The question “what inspires me?” seems too vague to even contend to answer it, but here I am about to try. This post isn’t just about inspiration, but also to tell a bit about my process as a hand embroidery artist, and also to touch briefly on artistic block.
I have always been a crafty person, and maybe some would consider an artistic person. I have always had a love of colour, and I would say that is one of the largest foundations of my work: colour. However, lots of other things inspire me. I may almost be too inspired. I start many many projects at once, it becomes confusing and on occasion overwhelming. I’ve heard from other crafters that they have similar experiences, so maybe it is a crafter thing and not something to do with me specifically. But I can’t stop and I just embrace that extra starting as part of the process.
Inspiration to me is usually heavily rooted in problem solving. And when I say this, people often thing of mathematics, which I do not mean to refer to. Problem solving can be fun, and creative, in artistic as well as “””intellectual””” ways (extra quotations to hopefully infer that this category divide is not so wide). My favourite kind of problem solving is artistic, in that I want to create something, a new object, so how? How do I do it? It seems weird to type all this out because it’s normally much more natural as a process than it’s sounding so far. But just to use an example of my current collection, Midnight Garden. I wanted to create a collection with restrictions in both colour and imagery. What lives in a garden at night? Still flowers, creatures, bugs, weather, land, nature. I like all those things! And to me, restricting colour was one of the biggest and fun challenges I have set for myself! But editing one’s own artwork doesn’t have to be a painful process and I enjoyed so far trying to stay in the bounds of bright pallets on dark fabric. So that’s where I start, and I would credit problem solving with being a huge inspiration to me as a hand embroidery artist.
Practice is truly such a gift, that in most circumstances can be attained if the person actually does want to learn the skill, or hone the skill. My practice of embroidery was delightful and not annoying or painful in any way. I truly sucked at first. My first pieces have horrible fabric and stitch tension, my colour schemes were certainly not as polished as I’d like to think they are coming close to now, and even my imagery was supremely basic and without meaning.
The more I worked on embroidery, it became more natural, and almost second nature to be stitching something, anything, all the time. ALL THE TIME. In the passport office, waiting to pick Sean up from work, watching tv, always!!
It was so much fun and practice is really important to touch on, because my process has become such second nature that I don’t want anyone reading this who has just started a craft to become discouraged in any way because they are still struggling with process. I did too! Like, so much! I wanted to quit so many crafts because I legit am just a quitter as a person, but embroidery (and so many other crafts) are awesome and worth practicing through the annoying stuff (if there is any).
To the right/below: My first patch in 2014, a patch I made around 2016, and a hoop I made in 2018.
With past practice in mind, and my coming up on 4 year anniversary of my love affair with embroidery, my process is this:
· I usually draw right onto the fabric if it is an original design. Especially flowers. I feel like doodles and direct drawings have more character when it comes out in thread. Sometimes I trace the image from either a print-out or a drawing I have made if the image has a lot of detail, or is a specific custom order. I literally use google to generate my reference imagery; there’s so much out there. I try really hard to keep at the front of my mind that I do believe it is okay to use an image for heavy reference but not to copy directly, and to interpret it in your own way. Imagine the image as what you want it to look like in YOUR piece, not as it looks now as your reference image. This helps make my work mine and also, ykno helps me sleep at night.
· Most of my pieces involve noticeable black outlines on a lot of the imagery. I love tattoos, and this style of rendering an image I just love, with the outline, then filling in the colour. Plus when I am using a dark fabric background as I am with Midnight Garden, I draw with a white chalk pencil, which rubs off easily. And the black (or in this case white) outline stitching acts as a permanent outline that I don’t have to worry about smudging. I use split stitch to outline all my images.
· From there I fill in the areas with my chosen colours. If I am having difficulty with picking colours, I hold up all the options on the fabric background and just bring ones in and out of contention and see which look best together. It’s so much easier to choose colours this way and then I don’t end up with this weird bit of blue or whatever that I thought would look nice but it actually is just OFF. I would honestly abandon a piece at this point instead of taking the time to rip out the weird colour. It’s silly, but that’s what I would do.
· From there, I would finish the hoop by framing it in its embroidery hoop. I usually work with plastic hoops when I am actually embroidering the piece for fabric tension, but so far I have always framed in wooden hoops. The wood always looks best to me as a “finished” piece. I haven’t played around with square or rectangle stretching, or with wood staining the hoops, which I do want to try out at some point. I’ve gotten so used to circle format I think it would be a big change to do something with points! We’ll see.
Artistic block is one of my biggest fears and I am thankful so far in my artistic endeavors so far I have not had to experience it. Sometimes I worry I have so many ideas that I am going to run out of them one day because I used up too many when I was young. But so far I keep just being struck by things, like a line in a song, or just a random thought or fantasy I had, or many many other things, and that gives me hope about not experiencing block. I never want to jinx myself to say I will never have it, as I have certainly experienced “lulls” in motivation of actually producing any embroidery. Have you ever had it? What did you experience and how did you deal with it? I am very morbidly curious and I’m sure it might be helpful for all us crafty folk to listen to other experiences!
Hope you have enjoyed reading this first blog post. I’m so excited to finally have a platform to share something longer than an Instagram caption as I have loved and enjoyed writing as a hobby for many years! Let me know in the comments if you have any topics you’d like to see covered in blog posts in the future, and thanks for being here!!