It all started with the blanket stitch. Or a really a big chief tablet and a plain graphite pencil. Before I could write I carried a big chief tablet with me everywhere and drew and drew and drew. When the 4-H sewing club my mom lead made teddy bears for a children’s hospital wing my mom helped me make one too. Sewing that blanket stitch around the felt bear is the first sewing project I remember and I loved it! Later when I was old enough to be in 4-H she taught me sewing and several more hand stitches.
I went to the University of Wyoming and got a Bachelors of Fine Arts in studio art my focus being oil paint. Art vs. Design vs. Craft came up and I learned that the distinctions between these were rather western, gendered, and more strongly reinforced in the last 100 years. My life didn’t have room for oil painting post college and if I couldn’t oil paint why bother with creativity. Then the surge of diy and the handmade movement made me start asking and reconsidering some of my distinctions. Becoming a mom and thinking of the risk oil painting would have and may continue to have for my kids and my body made me wonder if there was another medium. Also I have a hard time justifying doing things other than work. Work is something jammed into every little crevice of space left with two kiddos.
When my mom died in the spring of 2012 I was shattered. I had a year old son and a new job. I had made her a necklace with the silhouette of my son in felt on a pendent. I had extra pendents and felt. Every once in awhile she would share an embroidered felt ornament project with us with that well loved button stitch. It occurred to me to embroider the pendents to bring back in that well loved element of drawing and surround it with that wonderful blanket stitch. I picked up a book about women crafters and read about self taught artist Denise Allen who had picked up an embroidery kit after her mother, a consummate artist and seamstress like mine, had died. Some of her advice was just to start. So I did.
I started embroidering hobo symbols on felt circles to make pendant necklaces. I found the hobo symbols visually striking and there meanings interesting. That they would be mostly unknown was also interesting to me. Like a little secret between me and the wearer.
In that season I couldn’t bear bright colors, no neons for me. I found natural wool colors appealing and comforting so I made blacks, tans, browns creams and whites my palette. They seemed to go well with the folksy hobo symbols. I also enjoyed extremely adding little stars and moons and twinkles to my embroidery.