H.E. Eugene Bonham is a Texas psychiatrist with several consuming passions: computers, art and inventing.
In recent years, Bonham has successfully combined these interests to create a line of limited edition embroidered prints, which are sewn by computer-programmed machines capable of intricate stitching and myriad color changes.The process resembles the embroidered monogramming that has been done for years on towels, shirts and other items. But it is far more technologically advanced and able to reproduce the fine colors of an original print to the satisfaction of a discerning and demanding art collector.
So far, Bonham has created eight different limited edition embroidered prints, several of which recently were displayed at the 12th annual New York "Artexpo" show for art dealers. The embroidered prints, the latest link in a centuries-old artistic tradition that began in the Orient, begin at $500.
One of the prints - "Mystic Warrior No. 1" by Oklahoma artist Barthell Little Chief - requires thousands of tiny stitches and diverse colors of threads on a blue suede background.
Another, "Deer Dancer" by Benjamin Harjo, is embroidered on vivid green suede with loads of primary colors.
The luminous hues and finely detailed stitching of the prints, as well as the high technology involved, have attracted attention.
"I've always felt that the finest clothing and garments in the world were represented by finely embroidered Oriental kimonos and Oriental wallscreens," Bonham said in an interview.
Little Chief hopes Bonham's embroidered prints create a new market in the art world.
"It's something that could really take off," said Little Chief, a best-selling Plains Indian artist whose work appears in posters and cards all over the country.
Bonham, a longtime art collector, decided to open his own gallery last year. He now has galleries in Fort Worth, Texas, and Santa Fe, N.M. But Bonham wanted to go further and help create the art he sells. The embroidered prints are the result.
After long hours of computer work, Bonham developed a way of using computer laser technology to reproduce the colors and stitching of an original print.
Bonham starts with an original piece of artwork, such as Little Chief's "Mystic Warrior No. 1." He then makes a photograph of that artwork and gives it to the computer wizards he has hired.
The computer experts "punch out" onto a computer disk the colors and stitching needed for the print. For some prints, it takes as long as 25 hours of computer work to punch out 25 or 30 color changes and 200,000 to 300,000 stitches.
The disk, or disks, are then inserted into computer-driven sewing machines, which turn out the actual embroidered prints. The prints are carefully checked by Bonham to ensure they are as close as possible to the original.