Artist Sarah Espeute doesn’t take setting the table too seriously. Just look to the chorus of snails, turnips, wildflowers and the like, which flit between hand-stitched place settings on her whimsical linens. From a shared studio space in Marseille, France, Espeute embroiders these convivial scenes on thrifted, often century-old bed sheets conceived anew.
Like many strokes of ingenuity, Oeuvres Sensibles (meaning “sensitive objects”), Espeute’s line of tablecloths, runners and napkins, was born from necessity. Coveting unique cushions and curtains for her own home, she turned inward, resourcefully picking up an embroidery needle—and the stars aligned. When a friend gauged her interest in creating a tabletop textile for an art exhibition, “I imagined a trompe l’oeil meal and things took off from there!” she recalls.
For Espeute, the joy in her chosen medium lies in its dualisms—her linens are nostalgic and modern; dressy and lighthearted; decorative and utilitarian. She admires blurred boundaries in design. “Multidisciplinary artists with a broad practice have reinforced the idea that there is no limit in creation,” she says, citing the work of painters like Cy Twombly and Raoul Ubac, and the architecture of Luis Barragán and Carlo Scarpa, amongst others, as inspirations.
While a multidisciplinary artist herself (Espeute designs furniture and paints), there’s something about the handmade character of embroidery—and the act of gathering around the dining table—that comforts and captivates her imagination. “I think embroidery really touches people,” she muses, adding, “it’s wonderfully sentimental.”