December 05 2011 Monday at 09:23 AM

Francois Lesage 1929-2011

 

Photo via fashionmag.com : AFP/Jean-Pierre Muller

Yesterday, the news reached me that François Lesage had passed away. When I first began embroidering, I worked at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas (as a preparator). One day after work, I decided to visit one of the libraries on campus to see what they had on embroidery. I pulled this thin little book off the shelf, and couldn't believe my eyes. I had never heard of Lesage, but realized I had seen his work everywhere. Even though this was embroidery for haute couture, steeped in centuries of tradition and exacting technique usually reserved for military, royalty and couture houses -the innovation, the playfulness and the personal vision of the work was truly modern. It was the exhilaration of discovering something you didn't know existed but was seemingly always there.

Then, a few years later, I went to Paris.

Re-creations of children's fingerpaintings in embroidery by Lesage

It was my first vacation in six years and my fourth time there. Everyone kept asking if I was going to go to Lesage's atelier. His studio offered classes -but I simply could not afford them. I wanted to go, badly. But, I had scraped together everything I could just for the trip itself. Then, at lunch, a friend said "Tu devrais y aller lui rendre visite." ("You should go see him.") as if it were the most natural thing in the world. I looked at him like he was completely crazy. He just stared back blankly like "why not?" and then made a hand gesture for knocking on a door ("toc toc"). He was right. I knew he was. Friends, gallery owners, people who-knew-people kept urging me to go. I never did. A better time would present itself I thought, but of course, it didn't. As friend of mine says, there are immortals in this world: creative and inspiring people who live forever because of their efforts, vision and lives. I vote for Lesage.

New York Times obituary on François Lesage

LA Times obituary on François Lesage