I returned from our trip to Cuba (see posts here) to find my Birds on the cover of the March issue of the Embroiderer’s Guild of America’s Needle Arts Magazine! Of course, I knew about the article, but I was unaware that my piece would be on the cover, so it was a nice surprise. Thank you, Shirley Wozena, for describing my work so well in the article. Mary Corbet’s Needle N’Thread blog has a post about this issue and EGA in general.
It is gratifying to know that many of the magazine’s readers have been introduced to my work for the first time. The article shows photos of the process of making the Birds of Beebe Woods, which are some of the same pictures I’ve shared on this blog. I’ve heard from people who want to know if I have instructions or a kit to make their own. Embroidery and needlework has a strong tradition of copying and learning from patterns and directions, so it’s a natural assumption that I would share my techniques. I’m glad that embroiderers are inspired to learn more, but honestly, I can’t imagine revisiting this piece like that and writing out detailed directions.
Yes, I post photos of general steps along the way and have written how-to instructions for the dolls in Felt Wee Folk, but it only goes so far. For instance, in the past, some have expressed frustration that I haven’t shown detailed instruction on how to form hands and fingers. My answer is that I consider the more involved process of making my fabric reliefs a proprietary personal expression that I’m not sure I can explain effectively anyways. My work requires a non-analytical approach that I don’t want to tamper with. For me, recounting the process would be going back in time, instead of moving forward. And, I don’t want to ruin the magic, because that’s what keeps me excited about making the next piece!
This month has been an embarrassment of riches, in the magazine department. Because of postponements, it just happened that everything came out in March. In addition to Needle Arts, there was the Cape Cod magazine profile. The Horn Book Magazine has my essay, “The Common Thread” in their March/April illustration issue and Fiber Art Now has included my Birds piece in their On View feature.
I’ve been using bird imagery to my artwork for a long time. The most recent is last year’s Birds of Beebe Woods piece, which has its own page here.
Let’s go way back. I embroidered the piece shown above in art school in 1974, when I was teaching myself different stitches. The little red bird below is from my first picture book, The Way Home (1991).
In the sequel, Come to My Party (1993), the bird is given a name: Harold.
This swimming duck felt pin is one of many projects in my 2003 how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.
This goose climbs up and runs down the hill in my board book, Jack & Jill (2006).
The last three close-ups are from Pocketful of Posies (2010). Check the tour schedule for the exhibit of original fabric relief illustrations here.
The first image in this series of bed pictures is an illustration for a poem called Tumbling, which is included in my 1997 poetry anthology, You and Me:Poems of Friendship. Then there’s a page from my 2001 picture book In the Heart, which was written by Ann Turner. Copies of In the Heart are available in my Etsy Shop.
“Are the children in their beds?” from my Wee Willie Winkie board book.
And here’s “my son John, went to sleep with his trousers on” from Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. I offer autographed copies with a poster in my Etsy Shop.
“Go to bed first, a golden purse” from Pocketful of Posies. See the touring exhibit of the original embroidered illustrations from the book. Next location: Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA, Sept. 4 ~ October 31, 2013.
And here’s Elsie Marley, who won’t get up to feed the swine, which is also from Pocketful of Posies.
Thank you to all of you who wrote about your favorite stitch this past week for the 2000 Likes on Facebook Giveaway. I loved hearing your descriptions of how certain stitches bring back sweet memories of learning from grandmothers. In this modern age, it is wonderful to hear from so many people who make a place in their lives for handwork. One entrant described herself as “a stitch dictionary junkie” and another wrote, “My favorites are the first and last stitches. Happy to begin and to finish.” Some stitches were identified as a signature of sorts, with one woman declaring, “I’m a blanket stitch with variegated thread kind of girl.”
Although I didn’t intend for this to be an embroidery stitch popularity contest, I couldn’t help keeping a tally of the various choices. In the end, it was dead heat between the blanket (or button hole) stitch and the french knot, which were both way out in the lead. Other favorites were the chain stitch, bullion, feather, daisy, stem, seed, satin and even the beaded Palestrina stitch, which I had to learn for the sampler pictured above. Mary Corbet has some easy to follow tutorials on her web site, Needle N’Thread. The different stitches are shown in numbers according to their popularity on the comments. I was not surprised by how the simple ones prevailed in the final count. No matter how many fancy stitches I try, I find that I can achieve almost everything I want with the basic blanket, chain and french knot stitches.
The 3 winners of the Giveaway are Teresa, Petra and Pam W. I will notify them by e-mail and send each a copy of my 1995 book Mary Had a Little Lamb. To see a list of all my books go here. Thank you to all who participated!
One of the fun and challenging parts about illustrating for children is showing emotion and action, especially in fiber art, which tends to be static. To counter-act the stiff blandness, I like to bring forth emotion by exaggerating the poses and facial expressions of my characters. But there’s a fine line between evoking believable feeling and creating a grotesque appearance, much like the difference between acting well and over acting. I’ve seen some doll faces that are downright scary and bizarre. My goal is to portray emotion with a subtle firmness, without being too disturbing.
Nursery Rhymes are full of emotional and physical activity, so I had lots of opportunities to experiment with poses and facial expressions in my book, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Here are a selection of close-ups from the book.
Do you want to see the original embroidered illustrations from the book? There are still several locations scheduled for the Pocketful of Posies Traveling Exhibit, which has been touring the country since 2010.
A few weeks ago, I posted this picture of my hand painted with henna on this blog and my Facebook page. The photo was taken at the opening of The Fairy Houses of Beebe Woods exhibit. Questions were asked about the garment I’m wearing, so here are more pictures of “that brocade peplum bodice”. I made it in the mid 2000’s to wear at the Fairie Festival in Pennsylvania. Rob and I would tow a trailer loaded with a canvas tent, all kinds of odd pieces of wood, display racks, tables, cloths and garlands. The crowd at this event was a perfect match for my fairy kits and cards, as well as my books and we really enjoyed being a part of the festival scene.
It was quite a job setting up the tent and arched doorway. We went for a few years and then I stopped making the kits in order to have time to work on my book, Pocketful of Posies.
The bodice is made from a heavy brocade fabric and the lining is striped seersucker. For embellishment, I embroidered a wavy chain stitch and added red soutache braid by hand to the black piping. I hand stitched the artificial leaves around the neck and machine sewed leaves to the tabs or piccadils. I can’t remember where the metal rings came from, but they worked well for the laced up red cord in front. Don’t ask how it holds up in the laundry, because, as was common in the olden days, I’ve never washed it.
If you want to make one yourself, the pattern is the Easy Peasant Bodice – front laced sold by The Farthingale.
Working in miniature, there are many objects available for wheels; buttons, washers, snaps, key rings, etc. This series of images are mostly from my earlier work, starting with a detail from a piece I made in 1986. The wire bicycle is less than 2 inches long. Looking at these, I’m amazed that I had time to do all of the stitching because I had a baby and a preschooler to take care of. I remember working every evening after they went to bed.
The button wheels in this detail (below) from “Fall”, 1987, are about 1/2″ in diameter.
Skip ahead 10 years for this detail from the Sidewalks poem in my 1997 book, “You and Me: Poems of Friendship“. The car hub-caps are fancy coat buttons and the tires are made from black insulated wire. The stroller wheels are 1/2″ buttons.
Here’s a detail from “The Hollyhock Wall”, 1999. The car hub-caps are made from regular sized snaps.
The bicycle wheels in this detail from “You and Me” are made from the smallest key rings I could find, about 1/2″. The bicycle spokes are metallic thread and the helmets are painted acorn caps.
This is another detail from the same Fast Friends illustration in “You and Me”. That’s my husband Rob in the truck.
16 years later and I’m still making ice cream trucks. This 2″ embroidered one is from a baby quilt I’m in the process of making for a friend. Stay tuned for more quilt images!