“Not Ready for Winter”
selected entry for juried exhibit at the 2016 Fiber Festival, Yeiser Art Center, Paducah, KY
Interview withe Connie Pickering Stover for article in
Needlepoint Now magazine, July-August 2016
by Alisa Levin and Cara Sue Richard
Q: Define “out of the box” from your perspective
A: I’m not sure when others took notice of my needlepoint, therefore I don’t know when my work was actually described as “unusual”.
I belong to a group of stitcher friends who have met every week for many years in a nurturing atmosphere. We began stitching together at our local needlepoint store on Saturday mornings and through their comments and the comments of others – over a long period of time – I realized that my work was something different. They have watched me grow in my art and have encouraged me to follow my own story as I kept creating one piece after another. So I can say that I never consciously created pieces to be different, or “out of the box”, they just happened that way – and I am encouraged to continue in my own way because of the acceptance of other fiber artists and needlepoint friends.
So if I had to define “out of the box” artist in any medium, it would mean that the artist has written his or her own story and their story is unique to them. I leave it to others to judge if it is a worthy story and one worth listening to.
Q: Why do you think your needlepoint (“Not Ready for Winter”) represents out of the box needlepoint
A: I chose “Not Ready for Winter” as an illustration of what might be defined by others as “out of the box” needlepoint stitching. This piece was just accepted for the Fantastic Fiber 2016 show in Paducah. It was such an honor to be chosen from over 575 entries. So, again, others have recognized that my work represents something unusual — in not only the needlepoint world, but the fiber arts world as well.
I created this unique frame which I designed specifically for my needlepoint pieces because I like the way it gives my work a crisp outline that defines the soft fibers. It also gives me the space to be creative in the presentation of my pieces. Adding the natural elements (twigs, etc) that enhance the needlepoint “outside the box” gives me pleasure and creates a harmony to the overall composition that others seems to respond to as well.
Q: Describe the picture and the needlepoint techniques used in the design
A: This piece was a contemplative composition integrating gilding, stitching basketweave through fibers, and overstitching embroidery. I love working almost exclusively in basketweave stitch because it gives me minute control over the placement of every stitch which makes up the overall story I’m trying to tell. It also makes me concentrate on the design — not which stitch would look best in a certain area.
Basketweave stitching eliminates the process of thinking about the mechanics of what I am doing and allows me to get down to the emotional level. I think I come at my needlepoint in a more “painterly” way and each stitch represents a brushstroke (but it’s less messy than paint!).
I most often create my own hand painted threads and mix them with commercially dyed threads. The painted threads instantly create the textures that sing to me in ways I can’t seem find in any other threads. I also mix different types of threads in my stitches, for instance; I mix Coton a Broder in the same stitch as strands of cotton floss in different combinations. These textures often create the nubbiness of woven textiles, which I so appreciate.
Since I use basketweave stitching almost exclusively, I am always aware of the diagonal pattern that is created from many over-dyed threads and I want to avoid that. So, my techniques of painting my threads give me plenty of tonal values, virtually eliminates stripy patterns, gives me lots of “in between” colors, and provides me with the tweedy textures and surprises that keep me interested in creating more needlepoint.
Q: Who inspired your work and why did it inspire you
A: Way back in the early 1970’s I managed a needlepoint shop in New Hope, Bucks County, PA. It was a high end shop which catered to the extremely talented and artistic customers in the area. These clients were very particular about the level of projects they wanted to stitch and they had discerning eyes for quality.
One regular customer complimented me on my ability to pull colors for him and took an interest in me. His stitching was the most beautiful I had ever seen, which was inspiring in itself. But he could see that perfect stitching was not my interest. I was a good stitcher but was more interested in design and color. So he encouraged me to throw away the preconceived notions that to be a good needlepointer you had to have perfect stitches. He encouraged me to find my own expression, practice it continuously, and expand my realm of self expression until I was satisfied with my own work. He allowed me to enjoy needlepoint without being concerned about judgment from others.
Q: What advice would you give other needlepointers
A: My advice to other needlepointers is, “be brave”. Put colors together that you have been told “don’t go together”. Use materials you are unfamiliar with. Take a blank piece of canvas and just start stitching to see where it takes you. Stitch for the sake of self expression. Find designers that take you out of your comfort zone and provide designs that give you an avenue for personal growth. And, most of all; be relevant.
Decide why you have chosen a particular piece to stitch. Does it have a color pallet you are comfortable with? Is the design simple and inviting? Are the threads familiar? Are you relying on a stitching guide to tell you where to put your next stitch?
Then I challenge you to be brave and go outside this comfort zone.
Once you have understood the general stitches of needlepoint (and there are many hundreds so don’t try to master them all), let yourself explore an empty canvas. Draw a 3” box. Scribble some lines in it to give you a general direction. Pick up a thread that speaks to you and don’t think twice about your decision of that thread. Then pick up a thread that you really hate and stitch it into your square.
Get braver. Draw a bigger box and stitch it. Enjoy the process. Then watch what happens. It’s truly magic.