Nature objectified

Emma Mattson hails from near Baltimore, MD. in the US. She lives in the woods and remembers wandering down and gathering mushrooms near the creek that trickled through her backyard when she was little. She started embroidery one day out of boredom with photography and her growing interest in textiles. Instead of just drawing with thread, she made it more three-dimensional, almost sculptural by replicating the same textures that so inspired her from the natural world. 

We chat to her about two of her projects, the Facedown series and her intricate moss embroidery. 


I grew up very aware of the importance of the environment and how we interact with it due to my mother. She studies the health of local waterways. She keeps bees and plants bee friendly gardens. She composts. She has chickens, where we receive our fresh eggs. She makes sure we are all recycling. The list goes on.


I also grew up with woods in my backyard. It was a place for my imagination to grow and for me to wander alone, collecting mosses or frogs.


My moss embroideries mimic natural textures and are miniature landscapes. Taking something that is alive and re-creating it to be something permanent is an interesting concept to me.


The idea of fake plants is something I always come back to. The way we choose to buy fake plants so we don’t have to remember to water them is very telling of the effort we make.


Fake plants are decorations because we find natural things aesthetically pleasing. It’s almost as if we have objectified nature.


My focus isn’t just on environmental issues, but also mental health issues as well. The Facedown Series embodies my feelings of powerlessness as an individual in a structured society that seems to be moving in one direction.


All the images in the series are located outside amongst various landscapes.  Most involve bodies lying directly on top of the landscape, feeling all of its textures, whether soft or uncomfortable.


One body is positioned on top of a hammock instead of on the grass below, showing a separation between human and nature and an inability to help.


My mixed media work is in many ways a therapeutic way to cope with these anxieties, especially the repetitive motions of creating French knot after French knot in my “moss embroideries.”


My final products are meant to be beautiful and welcoming, but also to question our relationships with nature. Human impacts have caused enormous problems such as global warming, unbalanced ecosystems, and deforestation.


People enjoy the aesthetics and benefits that nature gives us but not enough to make the sacrifices needed to keep it alive.  A lot of people even deny that there are environmental problems, for example making global warming a “controversial” topic by saying it’s non-existent, when it’s just a scientific fact.


We create these barriers between ourselves and the reality of the world’s environmental troubles, wanting to keep their own idealistic views to avoid addressing a serious issue.  The way that natural elements are created synthetically in these pieces are almost a metaphor for how we deal with these problems.


Wander through the woods and discover Emma’s ethereal projects on her website.

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