I just completed a process video of my latest 4″ x 6″ that was inspired by the wide open sky and waving grasslands of Wisconsin – I’ll always be a mountain/forest girl, but the Midwest certainly has its perks.
This last month has been chaos. Fantastic chaos. Amazing chaos. But it is going to take a little bit to recover from these two incredible shows.
In mid-June I managed to pack a lot of my art into some suitcases and flew out to Portland, OR. I then drove up to Camano Island, WA with my parents to get ready for the three-day Camano Island Studio Tour. My dad’s cousin and his family run Sunnyshore Studios there and hosted a tent for me at the location along with other artists in the family and from the area around the studio. This event took place during the record-breaking heat wave in the Pacific Northwest. Thankfully being on the coast made it a little cooler (mid-80s to mid-90s), however it was still quite warm to spend a weekend outside in a tent. In years past I’ve had my work spread throughout the studio inside, but the tent allowed me to show all of my art and cards/prints/magnets in one place and demonstrate for people what I do at the same time. A lot of art went to loving homes during the show including “Adorned”, the piece that I created for the 2019 Minnesota State Fair. The woman who purchased it said it reminded her of art that her father had brought home when she was a child that had been lost to time. This show is typically two weekends including Mother’s Day weekend and has more studios participating, so we didn’t know what to expect this year. The turnout blew us away. People showed up in a big way. It was a lovely and invigorating weekend.
Then this past weekend was the Minnehaha Falls Art Fair in MN. Rather than having to fly across the country, this show was practically in my backyard (which is MUCH easier and I didn’t have to worry about TSA confiscating a suitcase full of magnets or losing my suitcase with originals in it). My dad also flew out to help with this show. Not only was it a long weekend with a total of 21 show hours over three days, but setting up and tearing down a tent for an art fair is a tremendous amount of work and coordination. Its not something I can do by myself, and with my husband’s work schedule it was going to be tough for him to help me with a Friday set up. I really appreciated his help and also made me even more thankful of how much my husband typically does to help for these events.
Just like the show at Camano, this last weekend at Minnehaha was full of people out and about and engaging with artists about our work. The first time this event took place was in 2019 and was only one day, which was traumatically rained out – I wrote a blog post about this 7/22/19. It was rescheduled for October 2019 and also was a cold and rainy day that maybe 1/3 of artists stuck around for. 2020 was obviously cancelled. My husband and I have been referring to this as the cursed art fair that we knew would be amazing if these greater forces would ever allow it to take place. This weekend reversed the curse in a big way. There were so many visitors and many positive conversations and discussions about my work. It was another hot weekend to be sitting in a tent, but so worth it and much better than trudging through mud like in the past! Another large original piece, “Vessel”, also found a new loving home. Its hard to part with these pieces that I have spent months pouring over, but I’m so glad that they will be cherished.
I am grateful to everyone who took the time to look at my work at these events and to share your feedback and thoughts with me. I know that there were a lot of amazing artists and beautiful things to look at, so I am honored by the time that you took out of your day to stop through, had a conversation, and followed up by checking out my website or social media. Experiences like this help me to know I am on the right path and help inspire me to keep creating more!
Well, it has been a weird month and a half. At 33 years old, I lost most of my sight in my right eye. Multiple MRIs, many vials of blood, and handfuls of steroids later I am starting to get some answers but there is a long road ahead.
The first weekend of April, my eyes started to hurt. I thought I just hadn’t slept well because I regularly stay awake late to glue, but one eye just got progressively more painful. After about a week of this, I noticed that the center of my vision in my right eye started to get fuzzy. I immediately called nearby eye doctors to find someone who could get me in on a Friday afternoon. She looked at it and ran a couple of tests, and told me that it likely just hurt because the vision in that eye had gotten worse than the left eye, and to come back in a week to run tests again and get new glasses. She said it was likely I hadn’t noticed my worsening vision until recently because of the eye strain pain.
I should have advocated for myself better at that point. I should have said “I stare at detailed string pictures consistently, I would have noticed my vision getting worse before today”. But instead I nodded and smiled and said that it made sense.
The next day I made my husband buy me an eye patch because my eye was so sensitive to light and hurt to move. My eyesight kept getting worse. On Monday, George convinced me to go back to the eye doctor and someone else was able to see me. She ran a couple more tests and told me that she was referring me to a neuro-opthamologist (who knew that was a thing) at the University of Minnesota as soon as possible. Oh, and this may mean I have MS.
After more fancy eye tests and a MRI, it was confirmed I have optic neuritis which means that my optic nerve is inflamed. My full vision was fuzzy at this point, and it also affected being able to see some colors. I was prescribed an obscene amount of steroids to take over three days and they did help to start me on the path towards healing.
However, that MRI showed some brain lesions. That got me referred to another doctor, this time it was a neurologist specializing in MS. I had another MRI and a lot of blood tests. This is still an outstanding question mark and will be something that will be a part of my life for a long time. So far no MS diagnosis, but statistics say that it is a matter of when, not if.
I am very grateful that my eye pain and vision has gotten better. I am also incredibly thankful to the many doctors I have seen who have efficiently and effectively moved me through the process to get me to the right people to help find answers. The improvement to my vision has been very gradual, but at my follow-up visit today eye tests confirmed that I have come a long way. I still have eye pain and blurry vision, but at this point I can at least function mostly normally. It could still be weeks or months until my eye is healed as much as it will heal. Typically, people will recover 95% – 98% of their vision.
I am trying very hard to be patient through the pain and uncertainty, but I have so many lingering questions that I just won’t know the answer to for months or years. Will this happen again? If so, when? How much of my vision will I recover? How will my vision issues affect my art? If I will have MS, what other symptoms are next? What will that mean for my life? For my husband’s life? Are my priorities where I want them to be?
I am sharing this story because this experience has significantly shifted my approach to my art, I’m just still processing exactly how. I have taken a break from creating, but I am ready to get back into it and tackle summer events. I appreciate everyone’s support of me and my art through the years. I especially appreciate my husband and family for their help through this whole ordeal.
Beautiful things are coming!
I reached a milestone yesterday – a featured art show of my work and the work of another artist! This is something that has been in process since January 2020. I interviewed in front of a panel of (like 10?) representatives from the Wyoming Area Creative Arts Community and walked them through my process and artwork. They had so many questions! It felt like a flashback to critiques in my college art classes and having to defend my art and why I pour so much of myself into it. The experience was intimidating and wonderful and I was very fortunate to be selected for one of their slots for 2021. At the time March 2021 felt like an eternity away, but for obvious reasons it worked out for the best.
In the days leading up to the show, my dad and I were running around like crazy – building frames, buying mat board, figuring out how to transfer my entire portfolio at one time without breaking anything, and also helping my sister move to Florida. Of course I was also trying desperately to finish one last piece for the show in between all of this. I am so thankful that my husband and I recently upgraded from a sedan to a bigger car. I had 17 framed pictures to transport! It took a lot of plastic wrap and some Costco shoe racks to engineer a contraption to keep everything upright and in their intended places for the 45 minute drive to Wyoming, MN.
I get many questions about how long it takes to make my art. The question always is in reference to how long it takes to glue string or make dots. But this is only a part of what it takes to make art and put it in front of others. Applying to shows, taking art to and from exhibitions, being present at art fairs or the gallery for open hours, framing art, packaging art, mailing art, making prints and cards, re-imagining displays, posting on all the internet platforms, maintaining the website, editing photos, running errands to buy all the miscellaneous supplies needed, bookkeeping…it all takes time. I would have expected that in the days leading up to one of the biggest shows I have ever participated in would be full of making art, but that is not how this works apparently!
So for those of you in Minnesota and you are heading up north or in the area, “A Sense of Place” showing my work and the beautiful ceramic artwork from Lisa Truax will be up at Hallberg Center for the Arts until May 1st. The gallery has reduced hours right now due to COVID, but it is open every Thursday and Friday from 4 PM – 8 PM, and every Saturday from 12 PM – 4 PM. But for those of you who can’t make it, the gallery’s website is featuring a virtual tour of the show! Just click on the circles to move around the exhibit and check it out.
This show is almost a decade of work brought together in one place. It is not something that I have been able to experience before and is a little overwhelming. Please let me know what you think, and I hope you enjoy!
The time has FINALLY come to officially present my flower embroidery floss artwork to the world. This piece was started almost exactly a year ago in preparation for my studio demonstration day at the Minnesota State Fair. I actually finished it in May, but I had to get it framed and get prints and with everything going on, it took a while to be ready for this moment.
This piece has been my most ambitious artistic undertaking yet, by far. I love making beautiful blended skies with embroidery floss, but the time involved is nothing compared to these detailed flowers when working on a large scale (which for me is 16″ x 20″, the largest I can ever go with embroidery floss because I have to be able to get directly over whatever spot I’m gluing). Each flower forced me to come up with different techniques that I hadn’t tried before. I started this piece not knowing how I would even approach about half of the individual flowers. Thankfully I was able to use minis to practice some of these new techniques on a smaller scale and apply that to this piece.
I wanted to visually show my anticipation for some things that I was excited for, personally and artistically. When you live in Minnesota, the transition from winter to spring is significant. Winter is all fun and good around the holidays, however January and February is…dreary. Bitter. Lifeless. But when the snow starts to melt and the green peeks through? And then the yellow and pink and red? Everything changes. The world wakes up. The air hums with excitement and promise and anticipation. So I went to my local farmers market and chose a couple bouquets of flowers, and arranged them to depict this abundance of warmth and growth that I was so eagerly waiting for. Obviously, 2020 derailed some of what I thought was going to happen this summer, but that just means that this piece represents a greater period of waiting and hoping than what I had initially set out to show.
In all, I used 96 embroidery floss colors on this. It felt like a lot at the time because I kept the pile of colors I was using separate from anything else to make sure I kept a consistent color story, however I was actually surprised at how low this number was. Most of my minis take between 30 and 40 colors, and that is only for six square inches! But for this piece, I was hyper-aware of how many different colors of flowers there were and REALLY wanted to avoid visual discord when it was completed. I incorporated individual colors strands I already used in as many ways as I could, and even with the yellow, red, purple, pink, green, and white flowers, I think the relatively limited palate kept the chaos in harmony.
I worked on this off-and-on from August to December, and then literally every day from January 1st through the first week of May. This has been a long time coming, and I have had a lot of conversations with people working on this during different events over the last year. I am so grateful for the excitement everyone has shown for this piece as they have witnessed it at various stages along the way. I appreciate the encouragement more than you can know.
Here is a timelapse of a piece from beginning to end! It is 8″x10″ (the first of this size I’ve done). This snapshot of an overgrown patch on the side of a Minnesota road had a lot of green layers that made it a perfect example to show how these pieces come together section by section. It was also a challenge to do a piece that would rely on small changes of tone and direction of the strings to differentiate the various plants and layers. It was a risk – what if I got to the end after how ever many hours and it was all just one green blob? I used almost every green color of embroidery floss I had (27 to be exact) and I wasn’t sure that would be enough. But even though this looks mostly green, I actually used 44 other non-green colors between the browns for the wood, the yellow highlights, the blue water/sky, and the dark neutrals. I am happy with how it came together.
The timelapse does happen to highlight how shiny my glue is that I use and how often I work late at night in the dark 🙂 Since my studio is full of prints and artwork that is usually hung up in various locations in non-pandemic times, I had no space to spare for dedicated timelapse lighting! Oh well!
I love talking to people about what I do. I don’t like talking in general, but if someone is willing to listen I can go on for quite a while about gluing, being an artist, selling art, deadlines, the amount of art supplies I have lost because of the curiosity of my pets…
I also love showing what I do. Gluing embroidery floss is unusual, but accessible. It reminds people of a craft project or art assignment from when they were younger. I always have a large in-process piece to work on at events and people ask a lot of questions. I’ve been meaning to make a FAQ post for a while, and I figured this is the perfect opportunity since these events are on hold for the time being. If you have a question that you don’t see here, please let me know and I’ll respond and possibly do a follow-up post!
How long does a piece take?
I measure in months, not hours or days or weeks. It can vary greatly – most of my larger pieces take about 3 months, but my latest piece “Feels Like Spring” took much longer than that. I worked on that piece off-and-on from August-December, and then daily from January through the beginning of May. If I am working constantly without distractions, I average about a half square inch per hour.
What materials do you use?
My main work just uses embroidery floss, glue, small embroidery scissors, a toothpick, and sometimes an X-Acto knife. I use many colors, even in small pieces, but at a minimum I use 5 at any given time. This generally is sufficient to make sure that the same color is never side-by-side. This is a strict self-imposed rule that I will go to great lengths to avoid breaking.
I majored in Art Education in college, and I know there is value in the everyday materials that are easily amassed. I have also used card stock hole punches, painted dots, colored pencil dots, even gift cards once. I also have a long list of other materials that I want to use someday. I love working with glued embroidery floss more than anything else, but some variety keeps life interesting.
Where do you get your embroidery floss?
Michaels mostly! I currently have 279 colors in my collection, but there are a lot more I can still get. I use DMC – you can buy each skein individually and they are numbered so you can keep track of the colors you use and when one gets low you know what to get. I have a list in my phone that is always evolving of what I have and what I am running low on. I have been doing this technique for long enough though that I have found a couple of colors that I bought but are now discontinued, so I have to be careful to not rely too much on one color and then run out in the middle of a large piece.
I also have accumulated collections of embroidery floss from others – my mom and grandma have given me theirs, and I keep a record of these colors because it enriches the piece for me when they are used. I have also been sent an assortment of colors from people I have encountered who want their thread to go to good use. These skeins may be from another brand that I can’t easily get or perhaps produced decades ago – all part of the fun and I’m so grateful for the variety and history that this generosity incorporates.
How do you decide what to depict?
These are usually inspired by snapshots of time spent in places or with things/people that mean something to me. I always hope that they resonate with other people and remind them of a sacred moment in their lives, but every piece I make has a personal reason for it.
Where did you learn to do this?
I made it up! I have always glued things – in high school and college I did a few projects involving gluing granular materials (sand, banking powder, sugar, etc.). In elementary school I glued things (including embroidery floss!) whenever I got a chance. Every book report was a diorama. After I graduated college and only had a studio apartment and not much money, I had an epiphany one Saturday night and HAD to try gluing embroidery floss. I found a Wal-Mart that was opened and sold embroidery floss, and I was hooked. I have learned a lot through trial-and-error from my first piece that I made – mostly that good light and sharp scissors to make clean angled cuts matter.
Where you you work?
I have a studio in my home on my main level. There is a window overlooking my backyard where I can watch my dog playing. It has a TV and a speaker for playing music or podcasts – it is perfect to spend either full weekends or to sneak away for 5 minutes while I’m waiting for something else.
Because my work is portable, I’ll also take whatever piece is in process with me on vacation, to a coffee shop, or just with me if I know there will be down time. I have a portable light and an extra small glue bottle I got specifically for flying on planes. However it is not the liquid glue or scissors that is problematic for flying, but the boxes of wound thread – TSA does not like that. They have let me know.
What do you glue on and how do you cover/seal a finished piece?
Anything stiff enough to hold up to being carried around for months at a time. The bigger the piece the thicker it needs to be. When it is done, I just put it in a frame with glass.
So many plans! But like everyone else’s plans, they are all crumbling out of existence one after the other. I have been working hard for months in anticipation of my two biggest events in May (both now cancelled). Because my work takes so long, I was sacrificing sleep, time with my husband, and household chores in the name of my long to-do list for those events (although it wasn’t hard to convince myself that I didn’t have time to do the dishes, let’s be honest). I had applied to and paid the entry fees for multiple art festivals this summer, all intentionally scheduled out to be evenly spaced throughout the summer. I had some big life changes I was going to make in order to have more time to devote to this. I have been waiting FOR YEARS and everything was finally lining up. But now, life is different. The initial shock of having events cancelled has worn off, and I’m getting pretty used to the seemingly never-ending e-mails to let me know that events are off. I’m expecting quite a few more before all this is over.
Guest gallery space that was set up March 1st, and now closed for the foreseeable future
I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m healthy. My family is healthy. I have a happy home where I have plenty of space to work and to be. Both my husband and I are still employed and have the privilege to be able to work from home. This will not devastate my art business and I will be able to pick up again once the world opens back up. We are fine. In the spectrum of hardships that so many people are unexpectedly facing, I know I’m lucky. I’m doing my part by staying home and trying to support local small businesses in the ways that I can.
I spent some days feeling my feelings. I’m trying to refocus and take advantage of this time that I desperately needed to make more so I can be stocked up and have as many options as possible for those who want to purchase my work when I can finally set up my tent again. I can finish my large flower piece! Make more necklaces and post them online! Make more minis! I can maybe even finish a large dot triptych that I have been working on for…years now? But it is hard to keep pushing with any real productive “umph” in the midst of all of the anxiety in the world and personal disappointment of lost (hopefully just postponed) dreams.
So I will fake it until I make it. It’s not like I can go anywhere anyways 🙂
I grew up in a home where both my parents owned their own businesses, and each of my parents’ fathers did as well. The concept of paid time off is still bonkers to me, even though I have worked my corporate job for 7 years. For my parents, every dollar that was used for our family was earned by blood, sweat, and tears. It was a given that the night before a big event (and they had a lot of them) required anything else that was going on to be put aside for everyone to work on pulling off whatever ambitious idea they would ultimately pull off.
What I learned growing up is that having a successful small business means that there will be risks that pay off, and ones that don’t. There will be lean months (or years). Something can seem like the BEST idea but it just doesn’t come together. You have to work very, very hard for even the smallest victory. But when that victory comes? Oh man. The first show I participated in to sell my prints, I only sold one. One! That should have been discouraging, but instead I was exhilarated. I couldn’t believe that someone would use their own hard-earned money to take home my art. I used that experience and have been learning, tweaking, and growing.
So thank you to my parents for showing me what it takes to do this. It is not easy, but I at least have an idea of what I’m getting into. On Friday nights before a big art show when I am running around like a mad woman, when I constantly have a to-do list and schedule in my head that is impossible to accomplish, when I am weighing the pros-and-cons if something new is worth the investment – I know I can do this. Especially with the support of my husband keeping me sane and carrying heavy things, and my parents always being up for talking through business ideas way past the point when other people would be sick of it.
I have spent the day working on a mini and stocking up on my necklaces for the Seward Winter Frolic next weekend. Like I mentioned, the to-do list never ends. Also, almost everything on my website is free shipping until December 15th, so keep that in mind for your Christmas shopping. Thank you to everyone of your support in this endeavor!
Whenever I’m at an event, I always have a piece to work on. My original intent was to give myself something to work on to keep my nervous energy focused on something productive. And by Hour 6 of sitting in a tent or Day 2 of a 3 day extravaganza, it starts to feel like a loooong day. By making some progress on whatever long-term project I have going, I can always feel accomplished. I have a lot of conversations with other artists who are envious because they would like to have something to do by Hour 6 or they are a potter/oil painter/something that can’t be worked on in a corner of a tent.
And this has led to amazing things! I have had so many conversations with people about how I do what I do – the epiphany that started it, the compulsion to keep going, and the end product that makes the investment of time all worth it. But working on this piece at the Minnesota State Fair was truly the highlight of my summer. 12 hours of constant talking, working, and pushing forward. The Fine Arts Building hosts a different artist each day during the fair to demonstrate their craft. This is not something that I applied for, so it is an honor that someone in charge thought of me specifically for this opportunity. For non-Minnesotans, it is hard to explain how BIG the MN State Fair is. My parents flew in for the event, my husband hung out at the fair all day in support, and many other family and friends came by as well. I had a few art shows in September, and at each one there were people who recognized my art from the state fair. I consider that miraculous because the whole point of the state fair is sensory overload! To remember my demonstration, or “Adorned” that was displayed, in the sea of sights and smells (oh, the smells) is incredible to me.
But now the summer has quickly come to a close and it is time to gear up for the holiday season (WHAT). I’m secretly hoping for an extra-snowy winter so I can just be locked up with my glue and embroidery floss and make art. Lots and lots of art. And by “lots” I mean spend hours on a few square inches. That’s what I’ve signed up for though!