Monday, September 29, 2008

Bob, Bob, and Mike

Last evening as Mike and I were driving home from a meal out, I asked him to give me some ideas for blog topics. He thought for a moment or two and remarked that it might be good to talk about stitching as a metaphor for life. Actually, it is a good topic, just not something I care to deal with this morning. But what I did get out of our short conversation (we went on to talk about the marvelous sunset and the lavender skies) was that he was again willing to help me out in this long needlework odyssey that I embarked on thirty-odd years ago.

This year I have been lucky enough to spend time among stitchers from all across America. I taught in California and I attended the EGA national seminar in Louisville. Because of those two events, I met two men who, like Mike, were always ready to help out. One is Bob Gomola, husband of Marsha Papay Gomola a national teacher. Bob is a member of EGA and, as far as I know, he does not stitch. But he is the support group for Marsha in her endeavors and he is the jack-of-all-trades for helping out in general. The other is Bob Dam, husband of Carol Dam, the current president of EGA. Bob seems to be the official photographer for EGA. He made his presence known at the national seminar and practically lived at headquarters. Bob is also a member of EGA
Study in Scarlet (detail)
Blackwork that is not black
This is a sampler on the methods of shading in blackwork.
My own husband has cooked, carried, entertained, babysat, and went on directed vacations helping me with my EGA-related stuff. And now I have him doing the hard work--thinking. He even good-naturedly takes ribbing about being Mr. Shirley Kay. One evening several years ago in Denver we were hosting a dinner party for some non-EGA people. I overheard him in the sitting room explaining to a friend about blackwork, what it was, and why this particular piece of blackwork was not stitched in black. I had no idea that he had absorbed enough of what I did to explain all this! I was so pleased. He is my greatest supporter.

So today on my mother-in-law's 83rd birthday, I want to celebrate her oldest child's life within EGA. And Bob G's and Bob D's. Thanks, guys, for making the path smooth and taking pictures along the way.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mantra, Soror, and Validation

Why do we stitch? Why do we sit down and stitch rather than do something else with our time? This is a theme that I have thought about and written about for decades. This question is an essential one for those of us who help guide the direction of our various guild chapters.

People do it for the sheet pleasure of stitching. This is the underlying truth of it. Sheer pleasure. The monotony of the stitching which becomes prayer, mantra, and meditiation. That is certainly why I do it, but not the only reason I do it. For most people this is enough--the pleasure.

For some people, the passing on of hand skills through the generations is the keynote to their doing it. To pass this knowledge from mother to daughter is a wonderful, satisfying thing. My own great-grandmother, Mary Ardella Ingalsbe was a tatter. Three of her four daughters were tatters. My grandmother, Dell's oldest child, did not do tatting as far as I know. But my great-aunts, Leona, Evelyn, and Charlotte left me a mound of tatted lace and four old shuttles. My mother also did not tat. I learned how when I was in college from a wonderful lady who lived next door to my parents. I am happy to have those generational skills.

Other people love to embroider just to fill the time. It is something "busy" they can do with their hands while watching TV or traveling or listening to sermons. All well and good. I personally cannot watch TV and stitch. I have to pay too much attention to the work. I can listen to music or book tapes. And I rarely have a small enough or simple emough project to sit on a plane and do. But I see other people do it all the time.

I know some people who do it because they can do it. Most stitching is not hard to do, but it takes a little practice even for the easiest cross-stitch. Some people who think they have no other skills, say to draw or do woodworking or crossword puzzles, are pleased to be able to stitch. I fall into this category too. It is easy for me to do and therefore I do it. It took me years to learn how to draw well enough that I am satisfied, but I was able to stitch fairly well from the first time I picked up a #20 tapestry needle.

But there are other more complex reasons to stitch. I stitch to express myself. As an artist I must communicate with others how I feel, how I see, how I imagine things to be. I like to simplify things to their essential elements and show the world those elements through my own perceptions. I am an artist and my main medium of expression is through embroidery and fiber.

There are people who stitch in order to explore insides themselves and inside their relationships with others. My BFF Ann Erdmann and I recntly completed two books that we both worked on. The two books are duplicates, but not identical. We each made five pages, that is, decorating the front and back of 4" X 6" cards. We made two of each card. So our books have ten pages in them, half done by Ann and half by me. The book is a celebration of our friendship. Some of the pages are wholly stitched and some are partially stitched, some are painted and beaded, some have manipulated photos on them. Those two books are true collages in fiber mixed media. The book is called Soror Amica Aeterna, or, for the Latin impaired, Sister Friend Eternal.

I stitch, I produce work, and then I exhibit the work and ultimately, hopefully, sell the work. This gives me the most satisfaction in life. It is through these actions that I feel validated as an artist and as a person.

So, why do you stitch? For any of these reasons? For all of them? For a different reason entirely? Let me know!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Art of Embroidery and Prospectors

At seminar I was asked by someone I was acquainted with how we foster creativity and original work within our chapter and region. It seems that in this person's chapter original work was not really done nor was it much valued. What was valued was pure technique. The chapter couldn't understand what was so great about the 19th EGA Exhibit or the Fiber Forum Exhibit both shown at the seminar.

I guess that Sandia Mountains Chapter has been lucky to have several artists who were members through the years. Rocky Mountain Region is also lucky for the same reason. When I joined the Guild in 1977, I joined a chapter that had two or three people doing original work. This was just before regions were set up, but the chapter was in Collingswood, NJ. I didn't know any better and so I did original work right from the first. It must be just luck that a chapter gets a mix of originality and technique. But it is rare to have someone join a chapter who does original work right off. We have Rita Curry-Pittman who joined a year and a half ago, so are lucky.

How do we foster originality? In Sandia Mountains Chapter we have an interest group called The Art of Embroidery. We study skills that are not strictly speaking part of embroidery, but are part of design and part of mixed media. It is a small group but we are active and have results from our studies. For instance, tomorrow A of E meets here at the house in the morning. We are going to have a lesson in sketching. We are also planning the rest of the stitching year (from September through May) at this meeting. This year we will study sketching and layering, a part of mixed media design.

The region as a whole also encourages originality two ways. First it has a program called Prospectors. at each region seminar. Prospectors is an exhibit of original work in which there is no jurying, no judging, and no prizes. it is simply a forum for people to show their works in a safe, non-threatening way. The only rules are that it has to be original or an original adaptation, it cannot be a teaching piece, and it cannot have been shown before at Prospectors. It is a way for emerging artists to get their work shown and maybe get some feedback on it. This particular program has been going on about two decades and so is a success just for longevity. The second way is giving a cash prize for the Rocky Mountain Region Award in the National Exhibits. Winning the awardis a great honor, but the money prize along with it really encourages people to enter the exhobot. Only eight of the thirteen regions offer a prize.

I do not mean to imply that there is a dichotomy between original work and great-technique. A true artist in embroidery both does original work and has great skills. It takes study and practice--surely a main theme throughout these blog posts.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


In the judging class at the recent EGA national seminar in Louisville, one of the things discussed was whether a sampler could be original. Interesting question. Many of the samplers we see are definitely derivative. Given the structure of a sampler, it might be hard to break out with a new look. A lot of the problems with samplers is that they do not look fresh or interesting. It's just the same old stuff.

I personally think that a sampler can be original and fresh with delights for the eye. I have uploaded two of my personal samplers (i.e. non-teaching samplers) to demonstrate this. This first one I finished just the day before yesterday--it barely has had time to cool off from the hot needle. Recently I have been working in a small series of bees pictures with a drawing, PJ's Bees, an embroidery, and now a sampler, PJ's Bees Sampler. This series will continue on into a star book which will be a sampler unto itself. And as a matter of fact, PJ's Bees Sampler is a study for the coming star book bee sampler.
PJ's Bees Sampler
thirteen flower stitches on perforated paper with Impressions silk/wool
A sampler has usually bands or spots. This sampler has both bands of flowers and spots of flowers, but also the bee and honeycomb motif to unify it further. Though the scan has cut off the very top of the sampler, I am sure you can see that with the bright colors and the buzzing bees, it is fun to look at.
A Personal Sampler in Blackwork
sewing thread and metallic on linen
The second sampler I did sometime in later 1990s and so far it is unnamed. It is a blackwork sampler with the lower part done in compartments. The upper part I sewed on some Battemberg tape which I allowed to gently curl. Then I did simple patterns inside the curls. Like a lot of sampler it also has words on, this time a quote from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The threads I used were mostly machine sewing cotton in three or four colors with some gold metallic. Not all the patterns are original with me, but the majority of them are. When I show this personal sampler, people invariably stop to examine it closely. it is the type of needlework that requires a closer look.
I like samplers and I love working samplers. They are most satisfying type of embroidery that I do. And I believe that I do original work within the genre of sampler, even using the old band and spot format.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Holy Stash and Waiting Angels

Hardanger Angel :"Elfaba"
stitched and painted

It must be hardwired into humans to hoard things. People collect things, lots of things, and that is a particular type of hoarding. Some people who seem to be near the deep end even hoard animals. Stitchers and quilters hoard fabrics and threads; and they do it big time.

Part of this hoarding compulsion for some people comes in the form of unfinished projects. Dozens (or more) of stitching projects have been started, worked on at odd times, and then been put away. I can understand this. I have one or two unfinished projects myself. I mean that quite literally--one or two. But I'll get back to that topic in a minute. I have a particular friend who has projects dating back into the late 80s that sit in drawers waiting to be finished. Then she feels occasionally that she has to deny herself the pleasures of new projects, projects from which she can learn new things, because she feels very guilty about the drawer dwelling stuff. I can see at least a couple of solutions to this. One is to take out all the projects and decide which ones are really important to one's life, finish those, and give away the rest. The other is to stop doing new stuff entirely and devote the rest of one's life to the finishing of the languishing projects.

Neither of these solutions seems to be viable for my friend. She just feels guilty about not finishing the old and she feels guilty about starting the new.

All right, I have a third solution that works well for me. I do my own work about 98% of the time. The other 2% of the time I take classes with projects in them. These classes invariably teach me a new thing about embroidery. I do not have embroidery time to waste on someone else's project that does not further my knowledge. In that 2% of the time, I do the class and work on the new technique within the the class. Then I take the project home, strip it of its usable parts and put the instructions and the unfinished piece in a notebook for reference. I never feel guilty about unfinished pieces. And I do not consider them unfinished work.
(for Ann)
stitched and painted with the details of the face done in gold gutta

I do have have at least one unfinished project. Part of the work I do is to offer classes to teach. One class in particular has been floating around the sewing for a couple of years. It has to do with angels. I have designed a set of Hardanger angels that are stitched, then painted with Dye-Na-Flow paints, and finished either for applique or as hanging ornaments. I have done several of these angels, but I have three undone--and I have no desire to take the time to finish them until I sell the class. For some reason, though I personally think the angels are charming, I have not had this particular class picked up. So the three unfinished angels are patiently waiting for me. What if I never sell the class? Well, maybe at some point I will finish the darlings and use them as gifts.

How do I stop from hoarding or collecting unfinished projects? It has never been in me to leave something, let alone a lot of somethings, unfinished. When I start on something, it is something that is essential to my work, or to my fancy. I work on it until it is done. Then I go on to the next thing. If a piece isn't working out or if I am dissatisfied with it for some reason, I may lay it aside for a while. But then I come back to it, make a decision to continue or not. And then I either strip it of its components and throw it away, or strip it and put it in a notebook with notes as to why it ended up there. Then I forget it.


(for Albie)

unpainted so far

As to my greater stash of the raw materials from which I do my art, right now I am working out of my stash and trying to not accumulate anything new. In particular I need to get rid of some sewing fabric which I love, but which I will never use. . But I try to keep on top of things and not let anything get too big or unwieldy. I think of my poor husband and children who will have to sort through things if I die in my sleep next week.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

To Judge or Not to Judge

At the beginning of this month I was in Louisville, KY taking a couple of classes at the Embroiderers' Guild of America's national seminar. (You might want to take a look at the post called The Mother Ship if you haven't already.) One of the classes I liked very much and the other I did not. The class I liked was the judging class. Every year EGA puts on a judging class at seminar for its judging candidates who need a certain number of classes in the subject in order to certify. Other people, ordinary people can also take those classes, but the judging people get first dibs on a place.

This class was my second choice for the time slot because my first choice went to lottery and I lost out. But in many ways this was an excellent class for me--no homework, lots of class participation, a chance to look closely at the 19th national exhibit and the education exhibit, and some verbal wrangling with my classmates. Why did I take this class? Because as a Master or Graduate Teacher (there are now ten of us within EGA), I have an obligation to continue my education both in and out of my specialties.

Did I learn anything? Well, not anything that I can point to and say, "See, this is brand new in brain." I learned subtleties. I learned more about people than I did about judging, I'm afraid. I have been good, close friends with Carole Rinard for many, many years. I have learned more about judging from her than I am sure most judging candidates will ever know. Does this qualify me for judging. "NO!" I am not a judge and I don't want to be. I have judged a few things on the beginning level in my career and am glad to help out. But I could never do what a Master Judge has to do because I cannot divorce myself from my own prejudices and passions. This was the second judging class I have taken at a national seminar. The first was maybe fifteen years ago right after I was certified myself. It was a greatly different class from this one.

Cathy Trostman led this class. She is a Master Judge herself and is very knowledgeable. But she was not the originator of the class which put her at a slight disadvantage. She took over at the last minute for another Master Judge, Pat Rozendahl. Cathy and I know each other enough to say say hi in passing, but we have never had a conversation. However, we got along pretty well in the class room. We were both on the same page when it came to the 19th National Exhibition.

The class was made of of sixteen women from all over the US. There were two certified teachers there, myself and another woman at my table who was the newest EGA certified teacher. There were around four, as I recall, judging candidates. The rest of the people were either looking at the class to see if they would want to go through the judging program or were looking for ways to improve their own embroideries so they could win more ribbons.

It is the people that were there to win more ribbons that interested me the most. It is fairly cunning to take a judging class in order to get in the minds of the judges. But this was not the sort of class that could be much help for that. There really is no magic formula that judges know and therefore other people can know. As Carole Rinard says (over and over), it is a certain judge on a certain day and how she is instructed and how she feels. As to winning more ribbons, well good luck there. Ask me how to get to Carnegie Hall

Monday, September 15, 2008

Coloring Inside the Lines

cattleya rex
an orchid in colored pencil

I have been doing a lot of drawing recently. I find that the hour or so I have every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday late afternoons at the Healthplex is just right for getting some colored pencil work done. Mike and I exercise those evenings, but Mike's exercise takes a lot longer than mine. Frankly after about forty or forty-five minutes of it, I get bored....and tired.

So I take my bag full of colored pencils, regular pencils,, and black markers out to the lobby of the Healthplex, settle down at one of the tables and blissfully draw. Maybe once a week someone stops by to say hello or to look at my current drawings. It's a good setting for a little talk and a little art.

I start with a blank page in my sketch book and draw a 5" X 7" rectangle on the page with black marker. I draw my picture with pencil, make any adjustments I need, and then I ink in the lines with marker. This is the easy part and is done in less than ten minutes. I erase the pencil marks and then start laying in the color. The coloring takes a long time, because with the color pencils I need to work in layers. Most portions of the work need at least three layers of pencil, sometimes all one color and sometimes layers of different colors, depending on how I want it to look. Sometimes I need a many as four or five layers. As I work I need to keep sharpening the pencils because I work almost exclusively in saturated pigments. So just keeping my pencils sharp enough to work with takes time.

Something happened last week that took me a little aback. I was working on an orchid when a couple of women came over to the table. One took a quick look at my work which at that point was mostly just the inked page with a few colors here and there. She asked me very flippantly if I always colored within the lines. Then the two of them laughed and exited the building.

When I am drawing I pretty well stuck in my right brain, the mute side of my mind, so I didn't reply to her. And she wasn't looking for a scathing reply--my best kind of reply. But I got to thinking about the whole thing with coloring outside the lines.

I guess that when people say that children should color outside the lines they mean that children should be taught to be more creative. I agree wholeheartedly. But in reality, children don't need much of a shove to be creative early on. It is equating coloring outside the lines with creativity that I question. Certainly I color within the lines. I made the lines for a specific purpose--to organize the space within that 35 square inches of sketch paper. Coloring outside the lines would be sloppy and would not convey my message or meaning through my drawings.

As to a first grader who is reminded to sometimes to color outside the lines, that would seem sloppy and uncoordinated to her. Better to color the ducks in a row bright blue with purple beaks. Better yet to have the first graders draw their own ducks. Why would we want to ruin a perfectly good drawing with sloppy work?

As I write this I am thinking--when is it appropriate to color outside the lines? To show emotions that are outside the lines--anger at having to color dumb ducks at all; contempt for cute ducks in a row in coloring book after coloring book; playfulness in how ridiculous-looking I can make those flaming ducks; creativity at how I can change those f++king ducks into cubist parodies of themselves.

Well, I am glad I was in the right side of my brain when that woman made her inane comment.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

PJ's Bees

In a previous post I talked about having to know how to draw to be a good artist in any medium. Learning to draw teaches us to see. A lot of good design is in the detail. And drawing helps us see and record that detail.
PJ, my son of many years!, has a birthday every year on September 3rd. It is always hard to find a little something to give him. This year about ten days before his birthday he called to tell me about the bees in his attic. He and his wife Lavona bought the house that Mike and I owned almost eight years ago. It is a pretty house with lots of space for a growing family. So PJ, his name is Peter Justin by the way, called me to let me know what was going on with the house. It seems that a woodpecker had been bothering them by pecking on the northeast corner of the house quite assiduously in the mornings. He had done several things to keep the bird away with no luck. The northeast corner of the house is the highest corner of the house being two stories up. He climbed up there to take a lock and found a nest of bees had moved in. So he crawled down and called a pest control company. The pest control people came out and found a huge hive with many honeycombs in the attic. The poor woodpecker just wanted his breakfast.
So PJ sent me several photos of the removal of the honeycombs and the queen.
I was inspired to draw him a picture of bees for his birthday. that you can see below. The picture is about 8" X 10" done in colored pencil.

PJ's Bees

the drawing

I showed the picture to my friend Rita Curry-Pittman who among other things is an applique quilter. She really liked the picture and wanted to do an applique quilt of it. So I scanned the picture and sent her a copy. Then I thought that I could do an embroidery of the same subject. So I started a perforated paper design loosely based on the original drawing. It was this embroidery I took to national seminar to work on because my classes were not actual embroidery classes. This is the finished embroidery.

PJ's Bees

the embroidery, 8" X 8",perforated paper, silk/wool threads

Then I decided to do a sampler on perforated paper with bees and honeycomb in it. I started it yesterday. This is a scan of it this morning.

PJ's Bees Sampler (in progress)

9" X 6", on painted perforated paper, silk/wool threads

In an earlier blog I also talked about artist's doing bodies of work. The perforated paper embroidery, PJ's Bees, is the fourth in my B.o.W. of perforated paper flowers. The bee sampler is part of that body of work, but is also part of a body I have of perforated paper samplers. It is very satisfying for me to have all these interconnections between my works.

Learning to draw has helped me very much is being able to do this kind of thing. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Bibles of Embroidery

My best friend Ann has come to embroidery, like a lot of women, after retirement when time is not so great a factor. She has done a little embroidery most of her life. We have been friends for half a century--what she does affects me and what I do affects her. So when I moved back to Colorado (Ann lives in Cheyenne, WY) and started teaching embroidery there, Ann would sometimes come with me when she got a chance. Several years ago I showed her how to do colcha embroidery. Amazingly she took to it and started doing her own original work in her own original way. It is still colcha, but with her own twist to it. Way to go, Ann!

We have had some adventures because of this road-trip type of teaching, the most memorable of which was being evacuated from Los Alamos at the start of the Cerro Grande fire. Even after my moving to Albuquerque, Ann has come down to take a class or two. When she retired from the WTLA, she joined the EGA and had started studying embroidery seriously.

So last year when I decided to go to this year's Embroiderers' Guild of America national seminar in Louisville, KY, I insisted she go too. I had to twist her arm, stomp on her toes, and hold my breath before she said she would come. Oh, I also told her it would be one of our road trips except by airplane. That was probably what tipped her to decide to come.

One of the grand things, one of the many grand things, about national seminars is the seminar bookstore hat is dedicated to embroidery and related topics. Thousands of books are shipped in and a book boutique is set up for the six or so days of the seminar This year Ruth Kern Books came to national seminar. Way to go Ruth!

Ann and I went into the book boutique and were overwhelmed by the number of titles we could choose from. I was brave and strong and bought only four books (that's all the weight I could take back in my luggage). Ann bought several books too, including a couple of books I recommend for the serious learner.

So now we come to the topic of this post. My bibles of embroidery. I first was learning about embroidery in the late 70s and early 80s, so my favorite books are from that era, though they are still available, certainly as used books and other editions.

The first of them is Therese de Dillmont's The Encyclopedia of Embroidery, first published in 1880. I have a nice paperback from Running Press from the mid-70s. This is the authoritative book about European embroidery and European embroidery is basically what we do today here in America with some notable exceptions. The illustrations are very good and copious. A person could learn much of what embroidery is about from studying this book.

The second book that I owe so much of my knowledge to is Jo Ippolito Christenson's The Needlepoint Book. Now you need to understand that I started out as a canvas embroiderer. But The Needlepoint Book isn't just for needlepointers. In fact yesterday I was researching stitches from it to be put onto perforated paper. Most all of the stitches in the book can be done counted onto linen and can be done uncounted as surface work.

And the third book is Carolyn Ambuter's The Open Canvas. This book opened my mind to possibility. In it are a series of six samplers that represent six techniques that impact the gound fabric. Again, though they are worked on canvas, they can be translated to any ground.

There are many great books on embroidery. Every embroiderer needs to have two or three good, comprehensive books of stitches and techniques. These are my three. Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dot B. the other day asked me how one becomes an artist and not just becomes one, but feels like an artist. This is an interesting and a hard question. We talked about it for a few minutes, but were unable to reach any quick conclusions. But I have been giving it some thought since then.

I think artists are born. I think there is a peculiar make up inside a person that says ARTIST or NOTARTIST. But saying that, I also know that everyone I know has some art within her.

It's like being a novelist. I can write a whole sentence (and not everyone can). I like writing whole sentences and paragraphs. I can string together words to write short essays and personal vignettes, but I am not in it for the long haul. I don't believe that I can write a novel, let alone a series of novels. I can write the odd little poem and am very pleased with my odd little poems. But ten odd little poems does not make me a poet. I scratch around the borders of being an artist with words. But I am not. I do not have the drive and ambition in that direction.

I am however an artist. I know it in my bones and down into my reptile brain. I was born an artist, but was a late bloomer. I am proficient in a couple or three mediums of art. It is what I do. It is the first thing I think of when a person asks me what I do. I do art.

But this does not mean that other people who do not think of themselves as artists cannot turn out works of art. Remember my poems?

A better question to ask is: what is an artist? An artist is a person who sees pieces of the world, pieces of reality, pieces of her own reality and interprets them for viewers. An artist sees what non-artists do not. An artist is a bridge between reality and the mind.


Photo printed on cotton with stitches for emphasis.

One of my first works consciously as an artist

Pieces are broken off me
Slowly I crumble
Parts scatter

Slowly I crumble
I look up as I fall

19 March 04

I hear the rain;
The sky weeps.
Mold blooms on the wall,
Mud-lovely world.

23 February 05

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Threads to Cherish

The first day back from national seminar is a hard day. It is a time of adjustment and readjustment. Louisville is two hours ahead of Albuquerque and so my whole body system is slightly askew. It was a week and a couple of days of living in a wet blanket of heavy air, dull skies (even when the sun was shining), and sudden temperature changes from indoors to outdoors. The hotter it was outside, the colder it was inside. I should have brought my winter indoor sweater and wool socks just to sit in the classrooms.

The brightness of the days were the people. My two roommates were the rocks of my time spent there. Though generally Ann and Carole are the rocks of my life away from seminar too. Jette and Roy were there, old friends from England whom Carole and Ann and I visit on every occasion we get whether over there or here. There are new friends I met for the first time at seminar and friends I don't see from decade to decade. I met up with friends from Rocky Mountain Region with whom I communicate from time to time. I saw new friends from the Greater Pacific Region I met for the first time at Asilomar. Even without the fantastic classes, the exhibits, the bookstore and stitchers' boutique, the national seminar was thunderous success.

But three things happened at this national seminar that put the cherry on the sundae. The first that happened I knew was going to happen--the three awards that came my way. Those three awards are milestones in my life and my work as an embroiderer and fiber artist, giving me solid verification of my chosen work in this life.

The other two things were compliments, stunning compliments from people I love. It is these two compliments that make a life worthwhile. The first came from my very good friend, Carole Rinard. Carole's life is also embroidery. Her interests are slightly different from mine, but we make a formidable pair of friends. Years ago I did a Winning Ways lecture at a national seminar. The Winning Ways lectures are given every national for the judging candidates (and other interested parties) about what is the best in embroidery, how to judge various aspects of embroidery, and what the highest standards in embroidery are. My lecture was on blackwork (what else?) I said that in blackwork instead of using several strands of a stranded thread, such as silk or cotton, to thicken and stitch a line. one should just use a thicker thread. Using several strands is unsatisfactory because the strands shift and buckle against one another as we stitch. But one thicker strand allows complete smoothness, no bubbling of the strands, and no loops left on the stitching. It is a simple concept and I was not the first one to think about it. Carole said that at first people were discomforted if not outraged that I would suggest such a thing. But now twelve or fifteen years later, the single strand is the standard of blackwork in mastercraftsman and certification. Carole told me in effect, that I had changed the face of counted embroidery within the EGA. It was a wonderful thing to say to a person and something I will cherish forever.

Japanese Ribbons
Five weights of silk thread from the very finest,
less than a human hair in diameter, to very thick, almost a yarn.
From Mastercraftsman Step Two in Counted Work.

In the same week another person said something to me that I will forever remember and forever hold close to my heart. Roy Heath, Jette Roy Finley's husband, is a magician, a comedian. a great chef, and a wonderful host. Jette and I first met in England when she came to give the Newbury Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild a talk on Danish work. Everyone knows Jette now. She comes to the US every two years to teach in the national seminars. She also teaches in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. But back when I was living in England, she was only teaching in England at Urchfont and other locations in the west country. She lived about a half an hour's drive from my home in Newbury and so she graciously met with me there one bright sunny morning. I knew from the first minute I saw her work that she would do well in America. It was just a matter of her proposing. And so I went to see her, to urge her to propose for the next national seminar (Denver 1995), and to show her how to put together a good proposal. All I did was talk. Jette and Roy did all the rest. They had the drive and the know-how. And Roy when he saw me at this Louisville national seminar, said to me, "You know, you changed my life."

So lives are changed and made worthwhile by our friendships and our actions. And the EGA has made this all possible by our coming together every year in celebration and fellowship.