    fiber art, soft sculpture, art installation. climate change, birds
    Close up shot of entire installation. The Peale Center, Baltimore, MD 2017
  • Pigeon

    Pigeon constructed with felt , thread drawn details, stuffed with recycled polyfill and wire legs and feet.
  • Cardinals

    Constructed with felt, cut feathers and thread drawn details, stuffed with recycled polyfill.
  • Eared Grebe

    Constructed with felt, cut feathers and thread drawn details, stuffed with recycled polyfill.
  • Puffin

    Constructed with felt, cut feathers and thread drawn details, stuffed with recycled polyfill.
  • Peacock

    Constructed with felt, wire and thread drawn details, stuffed with recycled polyfill.
  • Owl

    Constructed with felt, cut feathers and thread drawn details, stuffed with recycled polyfill.

Pussy Bites Back

I needed a way to express my current distaste for Trump regene. I started with making catnip toys in the image of Trump, Shirtless Putin, Kelly Ann Conway, Betsy Devos, and Mitch McConell. Selling these at several craft shows throughout the East coast , I have started several conversations that have clarified that I am not alone in my feelings for this administration. I then had to add a VOODOO doll and protest banners! My husband and I have participated in many protest over the past four years. The first was the amazing women's march the day after Trump's inauguration. All works have freehand machine stitched facial features, and made of felt.

Looking through the Lines

My exploration of overlaying lines began in the early nineties. I loved how David Salle made us look through images to discover a new dialoged. I also was highly influenced by his use of juxtaposition. In these early paintings, I was doing a lot of soul searching and reaching out for my vocabulary. Borrowing most images from childhood textbooks and found imagery. I would project and play with textures, overlaying images and color. I loved painting the projected line. I found it to be quite meditative even when labor intensive. I used this technique through most of my painting career. Finding many similarities in my fiber work. Drawing the traced line, overlaying the lines over the pattern and color shapes of fabric and felt.

More paintings can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jennyjen42/albums/72157603807985083