How does Madeline use narrative in this work?

Big Break

This award-winning artist shares her experiences through embroidered art

Madeline Hantzsch loves to tell stories in her art. Her sketchbooks are full of narrative drawings. “The majority of my work has something to do with my life,” says Madeline, a freshman at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin. Madeline, 19, finds a healing quality in art and hopes to someday pursue a career in art therapy.

What inspired this artwork?  

I made it as an assignment for an illustration class. The class had an embroidery unit, and we had to choose from several topics. The topic I chose was “a trip to the hospital,” because I could draw from personal experience.

How did you develop your idea?

In fifth grade, I fell when the front wheel of my scooter hit a rock. I suddenly flipped over and was on my back. Luckily, I only broke a bone in my left wrist. It was the only time I’ve gone to the hospital, and it made for a story I could tell through my embroidery.

What does each panel in the story illustrate?

The first panel shows the scooter hitting the rock. The next one shows the X-ray of my broken wrist. The third shows my right arm hooked up to the intravenous (IV) device the hospital used to give me anesthesia for the pain. The last scene shows the cast on my arm. 

What was your working process?

First, I sketched symbols that would show the events of the story. Once I settled on my four symbols, I outlined them on dark-blue fabric using a white colored pencil. Then I started stitching. I used three or four basic stitches with different colored threads.

What was the most challenging part of creating this work?

Doing embroidery is not like working with a pencil. The stitches lie straight, so creating curving lines was a real struggle. I couldn’t erase a stitch if I made a mistake. Instead, I had to pull  the threads out and start all over. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Don’t compare your work with others’ work. Every person’s style is like a fingerprint. No two people have the same style.

Madeline won a Gold Medal in mixed media in the 2015 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

To find out more about this program, visit