It’s hard to believe that this artist’s residency is coming to a close. I have just four more days here before returning to Paris. So I thought I’d do a pictorial recap of my time here so far. It’s been beyond anything I could have imagined or hoped for. Just amazing.
Gare de l’est
On the train heading toward Orquevaux!
My Studio! I can’t believe it!!
Some of the art work in the Chateau left by other artists in residence
And so it begins… getting the work up on the wall.
but now I have all of this space… I can go much bigger!
The view from my studio
Taking a morning walk with fellow artist in residence, Kevin Ford
Throwing some paint around
Working and adding
Playing with shapes, getting in the blues…
Lichen always inspires
Taking a walk to clear my head and get some perspective on the challenges I’m seeing in the piece now that I’ve doubled its size.
The sheer beauty and magnitude of this place…
The boat house
The blue alien is now an ever present “issue” that I work hard to resolve…
Deciding that I have to stitch stuff down anyway…
Boldly stitching the blue insect/alien even though I have misgivings… maybe it’ll look better once it’s stitched down.
Nope it doesn’t. Annotating the work, before adding more blue, because if the blue bits are the problem, let’s throw more on there and see what happens.
The blue rabbit hole continues. I’m so deep in it I can’t see my way out.
Still I can appreciate the fabulous art all around me that covers the walls of this amazing place.
Raclette night and the fabulous Beulah van Rensburg: artistic director
The. blue continues to prove problematic.
But I’m determined…
and when all else fails, start another piece…
Fellow artists put on a puppet show for all of us, to great hilarity and fun!
and then I return to my studio to finish my little study inspired by the lichen I’ve seen on my many walks.
And on it goes… the creative process continues.
The big take away from all of this is that the process of creating is often bumpy, but if you don’t give into despair and just meet it head on matter-of-factly, the process is actually very instructive and can be wonderfully fun. It so mirrors life. Some of the things I tell myself: Don’t take it personally. You got this. It’s a momentary hiccup, what can you learn? This feels uncomfortable, but it’s okay. I’ve been here before and gotten through, I’ll get through this too. Breathe. Be patient and honor the process.
The ups and downs, the unexpected road blocks, the work arounds, it’s all there, just as in life, but making the decision to find the joy, to be present, even when I’d rather not be, that’s the trick. Right now I still haven’t resolved some of the issues I have with this piece, but I know I’ll get there eventually. It’s all part of creating and creating is always wonderful! Hard, but wonderful!
Terror. That’s a word they never mentioned in art school.
Color theory, art history, figurative drawing, these were all pre-requisites; considered the very foundation of any good education in the arts.
Terror? Fear? Not so much. Neither of those words or any words like that, were ever uttered.
And yet… who doesn’t feel fear and even terror, at some point, when creating?
As children, we run headlong, without thinking, without concern, without fear, and we create. Using mud and sand and sticks and our fingers. We don’t pause and reconsider. We don’t think – but maybe this isn’t a good idea. Yet somewhere along the way we learn to be fearful. We learn that being creative opens us up to criticism, anger, even rage and perhaps violence. Suddenly what came naturally to all of us, no longer feels natural. We tell ourselves that we aren’t “creative types”. And yet, I would argue that we are born creative.
Every. Single. One. Of. Us.
Creating doesn’t have to be on paper, it can be an idea, a vision, a way of thinking. Each of us has a unique mind, shaped by our experiences, our interactions, what we love, our passions, where we were born, the families we were born into, the land upon which we were raised.
So where does this terror come from?
Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear, fear, fear. We are taught to be “sensible”. We are taught to not “dream too big”. We are taught to not “waste time”. We are taught that to create is a luxury. But what if what we were taught is wrong?
Moving through fear, even terror is one of the most exhilarating, transcendent things I’ve ever experienced. It is what connects me to other human beings. It is what connects me to my creativity. It bonds, unites, and can bring me to my knees. It’s what causes me to rediscover the unadulterated beauty and joy of my innocence, that exquisite time before I learned to feel fear.
If any of this resonates with you, consider enrolling in my new workshop: Finding Your Voice where we will use various prompts, words, exercises and even stitching to break though our fears and find ourselves in our work.
I’m seizing this moment to explain the website and it’s checkout process since a few people have had trouble. I’ve broken this down into steps and highlighted things that need to be paid attention to.
So let’s go over to the website, shall we?!
First when you arrive you will be greeted by me! There I am, cheerfully welcoming you into my world of design, art, and hand stitching.
Do you see those two big red arrows? That’s showing you the navigation bar because I’m going to go over all of the items listed, but first let’s just look for a second at the bottom of this landing page, the page with me smiling at you. If you scroll down you’ll see a whole bunch of images and text about my past design work and then at the very bottom you’ll see this:
This is how you can get in touch with me.
Now you can also use the “contact” at the top in the navigation bar.
Either one will work. So if you get into trouble, just know we’re here to help answer any and all questions you may have. And most of you, who follow me elsewhere, know I’m pretty good about responding to you in a timely manner.
Okay. Now, let’s move on to “Workshops”.
Yay, workshops!! So much fun. This is what you’ll see. At some point I’ll change the large header image with my most recent piece, but until then this is exactly what you should see. Scroll down and you’ll see the calendar break down of all my workshops as of today. I’ll be adding a few more in the coming weeks, but for now, this is it.
Click on the blue link from the photo above (I’ve circled it in red). All those blue titles are hotlinks and when clicked on, they will open that workshop!
Here we are in the Stitch Along Dorset Button Glasses Case Workshop.
Look at the drop down menu! How cool is that?! That’s what you’ll see if you click on the button to the right of “Customize your experience”. This is where you can add stuff. Fun stuff like fabric kits and thread kits. If you don’t see a drop down menu it’s because no kits are available for that workshop. But for both my Stitch Along workshops you get to add kits!! One more thing about the drop down menu… when you choose one of the options, you’ll see that the price changes.
See how the price changed when you added the Fabric Kit? And can we just admire for a moment those fabulous linens? These include enough linen and lining for TWO cases – Pat Pauly’s hand dyed linens, my own ice dyed linen, a cotton lining AND a micro fiber lining, (you’ll get both) which is perfect for glasses lens, fusible fleece interfacing, again enough for two cases and enough wool for one. Same with the Stitch Along Scissor Case, but I’m getting side tracked…
So the price includes the workshop, plus the Fabric Kit, which also includes shipping and the design and the detailed instruction booklet. “What!” you’re saying to yourself, “that must be a typo!” but no, it’s just one of the perks you get for signing up for this Stitch Along. “But what about the thread kit?” you might ask.
Here you go!
This is the workshop and the thread kit. Please note that if you live outside the US you MUST order at least 4 weeks before the beginning of the workshop. Even so it’s dicey with customs and covid causing delays. Bottom line – if you don’t live in the US, hurry and enroll now!
Here we are with the Workshop, the fabric kit AND the thread kit. See all those beautiful threads above? Oh! And look! See that gorgeous hand dyed linen underneath? Yup that’s the whole package. One last thing – this workshop features Dorset Buttons. Not just your traditional Dorset Button, but really, really wild dorset buttons. Dorset Buttons like you’ve not seen before. Last year I gave a couple workshops called Dorset Buttons Gone Wild. It was a huge hit. This workshop and the other Stitch Along I’m doing in July will teach you how to create dorset buttons that are little pieces of art unto themselves. So even if you don’t want to make a glasses case or scissor case, you can still take this workshop and create dorset buttons for something else you’re working on. It’s all about thinking outside the box, using the dorset button as a jumping off point, but doing things you’ve never thought of doing. That’s what we’ll be doing in both of these Stitch Alongs.
Okay, let’s keep going with the website. So now you’re convinced this is just the coolest Stitch Along/Workshop that you’ve ever seen and you can hardly wait to sign up. So what do you do now?
Click on the “Add to cart” button and you’ll see the little, light blue, transparent box at the top that I’ve helpfully circled in red! And if you look at the navigation bar you’ll see the number 1 in your “cart”, showing you that you’ve added one thing to your shopping cart. And now you can do a couple of things: You can keep shopping and sign up for more workshops and/or designs or you can check out.
There are two ways to check out. The first is to click on the button that I’ve circled in red in the image above.
Or you can click on the the “Go to cart once all items are added?” button, which is right below the “Add to cart” button. Do you see it? ⬆️
Once you click on “view cart” or “Go to cart once all items are added?” you’ll be asked to login, if you haven’t already done so. This is for your security and this is what you’ll see
If you remember your user name and password you’re good to go. If you’ve forgotten your password, like everyone else in the world, you’ll need to click on “login” and you’ll see this image above. Do you see the dreaded “Lost your password?” No problem, we can help you with that. I can’t remember my middle name, much less every password I’ve created for different websites, oh wait, I don’t have a middle name, but you get the point… Click on “Lost your password” and you’ll get an email to reset your password. This is so that no one pretending to be you can get in here and make mischief.
Once you’ve created a new password and logged in, you’ll see this page above… wait, what? Coupon???? I want a coupon! I can help you with that too. If you signed up for my newsletter you will have seen that I give one to everyone who signed up. If you missed that, you can join Patreon where I also gave a different coupon just a few weeks ago! Lots of coupons, lots of different ways to get one.
Once you’ve entered your coupon code or decided you just want to get enrolled because the workshops are filling up fast, you’ll click on “Proceed to checkout” and voila, you’ll be taken to this page.
A couple things here – there’s yet another reminder to use a coupon, if you have one (upper left corner circled in red) and don’t forget to un-click “Ship to a different address?” unless your credit card info is different than your shipping address. For the kits, the shipping address is really important because this is what will be given to me to ship all that beautiful fabric and threads to, so make sure it’s correct. I cannot tell you how many times I go to the post office only to be told “that address doesn’t exist”. So please, please, please, double check and make sure it’s correct. And include you’re phone number so that we can call you to verify, if we run into problems.
Once you’ve filled out all the credit card info, you’ll get an email welcoming you to the workshop and then you’ll get another email from me asking you to choose which kit you’d like. Make sure you have my email address in your contacts so that your email security doesn’t block me, thinking I’m spamming you. I promise, I would never do that. ❤️
Congratulations you are now successfully enrolled in my workshop and the fun has just begun!
But wait! What about the rest of the website?
Okay, okay, here’s the Stitching Shop:
After that is the blog, which is where you’re reading all of this. But have you looked at the right hand side bar? You haven’t!? Well let me show you around because there’s some cool stuff.
So above the red circle there are all the social media icons which you can click on and follow me in various places. And then there’s the Subscribe to this blog! That’s where you enter your email address so that you never miss one of my blog posts.
But there’s more!
When you sign up for my newsletter you’ll get lots of other things stitching related. I wrote my first ever newsletter just a few weeks ago! And I’ll be writing another every month or so. I’m not really sure how often I’ll be writing one, but it won’t be daily or even several times a week, because I don’t have the time, but it will certainly be once a month.
So now that you’ve subscribed to this blog AND you’ve signed up for my newsletter, I want to point out something else: the Translate button.
If English isn’t your first language or second or third, you can have this blog translated to the language you’re most comfortable with. How great is that!
Okay, we’re in the home stretch… Along that top navigation bar after “Blog” and “Contact” (remember I told you about the Contact tab earlier?) then there’s “Account”. And if you hover your mouse over it, another drop down menu like this one will magically appear.
Click on “Account Details” and the image above will appear.
Lost Your Password is the next item on that drop down menu and where you can make a new password.
“Orders” is where you can see all the things you’ve signed up for and purchased and the next item “Downloads” is where you’ll find any and all downloads that came with anything you’ve purchased and finally there’s the “Logout” button.
So that’s it! You are now a pro at finding, ordering and navigating all the different things on my website!
In 2015 or was it 2016(?) things were in flux. I was re-evaluating what I was doing, where I was headed, what I wanted… There were a number of things going on that led to this, but it was one of those moments that didn’t seem particularly extraordinary or even interesting, but in hindsight I see that it was a pivotal moment. A moment when I re-found hand stitching.
My mother taught me to embroider with crewel and a hoop at an early age. This is the Christmas creche we made together. It was while making one of those sheep that I came to truly appreciate the diversity and beauty of the simple French Knot done hundreds of times.
Christmas Creche embroidered with my mother
Since then I have gone down many paths, but the hand stitching path is perhaps the most surprising, to me. While at Parsons School of Design I would do anything I could to avoid hand stitching. And then I discovered draping and for a time it was my new love. Draping is a whole art in and of itself. Cutting fabric on the bias and then draping it onto a form and manipulating it so the fabric falls in specific ways was something I loved, but it was also time consuming and I was young and impatient and so my love for draping was set aside.
Funnily enough when I moved to Los Angeles straight out of high school and before I went to Parsons my first job was in a tailor’s shop in Beverly Hills. My favorite thing to do was to sit in the back room with the master tailor, an Armenian man who tried to teach me the fine art of tailoring. Hand stitching hemlines and buttonholes was something I never quite mastered during my time there, but I loved it never-the-less.
Hand stitching can be slow and arduous and very, very time consuming, and it can also be meditative, serene, calming and restorative, depending on one’s perspective. These days I find hand stitching to be all of the latter and none of the former.
A detail of my most recent work hand stitching on Pat Pauly hand dyed linen using Stef Francis threads, Painter’s Threads, House Of Embroidery Threads, Mulberry Bark from Stef Francis, Sari Cording from Stef Francis and wool roving.
When I began hand stitching again I followed other people’s patterns and instructions and while that was interesting and I learned a great deal, it wasn’t completely fulfilling. I have always gone off script and the farther I go, the happier I am. So when I began doing what I call “Improvisational Stitching” I knew I’d fallen into something important. Not only was I creating original pieces that didn’t look like other things I was seeing out in the hand stitching world, but it was an expression of my moods, my thoughts, the things that were going on in my life. Hand stitching is the way I express myself.
A few things I’ve learned through hand stitching, which can be applied to the piece I’m working on, but also to life:
Any emotion is fair game and can be expressed through stitching.
Any emotion is okay and when expressed through stitching creates a vibrant, interesting piece.
Impatience is a frame of mind and a choice.
When I don’t know what to do, stand back, take a photo and get a new perspective on the situation.
Compare and despair.
Everything has its own timeline.
Divas can be fun, but they also can silence everyone else.
Diversity makes anything and everything better.
Rules are helpful, until they’re not, in which case, break them or ignore them.
One of my favorite memories of spending time with one of my brothers, I have three, as a young girl was sitting in the field in front of our house discussing space. This brother went on to become a bio-chemist and is now a professor. He had just introduced me to the concept of infinity and I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea. I remember saying to him, “but that can’t be right.”
He looked at me and smiled, “So what do you imagine it’s like.”
“There’s got to be some kind of barrier or end or something,” I said.
He nodded and said, “Then what’s on the other side?”
My young mind was blown. That moment was both exhilarating and somehow terrifying. I remember our conversation clearly as though it happened just a few days ago. And while he went on to become a scientist, I went in a different direction – the arts, always drawn to color, shape and the different ways one can arrange them to produce visually appealing things, we both continue to be curious, investigate and ask questions.
One of the many things I love about YouTube is that you can go there and ask how to do something and someone has made a video showing you how. Want to change the filter in your air-conditioning unit? There’s a video for that. Want to know how to open up your sewing machine and adjust the thread tension? There’s a video for that. Want to find out how to take a screen shot? There’s a video for that too, and then a whole bunch of other videos will appear on the side bar on that topic or some other topic you’ve searched for in the past, you know just in case you’re curious… The down side is, it’s easy to get lured into watching cute babies and puppy videos, while forgetting all about that washing machine that is now flooding your pantry or kitchen.
And while YouTube is great for showing you how to do things, Quora is great for answering questions such as what do all happily married couples have in common? Or why are some people more curious than others? Why do cats have different color kittens? My husband is a big fan of Quora and often tells me things he’s learned. Inevitably he’ll begin by saying, “Did you know…” and I’ll know he just read whatever it was on Quora. Again it’s a rabbit hole of sorts, where one can emerge hours later knowing all kinds of things you will never use in life or didn’t need to know or worse, didn’t want to know. Still I have learned some useful things as well, such as why virus’s mutate, what it’s like to go to prison from someone who actually spent 10 years inside, okay, perhaps not so useful for me, but it was interesting, rabbit hole, and when and how often to water your cactus. So if you are looking for answers to random questions, YouTube and Quora are there for you. It’s really good to know, they’ve got your back.
Now I have to finish editing my next Youtube Video. ❤️