stARTup Success Stories: Chapter Five

Margaret Timbrell is a text-based needlework artist working in the Bay Area. Her work, inspired by technology, parenthood, and social media, alters our language and interpersonal engagement.

Margaret has exhibited several times at stARTup. Last year in San Francisco, at the entrance  of the Del Sol, she installed a blue velvet curtain filled with beautiful hand-stitched names which were inspired by iPhone auto-corrected name fails. The wall created a backdrop for selfie-taking and sharing for our fairgoers, and it drew attention to the subtleties of social bias and the ways the tech sector erases the identity of its consumers. 

Margaret Timbrell at stARTup SF 2018

Margaret Timbrell at stARTup SF 2018

As we continue our stARTup Success Stories series, and with artist applications open for Small Works 2019, we look at Margaret’s small works that have generated a big impact.

Small Works in Margaret’s studio at Root Division

Small Works in Margaret’s studio at Root Division

At our inaugural 2015 San Francisco fair, there were many standouts — including fellow stARTup Success Story Rodney Ewing. Lindsey from Things Worth Describing called Margaret one of her five favorite artists at the fair. And of Margaret’s room she wrote, “Margaret‘s needlework pays homage to the art of sewing while relaying quips that definitely wouldn’t land as hard in another medium. Something about cross-stitched letters begs you not to take them seriously, and in this case that intuition happens to be exactly right.”

And as we moved to Los Angeles in 2016 for our inaugural edition at Hollywood's Highland Gardens Hotel, Margaret’s room was featured as a preview for what Los Angeles Times readers could expect from the new fair in town.


Margaret’s quirky, conceptual, and easily approachable works were the perfect fit to describe stARTup Art Fair, a “scrappy, year-old enterprise out of San Francisco” focusing on emerging artists, many without formal gallery representation — including Margaret.

Capitalizing on this momentum, 2017 became a standout year for her as she secured two solo exhibitions at the Pacific Felt Factory for “Autocorrected,” as exhibited above with stARTup, and a newer body of work “RedWork,” named after redwork embroidery.



In this 2017 feature with Mission Local, Margaret recounts how tied her art is to parenthood and the “kind of madness that sets in.” She continues, “In the series, I work the material both front and back. Embroidery is judged by looking at the back of the work — if someone’s skilled, the back of the work is very tidy and nice-looking. I felt like that was very parallel to parenting: Through social media and our society, parenting is judged so much at all moments and you’re always kind of doing something wrong. And I felt like, by working the piece backwards and frontwards, I was kind of exposing the flaws in my own life. It feels like an honesty of, ‘Go ahead and judge me; this is parenting, you’re gonna judge me.’”

Margaret in residence at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

Margaret in residence at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

And judge people did — but this time, in Margaret’s favor. With her newer mature RedWork pieces, Margaret secured two residencies — the first with Lenka Clayton’s Artist Residency in Motherhood in 2017, and then as an Artist in Residence at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles in 2018. Her fall Residency included two workshops and a First Friday "Stitch N Bitch" fest, encouraging those attending to bring any fiber works in progress and inviting them to discuss things "including, but not limited to, revolution, pie recipes, and unicorns.” She was then given an additional honor of her pieces added to the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles permanent collection, like this infamous autocorrect:


Now back at her “mothership” as a Studio Artist and Board Member at Root Division, Margaret is focusing on a new project titled “Running Stitches.”

Of this new project, Margaret says, “Art as a sort of diary or documentation that I’m fortunately able bodied and moving thru the world. For a year I plan to run four times a week, and race two times per month.” While she runs, Margaret will use a run mapping app to track the route of her run, which she will use to stitch. “Each stitched run will be color coded so as to identify the route clearly and it will be stitched using running stitch, thus the series title — Running Stitch.”


She continues, “Each run from a given month will be layered on one canvas, creating a map specific to my engagement with SF. I’ll stitch a key to color code the floss with the date, machine sew the racing bibs to the canvas, and incorporate any sponsorship logos along the base.”

Of all her works to date, this is the most abstract. Even she admits that this appears as a simple “series of colorful squiggly lines on a white background with stitched dates and attached running bibs, but depending on my routes, it may appear more clearly a map of San Francisco. And as my sponsorship list grows, it may even document what I’ve had to drink and eat, what gear I use, what shoe brands I prefer, how I’m valued as an athlete and artist, and who my supporters are.”

Margaret is in the process of soliciting corporate sponsor and individual sponsors. She currently has seven sponsors: Destination Racing, Sasquatch Racing, Run Club SF, Oiselle, Bare Republic, Wine Country Half, and Doyle Crane.

We’ll continue to cheer her on as she runs toward her 2019 goal!


Read our other success stories by our Content Curator from the beginning: Success Stories: Chapter 1, with Andi Campognone, Curator and Director, or our most recent with Rodney King.

Artists: applications are open for stARTup Small Works 2019. Artists selected by the jury will get a table to display their small-scale art.

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