FAQs

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.

I Had a Plan!

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 🙂

Ode to a Small Business

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!

Flower Time Lapse / State Fair Notes

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.

0a0b9bed-d54b-439f-a922-e7728b749b1eAnd 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.

25ae8f87-397f-4406-a453-1eb1de1fe5ffBut 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!

“Adorned” Process

When I’m looking for what my next piece will be, I am drawn to my “sacred spaces” – in this case I was inspired from an image from my wedding at a lake house in the fall 5 years ago.

This was started at the Camano Island show back on Mother’s Day weekend, and it had been in process since then. I wanted to use vibrant colors – in the tree alone are all kinds of greens, yellows, reds, and some teal/blues. I continued the jewel tones into the water. The sky contains a lot of yellow, with some purple and teal to tie it all together. I experimented with some new textures for the water and sky as well. Gotta keep things interesting!

And, like always, this was under a deadline and it really came down to the wire. I needed to turn it in this weekend for the MN State Fair, and due to some poor planning on my part I had a lot of hours of work left going into the week. It felt impossible. I literally spent every free waking minute gluing. So much gluing. My husband kept me fed, and all other responsibilities went by the wayside for a week. It felt like the college experience of getting ready for an art critique, but my days of being able to stay up late for nights on end and still be able to operate at 100% are basically over. I still love the adrenaline rush though.

The other piece that I was absolutely determined to do was build a custom frame. I wanted something unique (beyond a standard black frame) to highlight the tree. Also, since this would be hanging in the ginormous space of the Fine Arts Building, it needed to be pretty substantial. My husband thought I was crazy when I first sprung it on him that this was what I wanted to do, but of course he was up for the challenge and with me every step of the way (including making multiple trips to Home Depot when it took me a few attempts to cut the glass – oops!). In the end, I think it was worth it, and I’m excited about the framing possibilities in the future.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

This weekend was a difficult…in the journey of making work and getting it out into the world, there is a lot of disappointment and frustration. There are interactions with people that you think will lead to a big sale or interesting opportunity, and it just doesn’t pan out. Submitting work to gallery shows (and oftentimes paying for this chance) just to get rejected is standard. Same thing with art fairs – most of the “good” ones are juried, so you pay for them to review your work and then if you get accepted to the show, the booth fee itself is an additional expense. Then there is all of the time and financial investment leading up to the event – making work, restocking prints, promoting the event on your social media, purchasing things to display and transport the work, making sure all the ducks are in a row. All of this is for an event that could be a total bust. Maybe attendance isn’t high, or your work is just not a good fit for the customers attending…a lot can go wrong.

So that brings me to this weekend. I had been really excited for the Minnehaha Art Fair. It was the first year, and I was optimistic about how it would go. It was just a one-day event on Saturday. Setting up a tent and the display takes my husband and I a couple of hours, so we got there at 7:30 AM and got the tent up just in time for the rain to start. No problem – generally once it is up you stay fairly dry and can wait for it to pass. Only this time, it didn’t. The storm got stronger and stronger. Other artists around me were giving up and leaving. The ground, even under my tent, was a giant mud puddle an inch deep. I was soaked to the bone and juggling setting up in the right order without getting anything important covered in rain and mud. At 9:45 AM, after I managed to get everything set up and 15 minutes before the show was supposed to start, it was cancelled. It made sense – it’s not great being in a tent in the middle of a lightning storm, and it looked like the storm was going to stick around longer than what had been anticipated earlier that morning. So I call my husband to come back, and we carry everything pack – trip after trip in the pouring rain of bringing my prints, framed work, tables, and tent back to our cars. Truly, one of the more miserable experiences of our recent history. We looked at each other and were trying to decide if this would be one of the moments we would never speak of again, or if it would be funny later after some time passed. When it was bright and sunny at 2 PM that afternoon and my husband was mowing the lawn, it still wasn’t funny but at least we could commiserate about it.

I don’t often talk about the behind-the-scenes aspects of this, but I think it is important. I have a lot of conversations about the time it takes to make my art and the patience involved in finishing a piece. However, the “business” part of it is much harder. It takes a lot of time, money, and energy to get the work in front of people that is totally separate from the process of creating. While I think the successes do make it worth it, there are a lot of difficult times scattered between.

I’m still waiting to hear from the organizers what will happen. I’m hoping it will be rescheduled since I still think it would be a fun event. I think I’ll just need a little bit of time to emotionally recover from going back to that park.

“Family Name” Process

I finally have a second to breathe after the AMAZING Camano Island and Art-a-Whirl art weekends. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to talk with me about my art and process, and to those who took some of my work home with them as well – both events had an enormous amount of options from artists all across the art spectrum, and I am honored by all of those who chose one of my prints, cards, magnets, or originals in the sea of beautiful artwork to see and purchase.

Family Name

For those who have been watching my Instagram, they have seen this piece some along since I started working on it in November 2018. One thing that I always try to do is to work within common framing ratios – when someone purchases a print, it is important to me that they can get a standard frame and do not bring it home to realize they have to spend a small fortune on custom framing.

So for the Camano Island show, I wanted to do a panorama view of driftwood of the coast of the area. To keep it within the standard  ratio I decided to try something new and add a border. I started the piece before I knew what the border would be. I had originally planned on some sort of quilting pattern, but I wanted one that had some meaning to my family. Sunnyshore Studios celebrates my family legacy of artists, and my grandma has a story for what seems like every road or plot of land in the area. This view is from my father’s cousin’s property that I explored on an earlier trip to Washington, and I wanted to continue to work with celebrating the generational story. I asked my grandma for any quilts she had and I searched for quilt patterns that referenced “Day” (my maiden name), but nothing was clicking.

In February, I flew out to Portland and was helping my parents go through their home that they have lived in for 30 years. One of the things we came across was a partially-finished embroidered tablecloth that my mom had worked on years ago. Unfortunately, the pattern had been accidently washed out before it could be completed and she couldn’t part with it at the time, so it got packed away with the other tablecloths. I really liked the pattern, and cut off the finished corner and took it with me to adapt for this piece. While I don’t actually embroider in the traditional sense, I like the idea of paying homage to the deep history of fiber arts. This adapted pattern also looks like a sun, tying to the rising sun across the coast in the image and my family name.

I spend so much time with these large pieces and it is a weird feeling when they are completed – a mix of relief, excitement, and awkwardness because now I don’t know what to do with my hands. But here it is! If you haven’t yet, check out the time lapse in the earlier post of me working on a portion of this piece. Now on to the next….

 

 

“Falling Fog” 4×6 Embroidery Floss

Every year when Christmas comes around, I always hem and haw about what to do for my family, and, like clockwork, I come up with some idea of something to make a week before that requires hours and hours to complete it. This year was more of the same.

I thought to myself, “Amanda, you should make a little original for your mother since she doesn’t have one yet!” Great! But of course, I underestimated the time it would take and presented her (along with a scavenger hunt with poems – it’s a thing we do) with a 3/4 finished piece. Oops! Thankfully they are in town for a few more days so I could finish it before they leave.

This past fall, my mom’s dad’s side of the family had a family reunion at a camp in British Columbia. I wasn’t able to go, but my dad took some pictures and sent them to me for potential inspiration. I loved this one of a little cabin on the bank of a river with a cold, crisp fog descending on the forest. It felt like a perfect blend of the best parts of fall in the Pacific Northwest and in the Midwest.

If you like this, I’ll be adding this to the options for cards! Let me know and I’ll send you an update once they are available.

Small Business Saturday

In honor of Small Business Saturday, I have added cards and magnets to be purchased though my website! Also, for today and tomorrow only, I’m offering free shipping on print, cards and magnets. Prints make great present for someone who has just moved into a new space to help make it theirs, unique cards are perfect for checking in on someone at this time of the year to let them know you’re thinking about them, and magnets are cute stocking stuffers or hostess gifts!