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Giving clothing a second life with heidi cannon

Giving clothing a second life with heidi cannon

Oct 25, 2019

Artist Series: Heidi Cannon

Meet Heidi. California-native. Sustainability seeker. And embroidery artist. We sat down with her to chat all-things embroidery, and to see how she’s giving old clothing a second life (kinda like how we gave Bison fiber a second life, but that’s besides the point).


How did you first get into embroidery?

It was February 2014 (maybe 2013? It’s been a while), I had exhausted myself of knitting circle scarves. I had made a circle scarf every which way a person could make a circle scarf, I needed a new medium. I never considered myself artistically inclined, but cross-stitching (mainly because it’s on a grid) seemed easy enough. After a few successful cross-stitching attempts, I decided to try working without a grid. I started watching a couple YouTube tutorials on hand-embroidering, and the rest is history.

What’s a typical day in the life for you?

I’m currently in the process of altering my ‘typical day’ so that it’s more routine-oriented, with the hopes that I’ll start getting more done. 

In the last couple weeks, I’ve been waking up at 7am (inching my way to 6am) to get in a run before work, embroider a little bit, read on the subway to work, work for nine hours (five days a week), head home, embroider a little bit more before bed, probably spend too much time on my phone or calling friends, and I finally head to bed around 10:30 (latest). On my days off I try to relax, but also use the free-time to get more embroidery done.

I’m tired of glorifying being busy, but I am very busy. Unfortunately the reality of doing what you love, while working full-time, means you don’t have many moments of rest. On the plus side though, I’m constantly reminded how passionate I am about embroiderywhich makes all the hustle worthwhile.


What do you love most about what you do?

There’s so much freedom and possibility with hand embroidery. You can make almost anything a canvas if you think outside of the box. It’s also such an accessible medium, which I love. Anyonefrom the aficionado to novicecan jump in and create something incredible. 


What's been inspiring you lately?

Abstract line drawings, and oddly enough, my own family history.

I was just in France, and seeing all of the graffiti in Marseille and Paris shockingly inspired me; and the graffiti that stood out the most to me were abstract line drawings of faces and hands. 

Aside from that, I recently decided to go down the rabbit-hole that is my family history, which is something that I hadn’t previously looked into. Funny enough, learning more about my ancestry has caused me to get more in tune with who I am, why I am the way that I am, and it’s helped push me artistically. The more that I learn about myself and my history, the more connected I feel with myself, the more my art expands.


What are some current projects you’re working on? 

I’m currently in the final-stages of creating my second collection of embroidered second-hand pieces. This collection specifically revolves around structured pieces, such as blazers, two-piece suits, slacks and dresses. There’s around 14 pieces in the collection, and I’ve been working on the line for the bulk of 2019. Since my style is heavily influenced by traditional tattoos, I’m really enjoying the juxtaposition of having traditional drawings over structured piece.


Any advice for others looking to start their own creative endeavor but don’t know how to start?

Be ready to put in the work. Make sure you participate in your craft every day for at least 30 minutes, which allows you to create a healthy routine between you and your craft (which truthfully, I’m still working on five years later). Watch youtube videos, and don’t expect someone to mentor you for free outside of that.



What has been the biggest lesson(s) you’ve learned? 

This is so tough. There are so many…

#1. My biggest is follow-through. Learning that you HAVE to follow through on a project, even if you’re tired or sad or unmotivated. This ties into working on your craft every day for 30 minutes. If you do that, the projects will eventually get done.

#2. You do not need a popular Instagram account to validate you as an artist. In fact, you don’t need anyone to validate you as an artist at all--except for yourself.

#3. Perfection is overrated and unattainable. Just do the best you can do. If you work hard, you will reap the benefits of that hard work.

#4. Participate in your community! Community is the most important part of being an artist, and it’s something that I myself need to participate in more. I often get asked how to “break into” the art scene, and really it’s quite simple. Go to art shows, go to First Friday art openings, take someone that you look up to out for lunch, and ultimately, support your friends’ art and they’ll support you back.


How do you try to live a more sustainable life?

Largely, I do not participate in fast fashion. I would say 90% of the things I own are second-hand, and my embroidery pieces are no exception. I love breathing new life into old item and upcycling clothing.

Sharing any knowledge I’ve gained is another thing I like to do.

It may seem silly to post about sustainable fashion-brands that I stumble upon, or to share the reasons why I follow a vegan diet, but if one person takes something away from my post, that’s all that matters.


Why is protecting the planet important to you?

We are burning the candle at both ends treating the world like we are at war with it. Here’s a pretty bleak but honest quote by one of my favorite authors, Daniel Quinn, referring to how we treat the planet:

“There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world, as yours (referring to us as humans) does, they will live at odds with the world. Given a story to enact in which they are the lords of the world, they will ACT like lords of the world. And, given a story to enact in which the world is foe to be conquered, they will conquer it like a foe, and one day, inevitably, their foe will lie bleeding to death at their feet, as the world is now”

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