Published in Issue 19, October 2012
Written by Mr X Stitch
Many of you may have seen Jamie on ‘Kirstie’s Handmade Britain’.
Each issue, Jamie introduces us to a fascinating member of the crafting community. If you have missed out on any of Jamies interviews you can find them online for FREE from the Creative Crafting website back issues page.
Medium: Hand embroidery and textile art
What's your story?
I was a fairly serious amateur photographer and writer for many years. During a difficult time in my life, a friend taught me how to knit in order to help take my mind of my troubles. Unlike toiling alone at my computer or working in the darkroom, I found making things with my hands to be incredibly immediate and satisfying. Although I enjoyed knitting, given my background of writing stories and shooting photos, I sought a medium that allowed me to make items with my hands but also tell stories.
Through various knitting blogs, I found my way to hand embroidery and fell in love with the creativity and the narratives the artwork captured. I signed up for a beginning embroidery retreat at the John C. Campbell Folk Art School in the Smokey Mountains. I remember the crazy magic I felt learning the chain stitch. I instantly became hooked. The textures of threads and fabric, the combination of colors and the opportunity experiment with design and story were addictive.
In particular, I’m attracted to transferring sharp, simple designs into soft, wonky stitch. Thing like hazard and prohibition signs (both real ones and that I’ve made up with oddball meanings of their own) and various typefaces are very appealing to me. I also like playing with self-portraiture. I’m a constant and ready subject for my own photography and stitching and I can tell myself what to do!
I started blogging about my work in 2010 (www.cocoaeyesthestitcher.blogspot.com). This has allowed me to connect with other embroidery and textiles artists around the world, which is something that I love. Through sites like Mr X Stitch and social media networks like Twitter and Flickr, I’m exposed to work of other artists who are pushing the boundaries of textiles on fiber arts.
What's your favourite piece of work thus far?
Two pieces that I made early on are still my favorites. I stitched “Turntable” for a Phat Quarter Swap on flickr. I was quite inexperienced when I signed up for the swap and I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into when I designed it! It took me ages to finish. For weeks, I would come home from my corporate day job and spend hours stitching. Through that piece I learned how much I love working with heavy fill stitch. I’ve continued to use this thick, shiny texture on many pieces since then. I also like my thread-sketch self-portrait called “I Am an Oak.” It is the opposite of the Turntable piece; I sketched it and stitched it very quickly in simple back and split stitch. It allowed me to explore a recurring dream I have of discovering my own face in the surface of an oak in the forest.
What do you find challenging?
Finding time to work on all of the art projects that I have in process. My house is filled with hoops of works in process and sketchbooks with images I want to explore in stitch!
Any advice for newbies?
Don’t be afraid to look beyond traditional patterns for inspiration for your stitching. I spend as much time looking at art exhibition catalogs and in museums for ideas as I do in classic pattern books. Do something unexpected, like, say, look at a Giacometti sculpture and imagine how you would transfer than into stitch. Keep playing!