How it began

In my other blog post (“Hommage à mes grands-mères”) I wrote about how I was informally taught needle arts by my two grandmothers before I went to school. With this article, I would like to tell you how my interest in fiber arts further developed.

I loved school in general, and this included the “arts and crafts” lessons of course. I think it was in second grade when we were assigned to embroider a small picture and could choose between a few patterns. I asked my teacher whether I was allowed to come up with my own pattern and she said yes (well done, Mrs H. ;-)!). We had a picture book of cats at home that I used to read to my little sister, and it had a nice drawing of a young cat in a red shoe on the cover. I loved this cute picture and copied it onto fabric. I then embroidered the outlines and filled the forms in simple manner (I only knew three types of stitches back then) and gifted the finished picture to my mother for her birthday. I don’t have a photo of my embroidery but I found a photo of the original drawing:

katze.jpg

So you see, I always liked textile techniques. But in my teenage years and my twenties, I was more interested in the fine arts and experimented with drawing and painting. I had several Salvador Dalí posters hanging on my bedroom walls and was fascinated with how the surrealists translated psychological conditions and emotional moments into surreal paintings… I still love the surrealists to this day, and I think this appreciation shows in my work.

During the third trimester of my first pregnancy (I was 30 years old), I was on strict bedrest for 6 weeks. I lived in America at that time and sent my husband to the craft store to buy a cross stitch kit for me so I could at least do something creative with my hands. I stitched a winter scene with grey wolves and thus came back to working in fibers. I immediately fell in love again with this medium and ever since, I haven’t stopped creating with thread and fabric!…

 

Hommage à mes grands-mères

When I am asked how I came to fiber art I often answer: ” Maybe it’s in my genes…”

Yes, I do have a family background in textiles. My Nani (maternal grandmother) was a fiber craft teacher and my Grosi (paternal grandmother) was a couture dressmaker. Let me tell you of these two women that played a big role in my developing as a fiber artist!

Nani was a multi-tasking woman. Besides managing the small farm that she had built with my granddad, renting a separate ready-furnished room in the family house including providing regular meals for the tenants, raising two children and caring for her mentally ill mother, she even worked fulltime as (the only) fiber craft teacher at the local elementary school!  While she was versed in several techniques, she was not very innovative. She only followed patterns and never designed something herself – even when the kids had left home and she did not have to work outside the house anymore. But she was the one that thaught me the fiber crafts. I remember sitting beside her on the small bench at the warm tiled stove in her living room, my tiny hands trying to get a grab on the slippery metallic needles, knitting my first little shawl for my doll… while she was knitting garments for the family. And this happened well before I was in school! She also thaught me crocheting. And she thaught me cross-stitch; I loved it when I was 7 years old and I still do…

And then, later in life, I remember visiting my retired grandparents together with my daughter. She wore a sweater I had designed and knitted especially for her, and Nani praised my work and my habit of adding a few extra knitting rounds when my daughter was growing out of it.

Grosi was a very talented couture dressmaker. I’m not exactly sure, but I think she originally was trained as a seamstress, but had moved far and beyond that with designing and sewing costumes for the rich and famous visiting our town in winter. She was a restless and creative soul, and I learned a lot from her about the passion and perseverance art is asking for just by sitting in her studio all day and watching her work. She never directly thaught me a thing – but just being in that small studio of hers, admiring all this beautiful fabric very much made me the artist I am today… I remember sitting under her sewing desk, playing with her yarn sample cards; I admired the softness of the yarns and their texture and the fact that each card was color-coordinated. This is one of my earliest memories; it must have been when I was under 5 years old.

And then, in my teenage years, I remember visiting Grosi once a week in her retirement home, and she hardly could await my arrival because she so badly wanted to ask me to thread the needle thread for her on her sewing machine! She was still sewing custom orders when she was over 70 years old, but her eye-sight was fading due to cataract. Sometimes, she must have been waiting for days to continue sewing…

Both my grandmothers have passed away now. In part, I am continuing their work.

And in memoriam I say: Thank you for teaching me, thank you for showing me the appreciation of the handmade, thank you for INSPIRING me!