Saturday, June 25, 2011

Exhibition Only

Shirley Kay, India Hayford, and Carole Rinard after the award ceremony at the 2008 EGA National Seminar in Louisville, KY.  India is a fine artist and teacher who lives in Casper, WY.  Carole is currently Judge of judges within national EGA.
                Albuquerque Fiber Art Fiesta is over for the year.  It is held biannually on Thursday through Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend.  This year’s was as fun, educational, shopping worthy, and user-friendly as ever.
                In 2013 the next Fiesta will have some changes to it.  We in Turquoise Trail Chapter and in Sandia Mountains Chapter have to get together and write our ideas down, to codify them into guidelines for us to follow in succeeding years.
                One of the changes that we two chapters will have to make is to have a part of our exhibit that is non-judged.  This has been mandated by the AFAF committee (I am told--I have not seen the actual paper on this), along with several other points of action.
                My problem is this:  national EGA has a certain high reputation to maintain for excellence in needlework.  Within EGA, I am told by my friend Carole Rinard, pieces that are for exhibition only and not for judging also must go through the jurying process.  This means that all pieces must conform to that high standard.  Only-for-exhibition pieces are for the chapter members to show off their pieces that have won national honors and prizes, for instance a Bobby Pilling Award winner would be an exhibition piece, an EGA National Exhibit ribbon winner, or even an historical piece of quality work that has been passed down through a family would be for exhibition only.  Pieces that have already won more prestigious prizes than AFAF gives would be what might be shown.  It would specifically not be for people to exhibit poorly done pieces, old pieces, and damaged pieces.  
Shirley Kay, Carole Rinard, and Karen Schueler at Glorieta, NM, the Rocky Mountain Region Seminar in 2006.  Karen is the finest and best fiber artist I know.  Carole is a fine artist herself, but is also a great judge of needlework

                Why would someone not want a piece she had done not be judged?  A nationally certified judge, whether from the EGA, the American Needlepoint Guild, or from NAN would write down valuable comments for the stitchers on how to improve their work, what was good about the current piece, and what was maybe not so good. 
EGA, ANG, and NAN are guilds in the medieval sense of the meaning of guild.  People would bind themselves to a guild to uphold the highest standards in the land.  Work that was not up to guild standards would not be sold (or shown) under the guild name.  Above all, these national guilds are teaching bodies.  We teach only to the highest standards.
AFAF is the place to show our very best stuff.  As the Fiesta grows and gets a wider reputation for excellence, this only helps the standards of our chapters within the guilds.
So I am a little concerned that AFAF rules and regulations may run into and conflict with EGA guidelines for exhibiting.  We will see what is going to happen in the next two years before the next Fiesta.  Hopefully we can get things straightened out.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Conscious Artist

Draco--beaded embroidery on black velvet.
     The other day at the Sandia Mountains stitch-in, I heard someone call someone else “artistic.”  It has gotten me thinking about the differences between being artistic and being an artist.  I think I have been artistic all of my life, but I have only been an artist, a conscious artist, for the last ten years or so.  That is the key word, “conscious.”  After being an embroidery teacher for almost thirty years, after teaching color theory for twenty years and design theory for fifteen years, it was only ten years ago that I started calling myself an artist.
            It was ten years ago when I joined two other artists, Karen Schueler and Emily Holcomb, in a group that met every Wednesday that I began to strive to be more than artistic, and to be an artist. It was in Wednesday Group that I consciously began to do art as opposed to just designing embroidered pieces for me to teach.  Before that I had been in many art shows and had won prizes for my work, but I was principally a teacher and not an artist for art’s sake.
            A conscious artist has certain characteristics:
            Creativity--probably the essence of art and being an artist.  I cannot imagine an artist without imagination and the ability to create things from her own mind and soul.
            Independent thinking--along with the compulsion to work, an artist must have intelligence and must be able to work independently.  I don't mean a genius with a sky-high IQ, I mean someone who thinks, plans, and figures things out.  Artists are often very articulate about their work.  They explain things to their viewers and to other artists. 
            Problem Solver --Doing art can be like solving a puzzle or a problem. Artists who do many commissioned pieces are better problem solvers than anyone else I know.  I like to have a problem or two in each of my pieces.  If I don't have a problem to solve, then I am being redundant.  To me that is standing still and not improving.  I like to improve and learn something in each piece.
            Vision--an artist sees things in different ways from other people.  An artist can often see right into the heart of the matter.  An artist can see things from the back or underneath; she doesn't look at things, she sees into them.  And an artist can see the motives.  This is a talent that comes naturally for some people, but it can be taught to some degree.  The hardest part is that an artist must bring this vision to the ground fabric and convey it to the viewer.
            Emotion-sensitivity--an artist feels things very deeply and she can be very sensitive to the potential emotion of a subject.  Sometimes artists work without emotion and create wonderful pieces.  But a work of art that has some emotion behind it is especially wonderful.
            Builds Bodies of Work--this is also known as integrity or internal consistency.  In every art class and every drawing class I have had, it was emphasized that artists should create bodies of work.  That is, pieces that are related in some way.  Bodies of work can be related by theme, by medium, by color, shape, or even emotion.  An artist can work on several bodies of work interleaving them, as Picasso did.  Building integrity, internal consistency, and working in bodies of work tells the public and art critics that the artist is mature.
Artistic integrity is that an artist is true to herself.  For instance, I could not seriously do a piece a la Monet.  Monet had his own work, his own subjects, his own style and they were and are among the best that the world has seen.  But for me to copy a Monet in needlework, or even try to copy his exact style, would be a farce.  I must do my own work in my own style.
6 Pot Garden--transfer ink on cotton/poly mix with silk threads.

What Are the Duties of an Artist?
            A.  Originality is essential.
                        The EGA defines original, adaptation, and interpretation as follows.
                        Original:  An original work is one that, from the beginning, is solely the creative product of the embroiderer.
                        Adaptation:  An adaptation is one that is inspired by another source, modified through significant changes, and worked by the embroiderer.
                        Interpretation:  An interpretation is one that is from an existing design in which colors, threads, and stitches are selected by the embroiderer.
            You will find that these definitions are fairly stringent.  Outside EGA circles there are other definitions that also serve.
            Expertise in two or three unrelated media.
            A good artist, one who is well educated and trained, is able to work in two or three media.  I am not talking about needlepoint and smocking.  I am talking about embroidery and photography.  Or embroidery and printmaking.  Or embroidery and ceramics.  Each medium has its own rules, but the essences of the rules generally translate from one medium to another.  Design theory and color theory are always the same.  I am not saying that you should design and exhibit in another medium, just that you learn it very well and are able to navigate in it.
            One thing that ALL artists should be able to do is draw.  Drawing is one of those skills that can be taught.  I took my first drawing classes at Arapaho Community College in Littleton, CO.  Since then I have taken several more, but what I do most is practice.  Now I sometimes sell my drawings, but they are not the main thrust of my art--just my embroidery.  But my embroidery is much better now that I have the basic skills of drawing which include:   perspective, composition, scale, value, and proportion.  Yes, we can go to design theory classes and learn about these things, but a drawing class makes us learn them at a gut level.
            Drawing from life also helps us practice to be keen observers and analytical thinkers.  This helps in the process of self-evaluation and analysis.  It is from this observation that a lot of ideas for art come.
            To Thine Own Self Be True
            Have you ever heard the words, "Write what you know about?"  The same thing goes with art.  I know a young woman who had taken art classes in high school and college.  She started painting kachina pictures from the Hopi communities of New Mexico and Arizona.  This woman is from Kansas and has lived there and in Colorado all of her life.  Her neighbors saw her paintings and started ordering some to match the sofas in their rec rooms.  It is my opinion that this young woman, the niece of a good friend of mine who is a watercolorist, did herself, her community, the Hopi nation, and art a great disservice.  She could put none of her own soul into these paintings.  The kachina are religious paraphernalia of a another culture.  She knew nothing about the kachina she painted.  She did them in odd colors at odd angles on the canvas.  I hated them.  There is a good ending to this story.  Her aunt finally clued her in.  She has stopped doing kachina and is now in a couple of art galleries in Denver with her own work.   
            The story of this young woman has to do with the art term "authenticity."  An authentic piece of work from an artist is one that springs from "knowledge, skills, experiences, and attitudes of the artist."
            Continuing Education
                        An artist has to continue to improve.  One excellent way to do that is to take classes that will lead to new experience.  Take classes out of your area of expertise.  Take design theory from many different teachers.  The same for color theory.  By the way, design theory is more important than color theory.  Color theory is just one small part of the huge field of design theory.  Take a beginning watercolor class.  Take a jewelry making class.  I like to take photography, paper-making, and basketry classes.  Each of these can lead to new insights about embroidery, about the way real textures develop, about how colors darken and lighten on certain materials.  Take a pottery class.  But learn, learn, learn as much as you can.  An artist who slows down and does nothing new is a stagnating personality.
            Self-evaluation--This is also known as Reflection.  I think the hardest thing that an artist does is to self-evaluate.  I work and work on this myself.  Keep in mind that your most popular work, the one that earns the most praise and the most prizes, may not be your best work.  Only you can know this.
            One good method of self evaluation is to keep a newly finished piece unframed for a while.  Let it cool off.  Put it away for a month or two (if you have the time).  Then bring it out and pin it to your bulletin board.  Look at it at odd times from odd angles.  Think about its impact.  Think about the framing or other mounting.  What is good about the piece?  What could be improved next time?  Pieces that you dislike at first may turn out to be, a few months down the road, your favorite works.
            But self-evaluation has more to do with the artistic experience than just looking over the work.  Reflecting--looking into ourselves--makes works of art valid and full of depth.  Using life experiences and life emotion for artwork is part of what an artist does.
            What is an Artist?  An artist is a person who says she's an artist.  I am an artist because I declared myself an artist.  No one nominated me or voted me in.  I am an artist because I do art.  I do art because I am compelled to it.  I must do it.  Art is both the easiest and the hardest thing I do.  Being an artist is as easy as that.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In Transit

     Ariadne's Thread was Gold
metalwork and beads on velveteen
       blackwork in silk on linen

            Words of Allah
         detail of Arabesque

                    Keys of Allah
                      detail of Arabesque

 I have a sister.  Actually I have two sisters, one older and one younger.  The sister I am talking about is Albie, my younger sister.  You might think that her first name is Alberta or some such.  No indeed.  I cannot tell you her birth name in fear of being shunned from her good graces.  She got the name Albie because she and a couple of her friends as teenagers used to sit out in one of their parents’ carports to play innumerable games of Risk.  My sister liked starting from the Alberta, Canada area.  The name stuck.  When she married she had her name changed to Albie Peterson Merrill.  But from her mid-teens she would answer to no other first name.  She is a strong-willed person.

Over the years I have given Albie several of my works, including the one entitled Ariadne’s Gold.  But her favorite is a big blackwork sampler called Arabesque.  Arabesque is on 28 count white linen with blue and black silk threads (as I recall, they are Au Ver a Soie--seven stranded silk).  The sampler is approximately 13” X 9” fringed out with four-sided stitch holding the fringe at bay.  Several of the fillings are beaded, giving it a dimensional look when seen in the flesh, so to speak.

All of the sampler’s filling stitches are based on Arabic calligraphy.  There are seventeen fill areas, including two in the Hand of Fatima to the right.  It was a labor of love for me, taking three months in early 2001 to design, stitch, and frame.

Albie invited me and my daughter Barrett to Seattle to visit with her over Memorial Day this year.  She said she had something she needed done.  So I kicked off my traces, got on a plane to Denver, then to Seattle, and after many mishaps and tribulations, I arrived at Sea-Tac 11:30 PM on a Thursday night.  Barrett arrived the next day by train (she always was a show-off!)  We started our heavy partying in our all-girl fashion--by eating.

We went and did, saw movies, napped, ate some spectacular Seattle food, drove around, rode a ferry, and TALKED.  It was wonderful.  Then on the last day when we were in her gorgeous, bright apartment overlooking Puget Sound, Albie told me what she wanted me to do.  A corner of Arabesque had come loose from its moorings; some of the white silk threads I had used to stitch it to the silk fabric undercloth had wiggled their way free.  Would I please restitch it without disturbing the framing or the backing? 

I took a minute or two to exam the situation.  I called for a needle--she had one packet of needles and a wonderful old needlebook she had inherited from the family.  There was just one needle in her whole twenty that would work.  Thank goodness, I had stretched the under cloth silk on artist stretcher bars and not on foam core. I called for the silk thread; I had sent her matching white silk thread some years ago in case something went awry.  And I called for her embroidery scissors.  Out came a large pair of dressmaker’s shears that had belonged to our mother.  They were sharp down to the tips!  A half a dozen stitches and snips later and we were in business.

Have needle will travel may have to be my new motto.  If, of course, you supply the needle.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Detail from Winding Roads--French knot seed heads with tendrils

Singularity Flowers with Beaded Centers
Last weekend was the pilot class for Winding Roads.  Since part of this blog is to inform people about what goes on behind the scenes with the teachers, I am going to be honest with myself and you readers.  It could have gone better.

Bead Leaves
It was not the students by any means, or the location, the Masonic Lodge in Los Alamos, it was me.  I usually have very smooth pilots that have few errors to dig out.  This one was different.  For some reason, my teaching notes did not jive 100% with the student text.  I changed the order of the student text at the last minute and I thought I had changed the teaching notes to go along with it.  No, I did not--at least not all of the notes.  That was a big glitch--confusing for the students and bewildering for me.  I gave myself a talking to, later in the day.  “Let not the Student Text differ from the Teaching Notes.”

Another error was that I hadn’t thought through wholly how the student doodle cloths and the ribbons for the doodle clothes would work out.  This was a little less egregious error.  Thank goodness for the piloteers--we talked about the doodle cloths and the ribbons and now I have a good plan for the Florida class.  “Let not the Ribbons and the Doodle Cloths be ignored, lest ye err.”

There were a few more things--the minor things that a good pilot class (which this certainly was) points out to a teacher.  These were things like needing more yellow beads for flower centers, needing more neutral background fabrics (I thought I had enough, but obviously I was mistaken), and like the class needing more time to stitch in the beginning of the class.  I can fix all that. Not a problem.  “Let ‘Not a Problem’ not become a problem later on.”

Neenah Winchell, a long-time friend from Sandia Mountains, and I drove to Los Alamos the Friday before the Saturday/Sunday class.  Neenah likes to take the scenic route and so we did.  We missed I-25 and 599 (the relief route from Los Alamos around Santa Fe) both directions.  Instead we wound through Albuquerque and Rio Rancho up 528 to 550 to San Ysidro and up the Jemez Valley, past the red cliffs, past the soda dam, and past the Valle Caldera, past the scorching of the Cerro Grande Forest Fire 11 years ago, and on into Los Alamos from the west.  It was a beautiful day.  Neenah was good company. Both driving and keeping us entertained.

The first night we ate at the Blue Window Bistro in greater downtown Los Alamos.  (Okay, I am putting you on--there is no greater downtown Los Alamos.  It is two streets wide and about five streets long.)  Then we went back to the hotel room (the newest hotel in Los Alamos), let our hair down, and just chilled out.  Neenah is also a good roommate.  She doesn’t make fun of my occasional snort in my sleep and she thinks I am tidy. 

It is good that neither of us eat breakfast.  We went to the breakfast room the next morning, I with my tea, and Neenah with her coffee.  There was a convention of the League of Women Voters staying there.  We didn’t stick out, except we were the two not talking about anything too serious.  Then off we went to the Masonic Lodge, arriving in plenty of time to set up the room.  Carole Rinard who made all the arrangements for the pilot was there before us.

The first lunch was Salad by Committee and Sunday’s lunch was leftover Salad by Committee and Carole’s Blue Ribbon, Grand Prize, and Best of Show Stockholm sandwiches.  I am not going to tell you what they were made of--that is Carole’s secret, but just let me mention sour cream and lignonberries.

Saturday night we went to the Hill Diner, my favorite place to eat, bar none, in all of Los Alamos County.  And Sunday morning we once more comingled with the League of WV, had tea, and coffee.  Neenah had a sweet roll.  And we were off to the second day.

It is always a delight to teach a class for Pajarito Chapter in Los Alamos.  I am a member of Pajarito and have been since 1992, although I rarely get to go up to a meeting.  I met three new faces and greeted three old (what else do I say in this context?) ones.  The members of the class were:  Marilyn Foster a delightful woman with a good eye for color and design; Nancy Cope, one of my friends, who takes her job as a piloteer seriously and helps me out immensely; Sherri Huffman, another new face, who finished a piece by the end of the second day!; Evelyn Petschek, the third new face (actually I have seen Evelyn around once or twice) who contributed her fine wit and tried to keep my models straight; Neenah Winchell, roommate extraordinaire, with her fine sense of color and design,; and Carole Rinard, my buddy, mentor, traveling companion, co-author, and good friend for over twenty-five years.  You all made the class a fun thing to do and made me a student as well as a teacher.  Thanks very much.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Painted Doves

Painted Dove #1
Teaching is hard enough, even locally, even to your friends.  I can’t remember that I ever taught a class “cold,” that is with no preparation.  I have classes that are ready to be taught.  I have their papers and examples stacked in boxes in my studio--maybe eight or ten of them.  But I couldn’t get a call at 7 AM to go teach at 9 AM, like substitute teachers do in the schools, never mind the question of the kits.  If I am being paid, I want the class to be the best it can be, the best I can make it for that group of people.  It is my reputation on line--something that all people drag around with them.

So the first thing is an idea.  I get an idea for a class, and I might think about it for a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, or even months before I put anything on paper or needle to fabric.  I need to know if it is practical to teach.  How many hours of teaching?  Most classes are for 1 day, 2 days, or four days.  So how complex is my idea?  If my idea is a one-day class, then what level of stitcher am I aiming for?  Basic--a student with little or no stitching experience; Beginning--a student who has limited experience, but may be acquainted only with one embroidery technique.  Let me interject right here: a person who has exclusively done cross-stitch for thirty years is still a Beginning stitcher.  Beginning-intermediate--a person who has taken a few embroidery classes in a couple of techniques.  Intermediate--a student who has taken several classes and knows her way around a needle and thread; Intermediate-advanced--a person who has taken a great many classes in several techniques and who has begun to experiment with changing colors and designs from kits and graphs to suit themselves.  Advanced--a person with a great deal of experience, who is proficient in at least one technique outside of cross-stitch, and who designs in her preferred techniques.  Master--a person who has passed one or more of EGA’s Mastercraftsman programs or the equivalent in ANG, a person who designs her own work and teaches others, a person who holds EGA or ANG advanced teaching certifications; and a teacher who teaches teachers.
This is a lot to think about.  But let’s say that I have decided to teach a one-day class in Battenberg lace of a dove.  It will be simple with just two fillings in it.  Something this simple might be Beginning or Beginning-intermediate.  So I start planning the dove and I stitch two or three of them to see how long it actually takes me to complete them.

I find it takes me three hours to do the first one, but that includes elementary designing.  The next two were about two and a half hours each.  So I calculate that it would take a Beginning-Intermediate about four hours to complete a dove.  A one-day class lasts six hours.  I am paid to teach six hours and so I will fill that whole space of time.  As I see it, I have some options--to add another filling to the piece, to have each student make two doves, or have them paint the doves after they are finished. 

Option one will push the level of student out of Beginning into exclusively Beginning-intermediate.  Option two sounds dull even to me who loves Battenberg lace.  And option three has the beauty of getting the lace away from its stark whiteness (okay, granted; some people love the stark whiteness); of getting stitchers out of the feeling that their stitching itself is sacred and should not be tampered with further; and it adds another layer of interest both to the class and to the teacher.

Taking option three, I start painting the three doves I already have.  I time how long it takes me.  I test the simplest way of painting.  This takes about an hour--close enough to the six. I estimate how much the paint will cost on top of the needle, threads, and Battenberg tapes.  I look up on the Web that Battenberg tape is $2.50 a yard plus $1 shipping (each student will need a yard).  The linen thread for the lace is $6 plus $1 shipping for a large spool--enough for the whole class.  If I use fiber-friendly acrylic paint in five colors, that is about $1.25 per color for the whole class.  I need needles--two each per student; ¼ yd. muslin for each student at $2; white paper plates to mix the paint on and to paint from, $1.50 for the whole class, and plastic or glass jars to hold water for each student (out of my stash).  A plastic table cloth (or two or three) depending on how many students, at $2 each table; 3 or 4 mil plastic to cover the muslin sandwich that has the design drawn onto it which I have in my kitchen, if not in my stash; basting thread I can take out of my stash, a set of detailed instructions with some pages in color; and finally my drawing the design onto muslin for however many students take the class.  I also have to go to Hobby Lobby for the paints, plastic table cloths, and white paper plates.  I have to go to a fabric shop to get the muslin and needles.

Let us say that we average the class size at ten students with two tables to cover.  The costs per kit would be: $2.50 for the tape, $1 for the thread, $0.65 for the paints, $0.50 for the two needles, $2 for the muslin, $0.50 for the plastic table cloths, Let’s say $1 (each) for the gas and time to go shopping for this stuff.  Now the most expensive stuff of all:  writing the instructions, printing of the instructions, making the kits; my teaching fee, and transportation if it is more than a twenty mile round trip.

So $2.50 + $1 + 65¢ + 50¢ + $1 = $5.65 just for the basics.

A set of instructions for a one-day class would cost around $7.50 for each student.  In a four-day class, that is bumped up to about $40 depending on how many pages and how much color.  In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to charge for my transportation or teaching fee.  My teaching fee is normally somewhere between $200 ad $400 a day depending on the venue.  That pays for over thirty years experience in stitching including classes in many, many types of needlework; that pays for almost thirty years of professional teaching experience, and that pays for all my study and certifications.

I hold pilot classes for all region and national classes.  With those classes I am not allowed by EGA policy to charge a teaching fee.  Everything else must be paid for.  So if you get a chance to take a pilot class from any teacher, seize the opportunity--it is a good deal.

How much should the class be?  Well, I am not certain.  I have never taught my Painted Doves in Battenberg lace. 

Painted Dove #2

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ribbon Applique

 From a practice piece, a rose in multi-colored satin ribbon

My two-day national class, Winding Roads, is finished and ready to pilot.  The pilot class takes place next Saturday and Sunday in Los Alamos, courtesy of Pajarito Chapter and Carole Rinard.

Bailadora, from a photo of a dancer at Las Golandrinas.  The photo was printed onto fabric, applied to upholstery fabric and then ribbon appliqued.

It is a long, hard road to get a class this far.  First coming up with an idea and project unique enough to catch the eye of a national selection committee.  In the case of Winding Roads, I had been working in the area of ribbon appliqué for several years before I got a clue that I should be teaching the stuff.  My first inspiration was an old spool of rayon ribbon in a light blue.  The spool looked like it was from the fifties or sixties.  The ribbon was ½” wide and was a utilitarian ribbon rather than a decorative one.

Ribbon applique in black and white with lace added and a drawn and painted paper background

I was working at that time on upholstery fabrics that I painted and embroidered making them into scrolls that could be unwound and hung on a wall.  I only made three before I started appliquéing the blue rayon ribbon onto an odd piece of upholstery fabric left over from one of the scrolls.  (By the way, I gave one scroll Espiritu away; sold one named Mi Alma; and a third I eventually cut up and used for other projects.)  Hydrangeas were the perfect flower for the rayon ribbon--right color, right texture.  And voila! Hydrangea Garden was born.  Wanda Anderson bought it much before I could show it around to too many people.

But it was in the appliquéing of Hydrangea Garden that the winding roads appliqué technique was invented.  And it was on this technique plus a few others that I based my other ribbon appliqué pieces more than seven years later.

Another experiment in ribbon applique on a painted background with some paper ribbon

Since I struggled and experimented with ribbon appliqué on my own without research into other people’s work, I reference very few sources.  In the late eighties I worked for YLI Corp. while they were still in Provo, UT and I was in Sandy UT, just north on I-15 from them.  I wrote some instructions for silk ribbon embroidery (I am not sure they were ever published), did some teaching/demoing for them, and generally tried out their threads and ribbons.  So I was influenced by that.  The ribbons I use now are much less expensive and much larger than the delicate jewel-toned silk ribbons.  So the same techniques by and large do not work as well if at all.  For instance, French knots in silk ribbon are pretty little things that one can easily sprinkle around the ground fabric.  But just try getting an inch-wide grosgrain to French knot in any meaningful way--torn ground fabric is a very real possibility.

Winding Roads, the national class to be taught at EGA National Seminar in September, 2011

I started out this entry by explaining the trials and tribulations of getting a class ready for its national debut and quickly devolved into writing something else.  Well, maybe sometime I will explain the eighteen month process of a getting national class from the grain of an idea, through the proposal process, through the writing, etc.  Maybe.  Someday.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Needlekeeper's Rooms

It has about a year since I last added to this blog.  I have been urged by a couple or three people to return to blogging about my embroidery adventures.  So I am not to blame for the lameness of my remarks here.  It is those people--you know who you are!

In 1994 I made my first embroidered book.  It was on perforated paper and a small 3.5” X 3.5”.  Each page was dedicated to a sampler stitch and the names of each stitch spelled out a word.  The word I used was my first name, Shirley Kay.  It was a cute thing, easy to hold, and a lot of fun to stitch and bind together.  I thought I would have no problem selling the class to several venues.  But in fact, that book class has never sold.  I called it The Little Stitchery Book.

In 1999 I made another similar book and its word was "Y Two Kay."  Still no buyers, but of course that book was topical and dated.

My second embroidered book

 Y Two Kay--two pages

Between 1994 and 1999, I studied book binding and book folding whenever I got the chance.  Book making is too big a field of study to tie each experiment to embroidered pages.  So most of those are pure paper and card.

A couple of years after that I had a very good idea for an embroidery-illustrated folded book.  It was called Laeta Acus (Happy Needle in Latin).  In it was an original story about a young girl who was learning embroidery from her mother.  Every two month for a year, the mother would introduce Laeta to another counted technique.  Again the book was small 3” X 4” with six pages of text and six illustrations.  The text was printed by computer on fine linen, embroidered with a few French know flowers on the edges, and pasted onto the pages.  Eventually a second book was added making a short series about the continuing adventures of Laeta when she was grown up.  In this book, the Queen of the Fairies invites her make royal embroideries for the court.  The illustrations were counted work and lace.

 Pages from The Fairy Queen

 The front and back covers of The Fairy Queen

Laeta Acus, the first book, was entered into the 19th EGA National Exhibit, garnered a couple of nice prizes, and was away from me for over two years traveling around the US on exhibition along with the rest of the exhibit.  Very gratifying.

Meanwhile I continued exploring books and even took a class or two on book making.

At the beginning of this year, I went to an Art of Embroidery meeting at Stephanie Sams’ house.  Stephanie was demonstrating how to print images by computer onto cloth for making books.  I already had that experience under my belt, and so was more able to concentrate upon making a book entirely out of fabric with no paper involved at all.

What an inspiration!  I grabbed that idea and tore away with it like a storm.  By the end of the half-day session I have one page almost completed.  By the end of two weeks I had the whole book completed and bound.  It is called The Needlekeeper’s Rooms, seven pages of text and nine pages of embroidery.  It is 9” X 11” and packed with stitching, beading, appliqué, ribbon appliqué, and lace.  In medieval parlance, it is my masterpiece.  Now Needlekeeper’s Rooms is in Los Alamos at a gallery show at Fuller Lodge Art Center.  The day that show is over, it is due for judging at the embroidery exhibit of Albuquerque Fiber Art Fiesta.

 Front cover of The Needlekeeper's Rooms.
Note the copper wire binding, the bundle of beads and charms at the top of the binding, and the ribbon applique of the cover.

 Detail of a page from The Needlekeeper's Rooms.
Beading, applique, and Battenberg lace.

Two pages, "Moon Woman Flying," from The Needlekeeper's Rooms.
The bead and charm bundle from the binding is showing between the two pages.  Note the beaded fringe at the bottom, ribbon applique, the moon charms and beading.

I want to thank Stephanie for the inspiration and I want to thank the other members of Art of Embroidery for their encouragement and smiles.