Impressive embroidery art with needle and thread
Who wants to visit Nikki Delport-Wepener, takes the ferry from Hong Kong to the offshore smaller island Discovery Bay - and is after 25 minutes crossing in another world: no more skyscrapers, instead of cars driving golf carts, and the paths are bordered with lawn and flowers , A small town with 20,000 inhabitants, which looks more like a holiday village.
Nikki Delport-Wepener walks to the ferry dock: A slender blonde woman with a classic girl's face, casually dressed, flip-flops on her feet. It's a five minute walk to your home, always along the beach. Six years ago, she and her husband Ray Wepener, an investment banker, moved here. The residential complex in the countryside, in which they have a semi-detached house, looks like wealth. Inside, the domicile looks tidy and elegant: bright sofas, dark dining room furniture, parrot flowers in the white kitchen living next to the entrance. A lot of art - especially painting, but also embroidery of the landlord. And they are ever one, two square meters in size.
© Phlipp Engelhorn
At least now, at the sight of her works, it becomes clear: for Nikki Delport-Wepener embroidery is not a hobby, but her job - and also an early vocation: Already at the age of three, she has her mother Lesley Turpin-Delport, an academically trained artist , got her first pincushion as a gift. When she remembers her early childhood, she sees herself and her mother sticking by the fireplace, surrounded by her chow chows and neighbor women, who were taught by Lesley Turpin-Delport to embroider. At the age of six Nikki Delport-Wepener had mastered all the basic prints. "Here, I embroidered these fish" at the time: it points to four framed pictures that do not look like works by a preschooler. While her mother likes to make people and portraits, Nikki Delport-Wepener was fascinated by animals and plants from an early age - and has therefore studied biology. Later she became a primary school teacher and then went to England with her husband. There, her passion caught up with her: she studied the rich British embroidery tradition at the Royal School of Needlework and soon taught at embroidery schools.
This has resulted in close cooperation with her mother. Since the 80s, Lesley Turpin-Delport and her company "Les Designs" have been distributing specially designed work materials for embroidery. Although the mother lives in a rural region in South Africa and the daughter in Hong Kong. But the two are constantly in contact via Skype, they exchange ideas with each other, write books - and when they give workshops in England, they meet again in real life, the next time from mid-August in the seaside resort of Bath. Embroidery instructions and materials are already stacked on the dining table by Nikki Delport-Wepener. In addition, the embroiderer teaches in her studio in Hong Kong downtown. For example, her students learn to create the illusion of three-dimensionality by placing the heavier yarns in the foreground of an image, the more delicate ones in the back. Or use gauze fillings or embroider objects with beads.
What that looks like can be seen in the bedroom and in the small Nikki Delport-Wepener studio. In one picture she has collected all her favorite motifs: insects, plants, turtles, butterflies. The curtain in the bedroom is embroidered with dragonflies on both sides, a technique from the traditional Chinese silk embroidery that Nikki Delport-Wepener learned in China and integrated into her three-dimensional style of embroidery.
"Mixed-media freestyle" is what mother and daughter call their art of creating something new from traditional western and eastern embroidery techniques. In addition, Nikki Delport-Wepener receives special orders from all over the world: For example, a British collector entrusted her with seven antique tattered samurai coats. She wants to save the pieces by carefully sewing in a second fabric layer or laying a thin net layer over it.
A challenge - similar to the two huge old tapestries in the lobby of a luxury hotel in the neighboring Macau colony where Nikki Delport-Wepener has been working for months. The French tapestry is ready, but the old Chinese floral silk idyll covers a whole wall - and that may take time. The upper sections had to be restored on a scaffold and with a construction helmet on the head. "After that, I need a full body massage every time," she says, laughing. The artist's craziest project so far was a room divider with a sheep and a goat for a country home near Hong Kong. On a four-part blood-red panel of almost three and a half by two meters, the animals now browse larger than life between office and nursery. The family had just given her the drawing of a famous Chinese calligrapher in postcard size.
The preliminary research in South Africa, Australia and England alone took four months: The embroiderer studied the behavior of sheep and goats in nature and searched for suitable materials. It took her a year and a half to embroider.
In order to achieve a lifelike result, Nikki Delport-Wepener used a different yarn for each body part of the animals and finally colored the whole picture with tea in different shades of brown. Sheep and goat are for cuddling. And in her drawers are still many photos of animals and plants that she wants to take as a template for embroidered murals.
For the sake of embroidery, the artist has even renounced children - she could not have imagined, to suspend her work. Her second passion is flamenco - a dance that fits this self-assured, tireless woman. She does it whenever she can: "Of course, I always have something to embroider on the ferry, and at the same time I do flamenco dry exercises with my feet, and people have to think: it's got damage."