The House of Embroidered Paper is a unique fashion house founded by Stephanie Smart, a fine artist who began producing clothes from paper after seeing a paper kaftan, made for a Sultan, exhibited in a museum in Istanbul and decorated with sacred verses and prayers.
Of this Turkish tradition one commentator wrote that such a vestment would have been worn “…not to get magical effects but…as a form of worship to put the mind in a particular mode of devotion.”
This shoe piece, Halcyon Nights, shows a kingfisher with his beak (the heel) piercing circles of water.
Each garment constructed purely from paper, thread and memory, Stephanie created the title in 2017 following her first solo exhibition of garments shown in the round; titled: Maison de Papier.
“I see people as layered, collated, collaged and constructed works of art, each one of us “wearing” around our self sheaves of conscious/unconscious, patterned expression which is then read and interpreted by others,” says Stephanie. “The idea that this human narrative content could be displayed, on apparently wearable garments, inspires the collections I’m creating, through the application of embroidery, drawing and print on paper.”
Stephanie Smart’s main concerns are the visual representation of the ephemeral aspects of being human; the experience of being embodied. “I’m interested in the ways in which individuals are shaped and patterned by the subtle facets of themselves, their: memories, thoughts, feelings, visual impressions, ideas/imaginings, spirituality/religious faith etc.”
The simplicity of the shape of that original paper Kaftan seemed to Stephanie reminiscent of a hospital gown. This correspondence appeared to her to reflect the potential fragility of both the human emotional psyche and the physical form.
“Whilst one side of the fabric we use to clothe ourselves touches our flesh and inner vulnerability, the other side is exposed to outer scrutiny,” she says. Though all the pieces produced by The House of Embroidered Paper are intentionally beautiful, some also question societal, generalised ideas of surface beauty.
By creating clothing from paper Stephanie looks to assert the garment as a canvas for drawing and script. Her aim is to make work that is intricate, visually intriguing and thoughtful. Her objectives are to: stretch preconceptions of (paper) craft; question the boundaries of art; create objects that are carefully constructed and materially proficient.
Photograph by Ray Sullivan. For more info on Stephanie’s work visit her website