As the year comes to a close, I am looking back and reflecting on all of the artwork that has been taken home by customers throughout the past 11 months. Many of these embroidery floss pieces were made this year, and some were taken home so soon after I finished them that I never got to post the final framed pieces on my website. I remember each event where these were chosen, and the stories I was told for why people chose to purchase the pieces that they did. In the daily grind and the constant churn from one event to the next, it can be easy to lose sight of what I have accomplished and the amount of work that I have put in to these originals. I’ve been panicking for a while about how I am going to make enough new artwork to be ready for events next summer and to have full displays for each show, but seeing this collection helps give me confidence that I will pull it off. It is comforting to see these in one place since I never had them all at the same time, and is inspiring me for what I will make next!
“Art at Home” Event Tour
At this point in my career as an artist, I have gotten pretty comfortable with participating in art experiences. My 10×10 white tent has been set up in parks all over the Twin Cities for many different art fairs, I have submitted individual pieces to juried art shows all over the place, and Northrup King in NE Minneapolis has hosted many events that I have been a part of. I’m always on the lookout for calls to entry and notification of upcoming art events to submit to. A certain amount of getting your art out there in physical venues is a numbers game, so I have to apply for more than I feel ready for. I know I won’t get accepted to everything – over time the sting of rejection gets dimmer because of the understanding that a certain amount of being turned down is inevitable.
But what I have largely avoided was hosting my own event that depended on the attendance of people I knew. It is a tremendously vulnerable thing to do – not only is it scary to make art and put it out there for anyone to have an opinion on, but asking friends and family to take time out of their busy lives to support my art endeavors is a whole new level of exposure. If an art fair has poor attendance, I don’t take it personally and just count it as bad luck. But the fear of having no one come to this event, after all of the effort put in by me and my parents to prepare for it and invite people, was almost paralyzing.
Having an art evening at my parents’ house was something that we had discussed for a while. I am lucky to have a network of people in Oregon that have seen me grow up creating things and been watching from afar as I have continued to make things in Minnesota. We wanted to give our family and friends an opportunity to see some of my large originals in person, and it had been a long time since we had an excuse to throw a party. I was going to be on the West Coast for both weekends of the Camano Island Studio Tour in Washington, so we figured that having some sort of gathering in Portland during the week in between would be doable.
My parents had done a significant renovation on their home a couple of years ago. The house I grew up in is beautiful – it has all the benefits of a shiny new home while also having decades of memories. They have prints of my artwork, as well as various projects and pieces I have made throughout the years, hung in their home on a regular basis. For this event, we found places for the work I brought with me from Minnesota and also set up an area for my prints, cards, and magnets. We made placards for each piece, and it felt like a museum! My dad’s main concern was the food (this is not a surprise to anyone who knows him). We tried so hard to keep it to a simple menu with wine and a few cheeses. I think we kept the menu relatively under control considering how many shopping trips we made, but it ended up being a sprawling assortment of cheeses, crackers, dips, vegetables, desserts, and beverages. There were multiple Costco trips to get wine. My parents are not drinkers, so I think I will be enjoying the leftover wine every trip home for the foreseeable future. Our first guest came 15 minutes before we officially started, so unfortunately I have no record of this buffet!
From the first visitor until the families of my parents’ longtime friends left well after our official end time, it was a flurry of activity. There were no lulls. Every time someone walked in it was a delight. People I hadn’t seen in years came! Neighbors who have lived on the same street as my parents since the house was built, people who knew me as a child from church and watched me grow up, my friends who have been with me through thick and thin since high school, and my parents’ friends who have appreciated my art that my parents are always happy to talk about…it was one of those events like a wedding where all these people from different parts of your life come together to celebrate and reminisce. I was so honored to be able to connect with these people and share with them the art that I have created.
My only regret is that we didn’t prioritize taking pictures of everyone throughout the evening! It went by so fast and was a blur, but the memories of this precious day will stick with me and my parents for a long time. Thank you to everyone who was able to come and enjoy the good company, delicious food and beverage, and support me in this journey!
“To Be Safe / Loved / Warm” Process
About 5 years ago, I wanted to make another hole punch piece after finishing the underwater scene of “Discover”. While working with embroidery floss is my favorite medium, sometimes there is an image that I want to create that would be best made with another material in order to really sing. What I like about paper hole punches is that they are also assembled pieced by piece to create the image, but with the layers each circle of paper creates a tiny sliver of a shadow. These pieces are framed under glass like a painting or drawing, but are still three dimensional.
I wanted to create an art piece inspired by a location near Minnehaha Falls in Minnesota where my now-husband and I had our engagement pictures taken in 2014. I often get questions about how I decide what I want to create images of, and I explain that I always have to show some place that I have a connection to or have a reason to spend months (or years!) of my life reflecting. This piece was no exception.
With this piece, I used three sizes of hole punches instead of just two, and I included patterned papers in addition to the solid cardstock ones I had used on “Discover”. I also tripled the size of the piece in comparison to the one I had done before. Because the hole punches are more abstracted than I normally work, a piece has to be of a certain size to give the viewer enough space to see the image come together. However, since I have to lean directly over whatever section I am working on, I am limited by working any bigger than 16″ x 20″. So my solution to these practical issues was to do a triptych. A very large one.
It didn’t take long to figure out that the standard hole punchers you buy in the store are not meant to punch this many holes. They quickly got dull, and started to shred the paper holes rather than cleanly punch them. The smart thing would have been to just buy several punchers of each size. I refused to do that though, so in addition to the time of punching out the holes and gluing each one into place, I also painstakingly arranged each paper circle to be sure that the shredded edge was covered by other layers of paper. Not to mention the fact that I live with two cats who found too much joy in knocking my little canisters of paper dots onto the carpet, and it was easier to get on the floor and pick them up one by one than punch new ones.
When I started this art piece, I knew it would take a while. At the time, I didn’t even know where I would hang it because I had a small apartment and was not part of a gallery. I wasn’t even selling or seriously displaying my art when I first decided to make this. However, as time when on and I had more and more opportunities to get my work out in public, I realized that I did not have the time to finish this and put it away in order to work on other projects. Periodically over the years I did pull it out from storage and made progress, but I could never devote enough time to it to wrap it up. In early 2022, I became determined to finish the triptych and after some marathon gluing days and very late nights, I attached the last dot, made some frames, and hung it on my wall at Northrup King.
Finishing any large piece is a big accomplishment for me, but completing one that has been in process and on my to-do list for years is especially satisfying. My estimate is that 30,000 dots were used in this final piece. That sounds like an overwhelming number, and is one that I’m glad I didn’t know when I started this piece!
After years (literally, years) of anticipating this moment, I am now officially a full-time artist. I have been juggling my incredibly stressful corporate job with making art for almost a decade, and for half of that I have also been selling art. It has been my dream for a very long time to be able to put behind me the days of people crying to me on the phone and moving heaven and earth to meet deadlines that had a lot on the line. I was good at it and doing the work was necessary at the time for my family, but my recent health issues made me re-evaluate how I was spending my time and gave me the nerve to pull the trigger on fulfilling this long-awaited goal.
I had been in a constant state of trying to keep my head above water for so long with having essentially two full-time jobs, but thankfully my days look a lot different now. While I haven’t worked at my corporate job since mid-July and I officially quit a few weeks ago, the new pace is still something I am getting used to. I’m trying to prioritize my health and focus on decreasing stress. I’m pretty sure I have been sleep deprived for my entire life so I am sleeping more than I ever have before – while that is eating into my gluing time, it is for the best. And all of the house-things like cooking dinner and going grocery shopping take much more time than I anticipated. But overall, my life is more balanced and calm, and I am looking forward to seeing how this allows me some more breathing room to create, experiment and think through new projects. There are some ideas that have been put on the back burner for too long that I may finally be able to do something about.
Long story short, this is a very exciting development for me. And it is also quite scary from a financial perspective to give up the steady paychecks and 401(k) match. So, if you have been thinking about getting some magnets for Christmas presents or a framed canvas print for that one empty spot in your house, now may be the time! I am so appreciative of everyone’s support throughout this art journey and as I take this huge leap of faith.
“Spacious Skies” Process
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.
Camano Island / Minnehaha Falls Retrospective
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!
Out of Focus
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!
“A Sense of Place”
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!
“Feels Like Spring” Process
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!