Playful and geometric, tactile and dynamic, hand-embroidered work by Australian twin sisters Maricor and Maricar is vibrant, unexpected, and steeped in sass. Maricor/Maricar is a family business built stitch by stitch, letter by letter, and their static work bursts with color that has attracted advertising and publishing clients from around the world.

I caught up with Maricar, one-half of the Sydney-based duo, to chat pins and needles, working with her twin, and, of course, their names.

Let’s start at the beginning, with your names.
We get asked about our names a lot—whether they’re our real names. Our family is originally from the Philippines. We moved to Australia when Maricor and I were two years old. We have an older sister who has a pretty similar name as well, but our parents didn’t foresee how confusing it would be for twins to have names that were identical, bar one letter.

How did you end up working together?
We grew up basically joined at the hip. We studied at the same primary school, high school, and university course, which was a design degree in visual communications. The course was very broad, which inspired our varied interests across lettering, illustration, and animation. After graduating, it took us a while to find our feet professionally. When we started working together at Sydney design studio Mathematics, we really felt we had found what we wanted to do as designers. We worked there for nearly three years, creating print, web, and animation work primarily for clients in the music industry.

Where did the interest in embroidery come from?
We had our first taste of embroidery working on an animated music video for Australian band Architecture in Helsinki, but it wasn’t until we left Mathematics to focus on Maricor/Maricar that we really thought about embroidery as a something we could do full-time. Winning a grant to travel and work in the UK through the British Council Australia was the catalyst for getting us to take it seriously. We had such a great response showing our personal embroidered experiments to the judges, who gave us a grant that enabled us to live and work in the UK for nine months. While there, we signed with our first illustration agents Handsome Frank, and that was that. We haven’t looked back.

It was really that first embroidery project for the music video that showed us what a lovely tactile and quirky medium it is, and how very warm and personal. There’s so much detail you can achieve, and the ability to layer color is really exciting. We describe it as painting with thread.

We’ve definitely had more work come in for our embroidered lettering, which is a little more unusual and specialized. Recently, we’ve been fortunate to have a production company represent us for motion work in Australia, so we’ve been able to take up stop-motion animation projects again. It’s an enjoyable change from lettering and allows us to refresh.

Let’s talk process. How does it work for you two?
Being twins, we’re used to working together closely on projects, usually quite seamlessly. Practically speaking, for larger embroideries we’ll both have a hand in the embroidery to give each other breaks from the physical strain of hand embroidery. And for some particularly tough deadlines, we’ll actually both work on the piece if space permits. Luckily, we haven’t stabbed each other by accident yet. 

Conceptually, we’ll usually both be involved in the early stages of a project and work up concepts. Depending on how the client’s feedback goes, one or the other will take the lead and direct the remainder of the project.

Inspiration comes from…?
We enjoy experimenting with new techniques and textile effects. We get a little bored doing the same style of graphic, so we’re always keen to see how we can push embroidery and our lettering style into different forms.

It’s inspiring to see how much amazing work is being done by other artists, which makes us want to develop our own work. I also find that coffee-and-biscuit breaks, puttering in the garden for some fresh air, and cuddles with my daughter are great motivators.

What’s the design and illustration scene like in Australia?
Unfortunately the market in Australia is a lot smaller for illustration in general, and the market for embroidered graphics even narrower. We find that we get most of our work from overseas, and it’s been wonderful having agents based both here and in the UK, who have great ties with clients in the United States.