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 open 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.