Intuitive Embroidery and plans for the New Year

My method of embroidery has always been very intuitive and art-based. Over the past 3+ years I’ve found that my best work happens when I start to stitch without a plan, and let the line guide me. Since the process of stitching is slow, I have time to develop the composition as I go. I also have a lot of time to think while I’m stitching, and my internal dialogue is quite noisy and my imagination quite vivid. I think it’s time to write about my process of intuitive embroidery and publish a zine or two.


Along with the zine I’m going to start a line of my own hand-dyed embroidery threads. Ranging from your regular floss to specialty silk and handspun wool. My dream is to get good enough to spin lace-weight and hand-dye the threads with handmade natural dyes. I would love to create embroideries from entirely handmade, natural materials. I also want to experiment with making my own paper/fabric — something that could be easily stitched upon. Super jealous of my alma mater’s Flax Project and Medieval dye garden! BUT — we are creating a garden space at Pinky’s in the Spring and it will definitely include lots of plants to be used for dye purposes! Luckily, my dad has a ton of native plants in his prairie restoration that we can transplant! So excited for spring!

Another thing I want to start in 2014 is creating my own embroidery patterns! Then I can put together embroidery kits that include zines, my hand dyed floss and fabric, and my original patterns. I will also teach embroidery classes at Pinky’s and will be open to teaching workshops elsewhere.

Things to look forward to in 2014…..

6 years

12/12 was my 6 year anniversary blogging here on Visual Influence! It seems unreal to me how much has happened since then and how much I’ve learned. Going from starting an art blog when I was in college about art, images, thoughts, etc. that influenced me — on through to some amazing experiences, a lot of ups and downs, and heck I even brought a new human being into this world. She will be 3 in April. Time really goes by too fast. So precious.

But what I want to do now is re-cap 2013. Let me just say that it was a bi-polar kind of year. The first 6 months I was in some sort of deadlock. Completely blocked. I couldn’t make art…I don’t know what I was doing. Lots of struggle….nothing would come together. I usually don’t stay “down” for that long so it was hard. I was starting to work on my new studio space but wasn’t sure about it….

THEN! The opportunity came up to do it all. Not only a studio, why, let’s open a storefront too. Let’s make it everything about everything you want it to be. Okay!

That was in July — I started putting it all together and I was in GO MODE.

On November 1st I opened Pinky’s Boutique. Studio, gallery, shop, cabinet of curiosities….it is what it is and you just have to come in and see. I’m there! We have a zillion projects going on at once and some amazing art and handmade goods for sale. It’s a bit dirty. I should probably vacuum. I have some vintage and antiques thrown in the mix. Interesting….

Now toward the end of the year I always get a bit depressed because I’m a raging perfectionist and I tend to think about all of the things I DIDN’T do compared to what I’ve ACCOMPLISHED. I didn’t make much notable art this year — although I came up with a great concept for a series — INHABIT A CLOUD.

Here’s the statement for you art world folks:

Inhabit a Cloud is a series of imagined portraits of ancient goddess-legends and dwelling places. The imagery is created intuitively as I embroider, slowly, by hand. A search for identity developing from myth. Ultimately revealing Self as I navigate the network of feminine power, searching for belonging and place. I don’t question. I follow the line where it leads – stitching a primordial connection.

And the actual work:

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Yes you might have seen a couple of those pieces before. But they make so much more SENSE as part of this series. The two portraits are the only NEW real embroideries I’ve done this year. The entire year! WTF?

So obviously my New Years resolution is to STITCH FOR SERIOUS more. I have a few things coming up, which is great. I need the pressure.

What comes first, the idea or the stitching? I’m not quite sure and I hope I never figure it out. Spontaneity is my BFF.

Happy 2014 everybody!

current brainstate

The thoughts in my brain feel like the little ball bouncing around in a pinball machine. I bounce around everyday from action to action such as — get my kids to school, then inventory, then email, project with the 2.5 yr old, then stitching, list an item for sale online, talk to a customer in the shop, change a diaper, clean, eat when I remember, read something, cook something, make something….all the time thinking and thinking and it can feel like I never have the time to just sit down and focus on one thing. Or even think about one thing for as long as I would like to. I possibly miss college and having that kid free time to sit in a library or quiet studio. I’m trying so hard to create a place and a life but this takes a lot of patience and sacrifice. And when you’re a perfectionist than you have these little panic moments of despair. The bottom line — I’m trying to focus more on making the best art possible. And yes making and selling other things factor in there too because my kids need to eat but really this doesn’t take anything away from the real art, now does it.

DSC_0142in progress — Oshun Ibu Yumu

So what happens is things/places/people keep coming up in my head over and over and I feel that these things must be the most important and deserve special attention.

Like Rick Beerhorst for example. Go read this and listen to this all you artists out there and you will be glad you did.

Now, I’m going to go do a kid’s thanksgiving craft workshop…

Do you ATC?

Artist Trading Cards were something I didn’t really get into too much back when I was doing more Mail Art — but now that I have the new space and some more time I want to get back into trading mail art and I’ve made some ATCs and other things to mail off soon!


Also at Pinky’s right now, we have an Artist Trading Card making/trading station — some if you are in Janesville make sure to come in, make an ATC and trade with one of mine! Free art! (((ooohhh that reminds me, I need to start making some FREE ART FRIDAY things again to set out and about every Friday!)))



And if you are a mail artist from my past or a new mail art friend, send me some Mail Art to Sarah Hemm – 123 N. Main St. – Janesville, WI 53545
And I will send you something back! Yay!

New new newness and getting back to the old

Saying that I have been busy over the past few months is an understatement. Since June I have been gathering, transforming, creating, and organizing a new space for my art life — Pinky’s Boutique. I look at it as a cabinet of curiosities and most importantly, a work in progress. The concept behind the space is first of all, an art studio for my personal work.

But I’m a hoarder, and I love to go thrifting and collect a bunch of cool, random, old stuff — so there is a bunch of that there too. For sale, of course, so I can keep collecting! I have a lot of vintage linens and clothing and sewing notions and things like that, surprise surprise.

So then another part of the space is the gallery. Curating is an important aspect of my professional life, and I have to keep that fire lit. The gallery portion of the space is similar to Eclipse, except that instead of curating group shows I am going to have a featured artist area and rotate that every month or two. The rest of the gallery space will have a variety of art and handmade goods — ceramics, blown glass, handmade accessories, jewelry, quilts, cards, wall art, housewares, etc.


So I just opened last Friday and it has been really fun so far. I’ve been slowly meeting like-minded people in Janesville and have been getting a good response to the new shop so far. I’m planning on having a lot of events and activities to keep it rolling. Our first event is an artist reception for our first featured artist, Kim Geiser. So if you are in or near Janesville, join us on Saturday, November 16, from 4pm – 8pm for a fun night of art & refreshments. We also have an Artist Trading Card making station and a Wish Tree.

free to be meFree to be Me by Kim Geiser

We also have a free kid’s art area, our Imagination Station, which is open when the shop is open — and then every Friday night from 4-6 we are going to do a more involved project, like get out the paint, beads, paper mache, etc. or plan a special activity.

So this is all the new new newness…but I have to be honest and say that I am most excited about getting back to the old.

It has been such a long time since I have been able to just sit and stitch –I am looking forward to a long winter filled with ART MAKING and cozy talk with old and new friends alike. Oh yeah and snuggling my new nephew who should be arriving shortly! yay!



“A woman of Thessaly in ancient Greece, Caenis was brutally raped by the sea god Poseidon. Furious and humiliated, she appealed to the gods of Olympus for revenge: transform her, she begged, into an invulnerable man so that she might maim and murder the sex that had injured her. Her wish having been granted, she became a great hero named Caeneus, unstoppable on the battlefield, fierce and destructive. When she died a heroic death, she resumed her female body and original name, and enjoyed a hero’s welcome in the afterlife.” (Monaghan, Patricia. The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines, p. 77)

This is the first of a new series of embroidered portraits of goddesses, heroines, and legends.

Long Term Goals

Rummaging through the boxes of ephemera as I’m setting up my new studio space, I came across a list of my long term goals from about 8 years ago. I was surprised to find that I had accomplished all of them, with the exception of “World Travel”, which I have done exactly zero of. But I did have another baby, and that was not on the list.

I got married, I went to college, I opened an art gallery, I exhibited my art work…

I am definitely at another turning point in my life, setting up a new gallery/shop and studio space — there are many transitions happening…

Time to set some long term goals again. I think 7-10 years is a good mark for the following:

1. Move out into the country and build a dome home.

2. Invest in solar and wind power, get off the grid.

3. Live as self-sustaining and eco-friendly as possible.

4. Overcome my depression, anxiety, and paranoia.

5. Grow our property business, don’t worry about money. Make smart yet ethical investments.

6. Continue to expand Pinky’s Boutique with new artists and programming benefiting the community.

7. Build a museum-quality body of artwork.

8. Give more. Volunteer more.

9. Spend more time with my family. Enjoy life!



Really, I already have everything I need and I cannot express how grateful I am for everything in my life. But I am definitely one of those people that will not settle, that will always be searching for ways to learn, searching deep….

a new technique…

I’m loving this. Cross stitch with yarn on reclaimed pegboard. I did a sign for my new shop, Pinky’s Boutique, to try it out. I kept thinking, “Wow, acrylic yarn is good for something besides yarnbombing!” and “This is WAY better than doing my dishes right now”. While I was stitching this, my toddler was sitting on my lap at times, saying, “You made this? Cute! That’s very cute!” and playing with yarn scraps – “I do this too!” Yay!


Unfortunately, the idea of cross stitching on pegboard goes into the category of “Why the hell didn’t I think of that?” — so simple yet genius. I saw it today on this blog.

That being said, I’m not going to feel bad about working with this technique because it has probably been done by somebody else besides the author of the blog I saw this morning. And I don’t want to Google it because every time I do that I end up paralyzed. So, I’m just going to do my own thing. I definitely like the possibilities of this technique and I will be exploring it further. I’ve been wanting to make larger pieces lately so this is a great way to stitch bigger!

Today I’m going to cut up a bunch of pegboard and start creating some imagery!

The Library — with children…

Before Kids:

Library as sanctuary — a place for the mind to be composed and vibrant. You could appreciate the smell and the hush. It was so dependable. You could really count on it. What could be better than wandering the stacks, searching for the perfect volume? Only curling up with a book in absolute concentration, neurons sparking wild. Thoughts and ideas abundant. A place you feel at home.


After Kids:

Library as classroom. You want to show your children the magic of this place, but they don’t understand yet. They play and you try to read but are interrupted by a thousand cries for MOM! Still, you enjoy those brief moments when you can read a sentence or two because it is more than you could expect to read at home. Story times and activities, board book after board book that gets stomped on or thrown across the room, bathroom visits, and small talk with moms who think you’re weird. Trying to take the child into the stacks with you — wanting a few minutes of that old wandering and searching — but your toddler is pulling books off the shelves and banging on the step stools and laying on the floor screaming. You get scowls and sulk back to the children’s room. You find yourself jealous of the 13 year old girl who passes you with a small, compassionate smile. She seem to understand a bit. She has all the time in the world to wander and read and you hope that she claims all the time she can before life takes too much of a hold. You were that girl, and you know you will be that girl again, someday. But now, you are just trying to jot down a few notes and your 2-year-old is tugging at you, “PEN PLEASE PEN PLEASE PEN PLEASE”. You know you should appreciate how little the kids are. You know it goes too fast. You feel guilty for wanting the time to yourself even though you haven’t had an hour alone for years. You fondly remember story time when you were a child, sitting on the little carpet mats in the basement of the tiny library, your friend’s mom is reading a book and it is very important to be quiet and listen. You didn’t understand then but there was an impression.

The impression affected you to your core.

This thought makes you feel better. The library magic is working under the surface. Because, of course, the library is dependable like that.

New Space, New Direction

So originally I was just going to open a semi-private art studio on the 2nd floor of our building downtown — and I’m still going to do that — but as my husband knows me so well and knows how much I love creating art spaces he finally convinced me that I should open another storefront. And he’s right — that’s exactly what I need and what I’m good at.

What I learned from Eclipse was that I need help. I will be hiring employees for sure. Doing it all on your own is too stressful and also left me no time to focus on what matters most to me — my kids and my artwork.


My new space, Pinky’s Boutique, will be a little bit of everything I love. Art studio, gallery, shop filled with handmade goods and vintage finds, a kid’s art area, workshops and classes….and eventually a garden art area overlooking the Rock River, a small coffee shop, and hell even a wine cellar are in the long term plans. I also want to paint a mural on the side of the building.

But it will start slowly, modestly….I’m not good at baby steps but you have to take them.

My goal is to be open by November but sometimes things take longer than you wish them to.

Please follow my new Facebook page for updates about the new space!




Volume IV of The Wandering Uterus coming soon

Those of you who have known me awhile, know about my fitful zine, The Wandering Uterus, which I started in college. I haven’t had much time to make zines or mail art for the past couple years, but was inspired again when hearing about the upcoming Fluxfest Chicago on the weekend of February 23rd. If you go, the tradition is to bring an edition of 50 or more of something…so I’m making #4 of my zine and crossing my fingers that I can get away from it all for a day and head down to Chi town with my husband — THAT would be a feat of amazingness!


DSC_0010This edition is minimal and in keeping with my fiber art. It is one sheet of paper, machine stitched, folded into a small zine. The concept and design is an edition of 50, although each piece is unique.

So, hopefully I will see you at Fluxfest Chicago!

Announcing the Location of my New Studio!

I am so excited to finally announce the location of my new studio! This has been in the works for a long time, and I’m so happy to finally find the right place, and that it is working out!

The history of our new building is really interesting. It was built in 1851 by Peter Myers, and is one of the oldest remaining commercial buildings in the city. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I could only find one, old-ish picture online:


Peter Myers was an interesting fellow. I found an in-depth account of the man in the book, Rock County, Wisconsin: A New History (volume 2) by William Fiske Brown. To paraphrase, Peter Myers was born in France on February 8, 1819 and his parents immigrated to Pennsylvania when he was a young boy. His father served under Napoleon and lost a limb in the battle of Moscow. Being a younger brother, he didn’t inherit anything after his father died, so he moved to Buffalo, NY and learned the butcher’s trade, and lived there ten years. He met a man from Milwaukee, after which he first moved to Rockford before he settled in Janesville in 1845. By 1851, he was constructing the current building on N. Main, which he used for his meat market business. However, he quickly switched to pork packing and became quite wealthy. He invested heavily into early Janesville — erecting many other buildings including the Myers Hotel and the Myers Opera House. His home was the first brick residence. He also invested in many early Janesville businesses and was an original shareholder in the first railroad that came to the city.

What I found most interesting was this passage, by the author above, about his personality: “Mr Myers was a man of simple habits, caring little for personal adornments, and yet in the appointments of his home and the furnishings of his hotel and decorations of his opera house he was most luxurious and artistic. He was well known coast to coast on account of his strong personality as “Peter the Peculiar”, however underneath a blunt exterior beat a warm and generous heart, and by his wise prudence, thrift of character, and kindliness he gained and held the confidence and respect of all who knew him, and his death which occurred on March 13, 1888, was mourned by all as that of one of the city’s most enterprising men and benefactors…His religion was to love justice, to assist the weak, to forget wrongs, and to remember benefits. Tis a fitting inscription which encircles a large portrait of him in the Myers Opera House:  “Janesville’s Benefactor, Peter Myers, born February 8, 1819, died March 13, 1888. He made and left the best efforts of his life for you.”

Indeed, he has left his best efforts for us. I would like to think that Mr. Myers would be very happy to see that his building was still in use. I’m excited to transform the space into amazing.



I need to live and work in a world that I’ve built for myself — idealistic, non-conforming, and authentic to who I am as an artist and person. Things such as these can’t be described, so I invite you to keep updated with me, through this blog and my Facebook page, and get to know me, and come visit the new space someday!