SMALL STEPS introduces
Jonathon Beaver is an embroiderer, animator and arts educator based in Liverpool, UK.
He began working with needlepoint at the age of nine, encouraged by an auntie. He uses this traditional craft, often used to mark family occasions and decorate homes, to evoke queer family. His pieces range from small scale (3” x 3”) to larger tapestry work (30” x 30”) reminiscent of period samplers from a bygone era, but bringing an old craft into a contemporary setting through subject matter. His practice takes traditional constructions of gender roles and identities and allows them to be explored and freed from societal shackles. Much of his work is an exploration of his personal gender preferences and identities both as an individual and an artist.
During his five years as an educator, he has worked in the North West of England engaging his students with art clubs, classes and community projects. Recently, he has facilitated embroidery workshops at Liverpool University, teaching postgraduate students. His teaching foregrounds inclusive and experimental learning, for instance establishing a sewing circle that actively encouraged boys to join; breaking down the social construct of gender-specific activities and interests.
He doesn’t use an embroidery ring to hold the cloth in place, as he believes it’s restrictive. Jonathon wants to have the hands-on, close experience of the threads weaving into the material so he can feel his work slowly progress. Collectively, when stitched, these delicate cotton threads are strong, though malleable – he can pull the cloth taut, see the strength against physical resistance. His works are reflections on the unnatural – normalised behaviour, cruel language, repression – and the natural – bodies, sexuality and flowers.
In 2009, he started his exploration of animation using mixed media such as Lego, fabric and collage to create stop motion animations. To date, he has screened at galleries such as Zuhause and Islington Mill, in festivals in Brazil, Norway and Poland, and at Chew Disco, a Liverpool-based DIY party that raised funds for international LGBTQ safe houses.