Soraya’s passionate about sharing her passion for fiber art and capturing the energy of the lively environment in which she lives through her work. Keep reading on to learn more about Soraya!
ManiMe: Hi Soraya! We’re thrilled to chat with you, get to know you, and hear more about your amazing artwork.
Soraya: Yay, thank you! I’m excited to chat.
M: Awesome! Can you start by introducing yourself and giving us the Soraya Navia elevator pitch?
S: I’m Soraya from Soraya Designs Things, and I’m a Queens-based graphic designer and embroidery artist. I teach embroidery workshops all over NYC and Long Island and hand-embroider custom works of art that are framed in wooden circles. My favorite color is peach, I love embroidering for hours at a time, and any day that I get to pet a dog or a cat is the best day of my life.
M: Amazing, thank you! Your passion for embroidery is evident when looking at your pieces! How did you get into needlework?
S: My dad taught me how to sew when I was eight, and while I used these skills to mend little rips and tears, I had never thought of using thread as art. There was this diner napkin doodle that I had drawn of a robot walking over a city. It was really cool. I wanted to put it on a shirt and thought, “Hey, this is easy!” and I spent hours free-stitching with a single black thread. It looked so ridiculously terrible that I laughed, felt kind of sad and defeated, and put it away in my room, never to be seen again. I had never thought to use an embroidery hoop.
Years later, I started working as a graphic designer and found myself glued to screens for almost 12 hours a day, every day. The eye strain was driving me nuts. I was missing so terribly the tactile feeling of creating art with my hands, one that I’d had with watercolor and crocheting, but a feeling that still wasn’t quite fulfilled. The thought of embroidering kept floating around in my head.
I decided to try embroidery again and I’m so happy that I did! This time I used a hoop and thicker, colorful thread and all at once everything made sense. Stitching relieved my anxiety, my eye strain, and really opened up a world of creativity for me. I started to see things in terms of fabric and thread and everything felt so possible. Embroidery changed my life.
M: That’s an incredible journey. Today, with so much being expressed through the screen, having something tactile and physical still can’t be beat. Where do you draw inspiration from?
S: Definitely color. Sometimes I pick thread color palettes before I know what the subject for a piece is going to be. Even the scientific concept of color itself is absolutely wild to me.
I’ll go for walks and stop short if I see a vibrant leaf or a shiny, iridescent pigeon and just think “wow.” I have these intense, velvet poppy red curtains hanging in my living room and they’re just the craziest looking things. Colors bring me so much joy and quite literally bring light into my life and my work.
There isn’t a single color combination in the natural world that doesn’t go well together. Reflecting back on my work (no pun intended), I’ve noticed that all of my embroidery pieces have to do with nature, be it plants, water, animals, or flowers. And I think that because I always start with color, my brain is naturally drawn to and gathers inspiration from these subjects. Thread catches light in such a beautiful way that depending on what angle you’re looking at an embroidery piece, the tint of color can change. That’s magic.
M: We love this! How does being from Queens, NY find its way into your work?
S: The constant movement and energy that Queens has is so important to experience as an artist. When it’s warm outside, I’ll embroider by the open window and notice the busy sounds of rush hour in contrast to my slow, quiet embroidering. It reminds me that even as the world around me spins by I’m allowed to be patient and present in the moment.
I live in Sunnyside, Queens, where I can see the NYC skyline from every street. I always take notice of how the sun sets over the buildings. Riding the 7 train provides so much inspiration. The 7 is one of the most diverse subway lines in the world, and you can sometimes hear over 10 languages spoken in a single subway car, all at once! Embroidery requires the unity of thousands of individual stitches. And that’s what I think makes Queens so special. Millions of people come together and live harmoniously in this cultural wonderland, each playing an essential role.
Queens is where my grandparents immigrated to from Colombia and where my parents first met. I feel such a strong connection and gratitude to this city. Queens is a part of who I am and a color or line of thread in my embroidery work is always influenced by my Queens sights.
M: That’s so cool to have such strong family roots in Queens, it truly is a one-of-a-kind place! How does community play a role in your art?
S: Community is essential to the world of fiber art. Embroidery can be such a solitary craft where one gets lost in the threads and meditative stitching. But there’s something so amazing about embroidering, and crafting in general, with other people. I notice it firsthand at my embroidery workshops. People from every borough, and sometimes even from out of state, come together to embroider. These hours of art and conversation during my workshops start so many friendships and promote the exchange of ideas and stories. I am grateful for every person in my community that has shared their creativity and time.
M: What advice do you have for people pursuing their own creative expressions?
S: Find time for yourself and be patient. Even if it’s for only five minutes a day, find time to create something that brings you joy. There is so much going on in the world and everything can start to feel overwhelming and like there’s no time for art or creative expression. But the world needs you and your art. If you ever feel uninspired, sometimes all it takes is a good walk and an open mind. Take note of the colors you see and the way the clouds move. Keep creating the art that makes you happy. We need you.
M: What parallels do you see between needleart and nail art?
S: My hands are always front and center in every part of my craft. Whether it’s teaching embroidery workshops or filming stitch tutorials — my hands (and nails!) are in focus. Our hands sometimes go unnoticed. They’re these incredible machine-like appendages that do so much at every moment of the day. I really take notice and appreciate my hands while I’m embroidering. Nail art is a way of thanking our hands and it promotes self-care. Needleart and nail art absolutely go hand in hand.
M: Lastly, because we just have to ask, what’s your favorite ManiMe design?
S: Definitely Miso Sexy but Nordic Sky comes in a close second! I’m obsessed with all of ManiMe’s mani designs. They all look so elegant and chic, no matter what style you choose. Because embroidery is such a slow craft, I don’t really have extra time on my hands to go to the nail salon, so I’m super happy that I found you guys.
M: Thank you so much for chatting! I have no doubt that, by now, our readers are completely in love with you. How can they follow your journey?
S: Thanks so much! You can keep up with me by following my Instagram, @sorayadesignsthings, where you can watch hypnotizing embroidery videos and see more of my work, or my website, sorayadesignsthings.com, where I’ll post about upcoming embroidery workshops.