I never considered myself to be an artist when I was young. I was a writer, and my sister was the artist. I was nowhere near as good at drawing, shading, drawing realistic pictures etc. But I had an aunt who would always give me craft kits as presents, and I eventually started using them. I was especially fascinated by all forms of needlework.
Today's "crafting renaissance" has led to a wealth of interesting, creative needlework kits. But back then, there weren't many embroidery designs I was thrilled to make. There were lots of pictures of cottages with flowers, and that was about as exciting as the designs got. Here are two of the more interesting cross stitch works that I kept from back in the day. I was incredibly excited to find an astrological design that included my sign (Cancer).
As early as high school, I developed a deep passion for folk art. I bought my first Day of the Dead skeleton on a trip to New Orleans. From then on, I started collecting folk art from all over the world. When I moved to Santa Fe during a year off from college, I resurrected my cross-stitch skills to embroider the backpack I was using for my cross-country Greyhound bus trip (this was the first time I started incorporating my crafts into my life a more meaningful way). I later added a "Zia" beadwork design (representative of the four directions, a symbol used by the Zia Pueblo and by the city of Santa Fe and state of New Mexico).
While in Santa Fe, I immersed myself in the folk art, galleries, and museums in that city (which still feels like the city my soul gravitates toward). I started doing more appliqué beadwork, inspired by the incredible Native American artwork I saw there. I became more practiced in the technique of "couching" which involves stitching long strands of beads into a line or pattern and then anchoring them with horizontal stitches between every one or two beads. I still use that technique today.
I began to make beaded pouches for fetishes that I bought for myself and family members. The picture below shows some of my pouches. The pouch on the left was made from a kit back in high school, and was probably the first time I used couching. The pouch on the right was one that I made while in Santa Fe for the fetish pictured above it.
Years later, I realized that I could use my needlework and beadwork skills to create amazing folk-art inspired objects that I had never seen before—beaded, sequined, and embroidered art dolls, talismans, and hoop art. I kept expanding my vision and trying to craft more of the images and archetypes I was drawn to—mermaids and mermen, skeletons, saints, etc. Since I was decent at making 2-D drawings that didn’t involve shading etc/, the skill translated perfectly into what I wanted to make.
I have finally come to embrace the idea that I am a visual artist. I know that no one will ever find something exactly like my creations, and that they are passionate offerings, replete with intriguing and inventive details and imbued with energy and individuality. But it all started with cross stitch kits!