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From shoes to tennis rackets, she transforms everyday objects with lifelike embroidery.

Danielle Clough doesn't consider herself an artist, but she may be the only one.

"Honestly, I think of myself as a embroiderer," she writes in an e-mail interview. "Maybe it's because I don't feel I can put myself into the same category as some of my art heroes."

Clough may not put herself into the same category, but her work certainly does.


Clough's embroidered portrait of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Photo by Danielle Clough, used with permission.

The 28-year-old Cape Town native is a fiber artist, but her work isn't limited to traditional hoops or fabric.

She's embroidered chicken wire, tennis rackets, shoes — anything she's drawn to. Her lack of formal training provides a freedom and creativity that's tough to define.

Photo by Danielle Clough, used with permission.

"I've found that not knowing the rules has served me," she writes. "Sometimes the dos and dont's that you learn stop you from trying something and figuring out what it is you really enjoy."

Photo by Danielle Clough, used with permission.

Her unbridled passion and creativity led her to a unique project with the United Nations.

Yes, that United Nations.

The U.N. approached Clough and other artists to create pieces interpreting points on the agenda of the World Humanitarian Summit, held in May 2016.

Clough's commissioned piece spoke to the summit's initiative to "prevent and end conflict." An idea that was that substantial required a medium a bit bigger than a small patch or tennis racket, so Clough decided to embroider her first piece on a rusted piece of fence. She called it "Borders and Boundaries."

Photo by By Jono, used with permission from Danielle Clough.

"The ideas of boundaries and borders are very relevant today," she told Creative Boom. "Either feeling bound to them or trapped behind them; Our kindness and understanding depending on what side of the fence we are on. ... If we look at the things that divide us differently, if we see our differences as opportunity we can see that we are all stitched together. We can find peace."

Photo by By Jono, used with permission from Danielle Clough.

Clough's latest project is a series of embroidered portraits for the cover of the book "Queer Africa II."

The second anthology of short fiction stories celebrates of the diversity of African LGBTQ people and their love for each other and the continent they call home.

Clough found and photographed people who shared that vision, some complete strangers. Like all of her embroidered portraits, Clough used a black-and-white photograph as reference before coloring the faces in with thread.

Janine. Photos by Danielle Clough, used with permission.

Each portrait is barely a few inches tall, making the detail and lifelike work all the more impressive.

Qwezi. Photos by Danielle Clough, used with permission.

"I chose bright colors and images where gender and race lines could be blurred," Clough recalls. "I was most influenced by the subjects' personalities because of the time I spent with them, which was strangely comfortable and intimate."

Lesego. Photos by Danielle Clough, used with permission.

She kept in touch with each subject while she worked, turning the process into a unique shared experience, and even gifted them with a large print of their final artwork.

"That was really special," she writes.

From rackets to shoes to fences and back again, each piece Clough creates is vibrant, powerful, and truly unique...

...especially for someone who doesn't consider herself an artist.

"Like a builder or carpenter, I just want to make stuff."

Photo by By Jono, used with permission from Danielle Clough.

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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