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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

An Interview with shieldmaiden, the Inside Embroidery Queen

Some of the most creative pieces of Bo fanart that I've seen are the gorgeous embroidery that feature his works.

While we've already looked at Pam's fantastic rendition of the Make Happy finale in thread and glitter, we've yet to explore how artists have tackled Inside and its iconic imagery and lyrics.

To rectify this omission, I reached out to shieldmaiden (her real name is Audrey) about her stunning embroidery pieces that beautifully embody songs like Unpaid Intern, Shit and, my personal favorite, That Funny Feeling.

Audrey was kind enough to take the time out of her studies to answer my many questions about how she makes her pop culture-inspired art and what she's working on next.

Here is my interview with Audrey, which has been edited and condensed for clarity purposes.

Bo Burnham Historian: Hey, Audrey! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me about your art today.

Audrey: No problem!

BBH: Fantastic! So, first off: Can you provide some details about yourself and your background?

Audrey: I'm in my early 30s, born and raised midwesterner (currently live in southeastern Wisconsin). I have an undergrad degree in graphic design and worked professionally as one for nearly a decade.

A couple years ago, I decided to change careers, and I am now finishing up my master's degree to become a therapist.

BBH: Good luck with your master's! That's an enriching career choice, I'd assume, since you are able to help people.

So how did you get started with your art? Are you formally trained?

Audrey: I've been creating art for longer than I can remember.

My own mother is a designer and fine artist, so she encouraged this at a really young age.

I was typically known as the "art kid" throughout my schooling, having taken any and all art classes I could fit into my class schedule.

My design degree did require a lot of fine arts courses, including one fibers and textiles class. This class in 2011 was my first exposure to fiber art.

Even though I'd been making art my whole life, this was the first time I fell in love with a specific medium.

BBH: That's wonderful! I'm glad to hear your artistic mother inspired you and that you're still making art despite the career change.

Are there any other artists who inspire you?

Audrey: My partner, Joe, is also a skilled artist who inspires me daily.

I have a few key artists that I follow on Instagram such as Huftgold Threads, Bazar Bartiano, and Domino Whisker.

Embroidery art by Bazar Bartiano

Embroidery art by Domino Walker

Aside from the artists themselves, I'm mostly inspired by nature, pop culture, and strange color combinations.

BBH: That's a great mix of artists (I adore The Simpsons pieces!), and I love that your partner also inspires you. Seems like you're surrounded by very talented people!

So about Bo Burnham and your art. When did you become a fan of him? Have you known about Bo for a long time, or did you discover him through Inside?

Audrey: I was always peripherally aware of him since his YouTube days, but I took a shine to him because of his Make Happy special on Netflix. This is when I discovered he's more than that kid who writes catchy and controversial little tunes.

I felt awe-inspired by how seamlessly he'd walk the line between witty humor and genuine existentialism.

BBH: Absolutely! Make Happy was the first special I had watched as well, and I remember being blown away by the lighting and everything. Such an incredible show!

So what inspired you to make art about Bo in particular? And what is your general process from concept to the final product?

Audrey: Although thought-provoking messages underlie each Inside track as well as the work as a whole, I felt most inspired by the visuals he used to bring this work to life.

As far as process, I watched Inside with the sole purpose of coming up with embroidery artwork ideas and wrote down a huge list.

I narrowed down the concepts based on what would be most enjoyable and achievable to create.

I especially liked ones that would push the medium such as the mirror concept using beadwork and the silhouette of him with a watercolor background.

After creating digital sketches, I transfer a few designs at a time to the fabric.

When I work on this series, I've usually got a few going at once.

BBH: Oh, wow! I thought you'd be working on your pieces individually. That's amazing that you can juggle all those ideas simultaneously!

What mediums do you prefer to use for your art?

Audrey: I definitely prefer to create embroidery artwork above any other type of art, even though I used to mostly illustrate.

When I create illustrations, I like working digitally using my iPad/Apple Pencil and experimenting with Procreate features to get different looks.

BBH: That's cool that you illustrate too!

So what's your favorite piece of Bo fanart that you've made? Least favorite?

Audrey: My favorite to make was definitely the silhouette of Bo in front of the watercolor.

I'd say least favorite was the one inspired by That Funny Feeling—not because I don't like how it turned out, but because it reminds me of when I was getting over COVID as I worked on it during that time.

I'm about equally happy with all of them so far.

BBH: It's so funny you mention that piece because it is definitely my favorite of your embroidery art from Inside.

As I said in my comment to your post on Reddit (I'm Jesle37 on there), it's quite literally my favorite line from my favorite song in my favorite Bo special lol.

It also reminds me of a doodle Bo made for someone's signed copy of Inside Deluxe, so I would say you nailed the intention of the artist!

What was the inspiration for that piece? It's so evocative and meaningful to me, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Audrey: Thank you so much! I also felt very inspired by that line.

It seemed so powerful to me that in a short phrase you could boil down the pleasures and pitfalls of our society and it's phrased as almost a tradeoff.

We've traded in our ecological safety/certainty to have constant entertainment and information at our fingertips.

BBH: Exactly! In a song full of depressingly accurate sentiments, this is the one that always sticks with me. And you've captured it perfectly!

I also adore your Shit embroidery. It's such an iconic pose that I even have a blanket with the same image haha.

How did you conceptualize that one? Did you use paint to get that cool rainbow effect? I ask because the photo you posted had a paint set next to your creation.

Audrey: I did use paint for that, yes!

I was trying as best as I could to directly capture his lighting, so this was pretty much a direct lift color-wise from the promotional image that features this scene.

I loved how he used light and color so much and wondered what I could do to best capture it.

Stitching it would have been possible, but it also would have taken forever, and it's important to me that I never work so hard on a project that I start to hate it.

Therefore I brought in the paints, and I'm really glad I tried that because watercolor ended up becoming part of my signature style in general.

BBH: Thanks for confirming you did use paint on that piece.

It's so cool that Inside helped to inspire your signature look!

I've also noticed you do lots of pop culture embroidery besides Bo (The Simpsons, SpongeBob SquarePants, Pokemon, and Futurama for starters).

I'm particularly enamored with your BoJack Horseman embroidery depicting the silent episode.

How do you choose your subject matter?

Audrey: Thank you! I've been a TV junkie my whole life and am one of those people who communicates a lot through quoting shows and movies I love that have made an impact on me.

If a moment in a tv show or a line speaks to me, I like to memorialize it, in a way, to pay my respects.

I have about a thousand Futurama ideas and if I ever have the time, I'm making a series out of that one too.

If a piece of media can make me feel emotional or nostalgic in any way, you can bet I'm trying to figure out how to express that through my own artwork.

BBH: Oh, I can totally relate to being obsessed with television! I went so far as to create tv show schedules when I was five to make sure I didn't miss a program (Ah, the Eighties haha).

I'm sure you've heard that Futurama is coming back soon (woo-hoo!), so please let us know if you're making any new pieces for the occasion.

Do you have any specific hobbies or interests people don't know about?

Audrey: I wear all parts of myself on my sleeve, so most people in my life wouldn't be surprised about any of my hobbies or interests.

However, I am also known as the singer in my social group, but not everyone knows I am classically trained in opera.

BBH: Wow, that's a great fact. You must have a wonderful singing voice!

Back to Bo. What's your favorite song/special by him? You can name more than one.

Audrey: Can't Handle This and All Eyes On Me. I feel the two go hand-in-hand.

BBH: Agreed! They are both the emotional climaxes and use autotune in a similar fashion (for Bo to express his real thoughts).

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Audrey: Yep! Well I actually just finished a series of work for a local gallery. The show itself is not for a couple months so I'll still consider it "upcoming" even though all the artwork is done.

I'm one of 30 artists that made 30 works of art in the first 30 days of the year for a show called 30x30x30 that opens this spring. My concept was to create a series of windows using watercolor and embroidery to create the dreamy feeling of looking out from the window seat of a plane.

I'm taking a little break from stitching as I finish out my final semester of grad school. There's never any shortage of ideas, so I'll be back to it in just a few months.

BBH: Good luck with your art gallery show—it sounds amazing, and I love the concept of airplane window views!

How can fans best support you? Do you have any of your pieces for sale or social media that you'd like to plug?

Audrey: Right now the best place to follow my work is my Instagram @shieldmaiden.threads.

My work is usually informally available to purchase via DM inquiry there and a PayPal/Venmo transaction.

After I graduate, I'll be working on a website that will possibly have an online store. Updates on the matter will be posted to my Insta.

BBH: That's awesome, Audrey. Thanks again for discussing your art with me, and good luck with your therapy career!

Audrey: It's been my pleasure, and thank you!

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Jun 28, 2023

Hello, thank you for the lengthy interview, it was really interesting for me to read it. I have a little problem, I really liked the song from your article, but I'm not a native speaker, so I don't quite understand what it's about. Could you please add subtitles to your video? can help you with that and you should have no problem doing it.

Stand-Up Comedy Historian
Stand-Up Comedy Historian
Jun 28, 2023
Replying to

Hey, man! Thanks for the compliment.

In terms of subtitles for a song, can you let me know which music you are referring to in the interview? A number of Bo's songs are brought up, so I'm not sure which one you mean.

Have a great day! ✌🏼

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