Allow me to introduce you to Walt. He is gorgeous, no?
Recently, I was lucky enough to meet the Chicago-area stitcher Mary Jo Eckhart at a workshop at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, an art school in the Great Smoky Mountains. We were both enrolled in a week-long class with the amazing artist Lauren DiCioccio on “painting portraits with thread.”
Mary Jo, who has done most of her work in needlepoint, attacked this portrait of her husband Walt with passion and a fearless (yet restrained) used of color, line and shadow.
It was a pleasure to watch Mary Jo apply to freeform hand embroidery the hardcore technical skills she has acquired from her long history of working with thread. Walt is worked on a vintage linen napkin.
What I learned from Mary Jo? Years of technical craftmanship and working with color/line/thread mean something important. And when you take a workshop that is outside of your familiar area of art practice, be like Mary Jo. Be balls-to-the wall, push boundaries, embrace new techniques and rely on the skills you’ve spent years developing.
Then you create a piece as complete and lovely as Walt.
Olisa Corcoran is a stitch artist and blogger living in Durham, NC. She speaks fluent Nuyorican and always keeps her dial turned to 11.