We can improve our work by honoring others within every stitch.

Each of us has the ability to create harmony and peace simply by engaging our hearts. We affect others by tapping into our positive energy. Positive attracts positive. It’s true, if we sit quietly within our space (where we create) and feel what it would be like to receive such a work of art, we can step into this role with a loving attitude. Some artisans find tribute projects challenging, and they may be, but if you accept that your only role is to evoke a warm memory, than perhaps you will relax and enjoy the process more.

I am currently creating a textile painting of a loved one who has passed. I was sent a photo of a couple standing inside a screened porch and waving goodbye. I cropped the image to get closer to the people as I thought this was best. “No, I want the entire porch, steps, plants and house,” said the client.
“But that will make the faces as small as my thumbnail,” I replied.

Talk about a challenge. I am not a portrait artist and I began to feel the pressure of having to depict their images smaller than what my needle and thread would allow. That’s when I decided to just relax and remember that I am simply the one that is stitching together a memory. There must be a way to evoke this impression without every detail of a dimple or raised eyebrow. I sat with the photo and studied the body language. I looked at every nuance of the scene— the bricks, the towel on the rail, the large cast iron dinner bell that was almost cropped out. All of these details set the stage to spark that memory. Yes, the people were the main characters, of course, but the elements surrounding them were just as important as they would help the family recall the scene… and this became my focus. Help them feel the memory, forget about technique, just use this loving energy and get to work.

What are some ways that you can personalize your project? Ask questions. I was able to learn a lot about the person who had passed by asking a few questions. What did she like to do? What did she always wear? Did she have any hobbies? What was she known for? She loved to cook. She loved bird watching. She was a huge sports fan of their local baseball team. How could I incorporate this into the work? Well, I could have asked for an article of clothing that could be cut up and woven into the work. I could find fabric with tiny icons of cooking tools such as rolling pins or pots and pans. A wee little element could be stitched into the shrubs or plants along the entrance. Don’t think of them as distractions, they are there to bring a smile. I could have incorporated her team’s colors or logo into the work, but for this particular piece I added a tiny bird near the bottom step. It was not in the original photo, but this tiny addition will be felt… and that is what I was going for. We are using threads and fabric to bring about that special moment—we are the bridge.

If you ever feel any anxiety, simply close your eyes and ask for help. I know this may sound silly, but you have so much creativity within and all you need to do is connect. Ask for assistance (from whom? from your higher self, your upper conscience, inner voice) and just BE the hands that awaken hearts.
You, my dears, are ALL that and more.

My approach:

Using some scrap cloth, as a run through, I traced the people and tried some sketching and painting. By practicing I learned through experience what might be the best approach. As much as I was not looking forward to doing faces, it was the only way to move forward, if not… I would be staring at that photo for days and the deadline was ticking. Using a light box, I traced the people onto muslin. As you can see, the lines were too heavy and the detail was too extreme. Next, I practiced with inktense fabric pencils. I was not worrying about getting the face right, only playing with the pencils, but I felt the pencil lines were too thick. I then drew the face with a waterproof, fine-point, sepia-toned pen. I then blended watercolors with a drop of fabric medium and that did the trick.

Close up of the rolling hills of wildflowers I am hand embroidering

Too dark and detailed

Close up of the rolling hills of wildflowers I am hand embroidering

Practicing with Inktense pencils and watercolor

I kept the facial coloring light and applied it in layers. You can always add more paint but, you cannot erase. After they were dry, I adhered Misty fuse to the back of the muslin, snipped out the people and ironed them into place. It was like making paper dolls as I cut little bits of fabric and dressed them.

If you look at the image at the top of this blog you will find I used ribbons to create linear work on the architecture. I created lace with different colors of green thread to give dimension and interest to the shrubs. I cut out denim for the jeans. Organza was used in part of the screen over the clothing. Dyed lamb locks with curly tops were added near the post under the towel. The bricks were stitched using two strands of various peaches and rusts with 50 wt. Aurifil cotton thread.

I hope this blog has given you some ideas on how you can bring your passion into purpose simply by making a heart connection. It is not about our skills or technique, but tuning into the approach. If we sit quietly with the project, ask questions and wait for the answers, the fabric and threads will begin to assist as we create from the heart.


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