Between her super busy life as an artist, a writer, heading out on book tours, hosting openings and running her company Sublime Stitching, Jenny took a minute out of her dynamic life and sat down to do a Q&A with ML4U.
You've single handedly brought embroidery into the twenty first century. I was surprised to learn that you only began embroidering ten yrs ago...were you always creative and artistic before that?
Well, I was always drawing since I was really little. My mom began sending me to art classes when I was five and I loved it. I was very excited about drawing. My dad had been a photographer and industrial filmmaker and my mother had been an art teacher before I was born. They were very encouraging. I never did any needlework though. Not really. I did some knitting when I was in high school, around 1988. That was my first real foray into experimenting with crafting and needlework. Comics, illustration, painting, collage and photography were my big interests, though.
One of the things I love about embroidery is how easy it is, and how quickly it can make something so rad. Can you tell us a little bit about how and why you fell in love with embroidery?
For all of those same reasons you just named. I just loved the look of colorful, American hobby embroidery -the kind of stuff you'd see on pillowcases and tea towels. I wondered what it would be like to use it as a medium for art and more ambitious and alternative themes. It was so pretty, but I wanted to stitch nudes, vintage tattoos anything you didn't typically see it used for or associated with. I guess I should point out now that this was about ten years ago, and that was simply not happening. There was very little "happening" about embroidery or any idea of "crafting" then. It sounded so beautiful to me, and I had never seen embroidery used like that before. Trying to picture what that might look like in my mind, really inspired me to try and create it. But, I was very reluctant to try embroidery, because I had no idea how to do it, and I really thought I would never have the patience for it. "Embroidered Portrait" sounded like a never-would-be finished project that I spent years not even bothering to start.
But I did try it, and I became addicted to it.
What do you say to people that think embroidery is dated and old fashioned?
One of my very favorite pieces of your's is "This Work, Never Ends." It reminds me of samplers I have inherited from my Great aunt. Can you tell us a little bit about your motivation and inspiration behind that piece?
I made that piece for myself. It was two rectangular doilies, and I stitched "this work" on one and "never ends" on the other. They sat for a long time on the back of my armchair where I used to do a lot of embroidering. It was kind of a message with multiple meanings to myself about how work is never done no matter how you try, and also how embroidery lives on forever and grows and changes.
What are some of your favorite embroidered pieces/objects that you've collected over the years?
When you meet women from other generations whom have been involved with embroidery forever, how do they react to what you are doing?
They seem to always love it (or maybe they're just being polite). Over the years, these needleworkers are the ones who have been the most supportive, in many ways. They're generally always thrilled to see something new being done with it. In any case, I'm always greatly relieved whenever a more experienced or needleworker enjoys what I do, because I am a pretty heavy-handed embroiderer.
Do you have any pointers for beginners starting out with embroidery?
get stressed out about it being perfect or "doing it wrong." You have
to try it first and get a feel for it. No one is perfect when they
start anything for the first time, and it's the imperfections in
embroidery that often give its charm.
Your new book Embroidered Effects is a comprehensive guide to embroidery. Why did you decide to write it?
I really wanted to create a unique embroidery book that shared some of my personal techniques and what I've learned about embroidery over the last eight years. It's what I've learned, how I understand it, and my best attempts to explain it. And, I wanted it to be a little bit of everything: clear basics, lots of stitches, new projects, ways to creatively combine stitches...I have been trying to cast people under a hand-embroidery spell for years. It seems like it's working! You want to try embroidery..
More better embroidery.