Holland Hall grad cross-stitches for the stars.
Chance the Rapper wears a jacket featuring stitchwork by former Tulsan Emma McKee at the Magnificent Coloring Day Festival in Chicago in 2016.
Emma McKee’s cross-stitching journey began with an effort to make her mom a thoughtful Christmas gift in 2014. McKee considered it a grand gesture because initially she considered the medium “lame.”
“It seemed so tedious at first,” the 31-year-old says. “But I have been around it since birth. I guess I would say the medium was less appealing to me, but I seemed to know how to do it through osmosis.”
Unlike McKee’s slow-growing fondness for cross-stitching, her love of rap and hip-hop music caught fire when she was in middle school. And soon after mastering her sewing technique, she found a way to combine her passions that showed gratitude to those who inspire her most: fellow artists.
To date, McKee has designed pieces for some of hip-hop’s biggest names, including Chance the Rapper, BJ the Chicago Kid, Vic Mensa, NoName and more. McKee lives in Chicago, where she is a strategic account executive for GrouponLive.
“When I first moved to Chicago and didn’t know anyone or have any friends, I would just go to shows,” McKee says. “I was seeing Chance the Rapper in 2011 with 15 other people in the audience.” He has since won three Grammy Awards.
Cross-stitching remains a hobby, though McKee created a personal brand: Stitch Gawd. Now, she is working on pieces for other industry superstars like Kendrick Lamar, D.R.A.M., King Louie and Chief Keef. But she plans to collaborate with a couple of local and national brands in the coming months and says there will be opportunities to wear her designs as a non-celebrity in the future.
“In fact, I make a ton of pieces for people who I wouldn’t deem celebrities,” she says. “It’s really just who inspires me more than anything. Happens to be that I’m inspired by some people I know who are also famous.”