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Work Samples

The Healing Three Graces, 2022

Freehand machine and hand embroidery on organza and cotton on decor fabric. Stretched in a vintage wooden embroidery hoop. 23" X 23" X 1.5"

Allison , 2022

Freehand machine stitched on organza, cotton and felt, appliquéd on organic cotton fabric. 8" X 8" 1"

"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 Toes, 2020

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.

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About Jennifer

Baltimore City

Jennifer McBrien's picture
Jennifer McBrien is  inspired by endangered, forgotten and ignored birds and plants . Frightened by the current Anthropocene and by those that deny the human impact on the environment, McBrien begins to express her frustrations through the eloquence of her bird, nature and figurative subjects. As a fiber artist, she uses freehand machine and hand embroidery, on variety of fabrics with appliqué techniques on found, vintage and utility fabrics, such as toile, barkcloth, duck canvas and... more

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. This show did not affect me 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.

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 stomped 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 an 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 I have 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. 

  • The Healing Three Graces, 2022

    Freehand machine and hand embroidery on organza and cotton on decor fabric. Stretched in a vintage wooden embroidery hoop. 23" X 23" X 1.5"
  • The Earth's Three Graces, 2022

    embroidery , fiber art, climate art, thread drawing
    Freehand machine and hand embroidery on organza and cotton, appliquéd on decor fabric. Stretched in a vintage wooden embroidery hoop. 23" X 23" X 1.5"
  • The Guardians

    embroidery, fiberart
    The Guardians featured four figures that are freehand machine stitched. Three of the figures have bird heads and one gracious fish crow woman has wings. Hand embroidery has been used to emphasize the pattern from the narrative toile scene fabric to give these figures a powerful feeling of strength as well as transparency. Bird women are appliqued and reinforced stitched on decor fabric that is stretched and attached to a vintage wooden embroidery hoop measuring 23” X 23” X 1.5” . This piece was created in 2022.
  • Ms. Sage Grouse and the Woodcock Try to Save the Planet, 2021

    a fiber piece that features freehand machine stitching and painting. A seated Sage Grouse woman is a freehand machine stitched on organza with hand embroidered head that is then appliqued and reinforced stitch on to Toile decor fabric that was originally a proper drape. She sits on a manhole cover created with freehand machine stitching on felt. She sits opposite of an American Woodcock, created by freehand machine painting, creating color and depth by layering color threads. He also stands on a felt manhole cover, freehand stitched on the sewing machine.
  • Queenfisher Dips Her Toes , 2020

    fiberart, thread drawing, figure, kingfisher, woodcock, freehand machine stitched
    "Queenfisher Dips Her Toes", 2020, 24" X 24" X 1" Freehand machine-stiched bird-women, swimming pool and tree. The Diving board and Ladder are also freehand machined drawn on felt.
  • Ruff Gal's Army , 2021

    fiberart, thread drawing, figure, bird headed women, ruff, birds
    "Ruff Gal's Army " is a fiber piece that features freehand machine stitching and painting. The Ruff women and the Queenfisher are freehand machine stitched on organza that is then appliquéd and reinforced stitch on to vintage barkcloth fabric. The barn owl and grackle are also freehand machine-stiched with color threads ( along with the queenfisher head) on organic cotton that is also appliquéd and reinforced stitched onto the barkcloth. Two Ginko leaves are stitched on felt and stitched onto the barkcloth.
  • The Monkey Dance, 2020

    "The Monkey Dance" 2020. 18" X 18" X 1" Freehand machine-stitched crow headed figure, brown pelican and heather on fabric, felt blindfold. Stretched and frame in a vintage wooden embroidery hoop.
  • Ruff Gal, 2021

    fiberart, thread drawing, figure, bird headed women, ruff, birds
    "Ruff Gal" is part of a series of hoop pieces that feature collaborative birds, women, and plants interacting amongst vintage decor fabrics. All subjects have been freehand machine stitch on fabrics ranging from organic cotton to organza to felt. All pieces in this section are one of a kind. Ruff gal is a freehand machine stitched on organza that is appliqued and stitched onto vintage decor toile fabric. Flowers surround her are stitched on high-quality wool blend felt.
  • Dance of the Woodcock, 2019

    fiberart, thread drawing, figure, bird headed women, woodcock. birds
    "Dance of the Woodcock" 2020. 18" X 18" X 1" Freehand machine-stitched bird-headed figure, woodcock and plant on fabric. Stretch ed and frame in a vintage wooden embroidery hoop.
  • A Nap in the Garden , 2021

    fiberart, thread drawing, figure, bird headed women, birds
    "A Nap in the Garden" is a fiber piece that includes freehand machine stitching with some hand embroidered french knots!. A bird-headed figure is a freehand machine stitched drawn on organza that is then appliqued and reinforced stitch on to vintage barkcloth. A Plantain English plant is also a freehand machine stitched for the outlines and for the color filling with hand embroidered french knots.

Watch Children 2022

This series is based on contour line drawings I did of my high school students when I taught in my previous life. These were part of a series of Paintings that I created back in 2005, and were the last series of paintings that I did before transitioning into a fiber artist.



“Watch Children” are my renditions of these paintings. I have played with a variety of bird heads, pattern backgrounds, props and the precious seeds and pollinators needed for our eco system to continue and for their bird lives to thrive. Each piece features freehand machine stitching ,to imitate my ink drawings, a variety of fabrics for texture , overlay and pattern.

  • Ruby and the Thrush

    This piece is titled "Ruby and the Thrush " features all freehand machine stitching on the bird headed figure ,stitched on organza , cotton fabric for her clothes is then appliquéd and then the entire figure is appliquéd and reinforced stitched onto the decor cotton fabric. The Wood Thrush is also freehand machine stitched on cotton fabric that is then appliquéd and reinforced stitched on. Typewriter is an image transfer on cotton fabric that is appliqué on to the fabric. This final piece is stretched on a wooden painting panel .The dimensions are 12" X 9" X .75"
  • michael and jeffrey globe dreaming

    This piece is titled "Michael and Jeffrey Globe Dreaming " features all freehand machine stitching on Michael the Curlew head and Jeffrey the Woodcock headed figures ,stitched on organza , cotton fabric for her clothes is then appliquéd and then the entire figure is appliquéd and reinforced stitched onto the decor cotton fabric. The pussy willow seed pod is also freehand machine stitched on cotton fabric that is then appliquéd and reinforced stitched on.
  • Kevin

    Freehand machine stitching on organza, cotton and felt, image transfer on cotton.
  • Ruby

    This piece is titled "Ruby” that is based off of my painting contour line drawings of my student Ruby. Ruby has a Green tail Towhee head with a teenager body and is freehand machine stitched on organza and appliqué and stitched on legal paper pattern fabric. The walnuts that she is watching are freehand machine stitched on high quality felt. The diagram of plant transition is freehand machine stitched on the fabric directly. This final piece is stretched on a wooden painting panel and then framed with a pine wood. The dimensions of this framed work is 11.5" X 9.5" X 2"

Bird Women around the Home

I've been quite divided between the maker and the artist during this pandemic period of COVID. This period has gotten me to embrace my artistic voice and put it more in my functional and fine art pieces. This messenger bag and decor pillow series begins my connection of the two: the art and the function. 



Bird women have become my vision as I've been working as an artist over the past three years. I see them as messengers to communicate their concern for how we are taking care of the environment. Humans are the only species that don't take care of their environment since we have not been living with, but more like against the elements. My most recent hoop pieces have been adding the figure to spaces with birds and plants in various environments. After much delight of customer approval, I've added them to my functional collections of pillows and messenger bags. 


Both pillows and messenger bags feature freehand machine birdwomen. Pilows have added pollinators that are also freehand machine stitched on felt.  Messenger bags are made from up-cycled decor and velvet fabrics. Bags are lined with stiff interfacing to keep their shape and complementary organic cotton fabric is used for the interior lining. The freehand machine stitched bird woman is appliqué and reinforced sewn onto the front flap. Inside has two accessory pockets right underneath the front flap that is also created with the same velvet fabric that is on the front of the bag , trimmed in bias tape, and are easy access to the phone, keys, and or wallet. Inside has an open pocket and a zipper pocket. It had an adjustable strap that can hook on and off, with stainless steel hardware. The bag had a magnetic metal closure. 

This bag measures 9" H X 9”W X 2.5” D,

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, 2018

    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 , 2018

    fiberart, thread drawing, figure
    Freehand machine stitched line work on fabric, felt applique.
  • Dream , 2018

    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, 2018

    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 , 2019

    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, 2019

    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, 2019

    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, 2014

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

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

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. 

Postal Pillow Project

With the threat 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. 

  • 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
  • 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
  • Queenfisher and the Mister Letter Waiting

    fiberart, decor pillow, freehand machine stitched, felt appliqué
    Queenfisher and the Mister Letter Waiting, postal pillow, 2021 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. 2021
  • The Woodcocks wait for the Mailman

    fiberart, decor pillow, freehand machine stitched, felt appliqué
    "The Woodcocks wait for the Mailman” postal pillow features all line work by freehand machine stitching except the mailbox, that is silkscreen. Measuring 18” x 18”, the front and back fabric is a woodgrain pattern of gray on cream in cotton.Flowers have freehand machine stitching on felt and both woodcock woman and woodcock are freehand machine stitched on cotton.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.

"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 
  

  • the genealogy of my imaginary family

    Freehand machine stitched bird portraits on canvas, ranging in sizes 14" to 3", stretched in embroidery hoops. Arranged to represent or mock a human family ancestor tree. 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
  • Great Blue Heron

    "Great Blue Heron" , 10" Embroidery Hoop, Freehand Machine Embroidery
  • Ruff

    "Ruff" , 14" Embroidery Hoop, Freehand Machine Embroidery
  • gallery view

    Gallery view of the Installation in the Peale Centre . Piece was arranged and installed in the white case. Photo by Joe Hyde.

Edible Plants and Seed 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.  

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. 

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