When I was eight years old, my mother put in my hands a sampler to embroider and explained how to stitch. I remember she also told me to use a hoop and that the fabric should be taut enough for a penny to bounce off it. Below is that sampler. It was like painting a canvas. I was enchanted and haven’t put needle and thread away since. I haven't used a "sampler" or kit in decades. Now, I sketch my own designs, sometimes embroider on stamped or painted fabric, or I'm inspired by the fabric or paper I am using.
Additionally, my grandmother was an artist. I was allowed into her studio to design and watch her paint or work with clay or pastels. My own passion is fiber and textiles with my paint and brush being needle and thread. Because of this early art influence, I have always seen my fiber creations through the eyes of an artist.
Check out these six photocollages with samplings of my embroidery:
Here are embroidery examples inspired by the tapestry.
This embroidered leaf was appliqued to a painted purse.
It is fun to see the pieces taking shape in my hands; unfolding stitch by stitch. Those stitches provide texture by casting shadows and reflecting light. That tiny amount of depth brings the images closer and makes them look more life-like.
While embroidering, my focus is narrowed to what's in my hands and before my eyes. Within moments I naturally calm down and enjoy the sense of peace.
There is a disadvantage to the art form of embroidery – it's slow. Slowness, while meditative, limits productivity. A tapestry embroidered with thousands of hand stitches can only be produced so fast. The peacock tapestry took me eight months to stitch. Other media, especially paintings, can be quicker to produce: one per month or per week or even per day.
This piece of embroidery is filled with French knots – thousands of French knots. When finished it is intended to be a pillow about 12”x18”. I have worked on this for 450 hours and estimate it will take another 325 hours to finish for a total of 775 hours. Once upon a time, I earned $50 per hour – at that rate I will put a price tag of $38,750 on this pillow. LOL! Of course that would be ridiculous – or is it?
Fiber arts have not been valued in the same way other art forms, like painting and sculpture, have been. Probably because it is considered “women’s work.” However, that sentiment is changing. For example, quilting has become a recognized form of fiber art, with major museums like the Museum of American Folk Art in Manhattan that has a permanent collection of 400 quilts. Other major museums and galleries are recognizing fiber art as “fine art” not just as folk or craft.
I’m so privileged to serve on the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts, located near historic downtown Cedarburg, Wisconsin. The Museum is dedicated to educating the public about the artistic, cultural, historic and social importance of quilts and fiber arts. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by individuals who “ooh and ah” over fiber arts and understand its value.
I hope your own appreciation and value of the delicate workings of fiber arts will grow and grow!