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…..




“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.

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!

12-12-12 // FIVE YEARS

I did not make this up — my first post was 12-12-07 (still my fave, photographs of dead salmon in ice) so today is my 5th anniversary of blogging right here on Visual Influence. What a great way to celebrate 12-12-12. I looked back on all my posts throughout the years….all the learning, struggle, and failure that made me who I am today. And all that is between the lines – the weeks or months that I didn’t post, when I was involved in other projects or exploring new directions.

I re-posted my fave highlights on my Facebook page, if you want to take a look…

But enough reminiscing — looking forward I am very positive about where I’m headed with my work. Here are a few new pieces I’ve completed this week:


hand embroidery in distorted vintage hoop

about 7″ x 8.5″


hand embroidery in distorted vintage hoop

about 4.5″ x 9″


hand embroidery in distorted vintage hoop

about 4″ x 6.5″

So the big news is that I am **THIS** close to opening a studio space in downtown Janesville {WI} — within the next few weeks I will know if we have secured an amazing space for the next phase of Visual Influence — which will be a physical space for my studio, but more than that it will be an alternative space – library – vintage boutique – cabinet of curiosities – fiber lab — basically the ideal place for me to work and simply be. Friends welcome. I will post more details as they come about.

THANK YOU to all of you who have been there with me throughout this crazy journey. I’ve learned not to rush. I’ve learned not to compromise. I’ve learned who I am and how to be that.

“I am not careful to justify myself…but lest I should mislead any when I have my own head and obey my own whims, let me remind the reader that I am only an experimenter. Do not set the least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what I do not, as if I pretend to settle anything as true or false. I unsettle all things. No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no Past at my back.” –Emerson

Motherhood: Snapshots & Sanctuaries

After almost two years of struggling with my new direction after ending The Eclipse Gallery (oh yeah, and having that baby and stuff), I am coming back home not only physically (we just bought a house 30 minutes from where I grew up) but online to Visual Influence — my first art blog which will turn FIVE on December 12th.

One thing I am extremely happy about is that after about two years of creating embroideries as art, I am definitely comfortable that fiber is my medium and always will be. From a museum-quality standpoint, I am most happy with my current series Motherhood: Snapshots & Sanctuaries.

The Sewing Studio (Snapshot), hand embroidery/photography, 8″ x 10″

Twin Caves (Sanctuary), hand embroidery, 14″

The contrast between the dark and often jaded Snapshots and the bright hope and idealism of the Sanctuaries serves as a metaphor for the complicated relationship between mother and child. Snapshots are everyday photos of friends and family, strangers, still lifes, and sometimes myself. Hand-embroidering the surface highlights truisms and contradictions often occurring in the daily lives of moms. The Sanctuaries describe imagined places of escape and solitude. When feeling trapped in my domestic role, I daydream of visiting these utopian and ethereal destinations. It is here that I am able to rediscover my true self that is lost, at times, as I put the needs of my family before my own needs, ambitions, and desires.

This work is about dismantling stereotypes surrounding the terms ‘maker’ and ‘mother’ and questioning what it means to be both. I use hand-embroidery to highlight the struggle of balance that mothers often face — raising issues of identity, domesticity, and societal expectations. Using the slow skill of traditional stitching connects me with mothers/makers of the past who have passed down their knowledge of needlework and motherhood. My method depends heavily on my drawing abilities, as the work is embroidered freehand. My process is highly intuitive and unabashedly feminine – relying on my intuition, subconscious, and emotions to discern the content of the piece, and to guide my hand.

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Process Quilts

I finally had time to take some better (still not the best) photos of my latest textile series, Process Quilts. They are VERY difficult to photograph. The concept started last summer when I was collecting ‘blister packs’ from purchased items because I felt there was something I could do with them art-wise rather than throw them away. So I took another one of my collections, found objects, and started placing them in the blister packs and sewing them onto brown paper. I created several of these which I called “cycled thoughts” (you may remember this if you’ve read this blog for a long time).

During Advanced Textiles class at UWGB last semester (Fall 2009), I decided to create more of these and utilize them as quilt squares for a large, non-traditional quilt series. I had three themes, using my found object collection, broken toys from my kids, and consumer waste. The instructor, ultra fabulous Alison Gates, and the rest of the class were very helpful in critiquing and developing the concept. Here are the results:

Process Quilt: Bought + Broken, 60″ x 38″


Process Quilt: Bought + Spent, 53″ x 45″


Process Quilt: Bought + Found, 52″ x 36″


I used machine stitching and hand stitching on the quilts. I used old blankets for the batting inside, and the backs are sewn-together plastic bags. I tied the quilts with recycled twist-ties.

I also created a small book for my artist statement, comprised of my process (notes) during the time that I was working on this project, which was the material for my statement–the last page being the final version of the statement. The book is hand-bound and the cover is the very first of my original “cycled thoughts” series.

Process Quilts artist statement

I currently have them installed in my home (note: I used velcro, sticking one side onto the work and stapling the other side to the wall so you can use over again, it works awesome), but am going to try and enter them into some shows, so we will see how that goes. Like most artwork, they look better in person, so I hope they can come across in a photograph.

I will continue to work with blister pack/found object materials, but in different ways–working smaller (using the little tiny blister packs from medicine, for example) and working larger (floor sculptures with the large plastic cases from big items). All of the work will then be in a 407 Gallery show at UWGB on April 19-23, 2010, titled Flotsam and Jetsam.

Also, to see all the photos I have, and in better quality, visit my Flickr here.