Friday, October 19, 2012

Katherine Dimond - Art With Needle and Thread


Katie's first Owl
Size - 5" x 6.5"
cotton floss on woven cotton

Artists often attract other artists to be their life partners.  So it is with my son Adrian and Katherine or Katie as we know her.  They were married in April of 2011, and we were not at all surprised to find her to be a talented artist. The surprise for me was how she has begun to use her talent.

For the last couple of years I've been interested in embroidery and during a visit, Katie and I decided to do some stitching and then share what we did.  There wasn't much discussion about what we might do so you can imagine my surprise when I first saw Katie's work. One word description covers it: amazing.  I immediately wanted to share it with more people so I asked Katie to write a narrative to introduce herself to you and to show her work.  

The stories of people's lives and the paths they have followed are always of interest to me.  All of life's experiences end up in their work if they are artists.  With that in mind I was happy that Katie has chosen to share how she came to be making what she is making and I believe you will relate.

One note:  Katie has an esty shop, PelicanZ, and I invite you to visit and tell your friends.




An early commission.
Size - 8" x 4"
cotton floss on woven linen


Katherine Dimond

Background

In 2001 I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.  My senior thesis involved sewn fabric sculptures.  I made towers out of used ladies' clothing and nightgowns from the Salvation Army.  I half-deconstructed the clothing and then sewed it all back together into these deformed monster-ladies. There was a vague feminist theory in there somewhere.

My first real job after college was at an upscale clothing boutique in SoHo and then I moved to a vintage poster restoration studio called M&W Graphics.  I had a friend who worked at a poster gallery and she suggested it might be the place for me.  When there was an opening she referred me and I got the job.  It involved repairing damage to vintage posters, mostly as a service for galleries, museums and private collectors.  My job was to fix fold lines, tears, stains and holes.  All of this is done by hand, primarily with watercolors and pencils.  I spent seven years there before moving to LA where I miraculously got a job doing similar work at Poster Mountain.  I've been there for two years and I love it.



Kestrel - Katherine Dimond
Size - 8" x 5.5"
cotton floss on woven cotton

The restoration work is painstaking and takes a kind of patience I was not naturally endowed with.  I am also not a natural perfectionist but that is not true at work.  I can spend days working on one poster and often when I think I'm finished I still keep going.  Often when a flaw looks invisible from one angle, all you have to do is move your head and there it is again.  I usually make tiny microscopic dots.  Dot, dot, dot all day.  And when I'm done with the black dots for example, then I move onto another layer of dots but this time red or blue dots, because nothing is ever simple.





Detail - Kestrel
Notice the dots of thread.


Creative Urge

Restoration involves creativity, but only up to a certain point.  Nothing I created at work was my own.  I had the creative urge but was afraid to follow through.  Maybe everyone experiences a lot of trauma in their twenties, but within a two-year span my mother died, the 9/11 attacks happened in my town, and I was mugged with a gun to my head.  I went into a sort of freaked-out survival mode and didn't make anything for a good ten years after graduating college.  Suppressing that urge made me pretty angry and unhappy.  I think it's bad for anyone, bad for the soul, not doing what you're meant to do.


One of the things that got me out of my funk was my husband.  Watching the way he works.  He seems to protect his creativity with the fierceness of a mother hen guarding her eggs.  If there's something he wants to make, he immediately takes action without brooding or even really thinking.  He just starts working methodically and unceasingly until he's got it.



Thread Box

I've made some good friends here in LA.  One day I was in the car with a friend and we were talking about making things.  I said I had the urge to embroider and she immediately encouraged me to just do it.  So I did, thanks to her faith in me.  She and I would have little craft parties after work; we'd just hang out, watch Downton Abbey, and make little pointless things.  I was terrible at it but I loved doing it.  I wasn't trying to make anything special or beautiful; I was just trying to have fun.


Learning the Process

I had learned how to stitch from my mother when I was about ten.  I don't think she taught me at home but at school as part of a month-long Pioneer Days thing.  I guess they were trying to teach us about what people did with their free time before TV.  We learned a simple backstitch.  When I took it up again in adulthood I checked out a bunch of stitching books from the library and taught myself whatever I wanted to learn.





Early stage of a work.

I'm not very strict about it.  People -- non-stitchers mainly -- love to say you can tell the skill of an embroiderer by looking at the back of the work.  It's supposed to look nice and neat.  Mine usually looks like a rat's nest.  I try not to waste thread but I'm also not going to waste time on the back.



Back side of a work in progress.

It's a lot like restoration in a few ways.  It takes superhuman patience, it takes lots of little dots, and it causes migraines.

I love that the materials are so inexpensive.  One 8.7-yard skein of DMC floss costs 39 cents.  That's so much less than paint, you don't have to sit there making up a palette for an hour before starting, and there's very little cleanup.  You can take on the airplane, you can pick it up whenever there's enough light to work.  Also, the colors don't get muddy.  You have total control over where the colors go and they won't bleed together.

Subject Matter

My subject matter is pretty arbitrary.  I love all animals but it just seemed to me that birds, with all their little fibrous feathers, lend themselves nicely to embroidery.  Lately I've been experimenting with cats.  We'll see where that goes.  I put a lot of emotion into my work.  It's been building up for a long time.  I feel like I've just been take-take-taking from the world and now I want to give back something special.




Kite - Katherine Dimond
Size - 8" x 4"
cotton floss on woven cotton


Maybe I'm doing birds because many people don't like them.  They think birds are untrustworthy or something.  I can understand that.  I've been attacked before.  Where I grew up in Laguna Beach, there were these birds that would hang out in a hedge by the art museum, randomly dive-bombing passersby for their hair.  It's pretty funny to see, not so much when it happens to you.  I still love birds.  I think they're beautiful and there's something about flying that seems like a metaphor for the soul.  So I'm trying to manipulate others into liking them too.





detail - Kite - Katherine Dimond


Listening and Working

Terry:  I asked Katie if she ever listened to music or books while she worked since I know how intense this work can be.  Here is her response.

While I'm working I usually listen to my ipod, mainly audiobooks and podcasts.  I love long books, so Dickens is good.  I like short educational podcasts such as Discovery Channel's Stuff You Missed in History Class, Stuff to Blow your Mind, etc.  Also I watch a lot of black humor British TV shows like Peepshow and Spaced.  Embroidery is tiring, so I like to take plenty of short, frequent breaks.

It's weird but every time I look at my work, I can vividly remember what I was listening to or watching at the time.  For example, when I did my Eagle Owl, I was listening to Norwegian murder mysteries.  Same with the posters at work.  One of my projects, a Tarzan movie poster, needed days of work.  It   took took exactly the length of The Count of Monte Cristo, which is what I listened to while working.  So those two stories are forever linked for me.



Katie is one of her favorite stitching spots.


Thank you Katie for sharing your story and your work.  We love YOU!

Don't forget to drop in on Katie at PelicanZ.

***

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19 comments:

  1. Wow. I loved reading about Katie and her incredible!!! work. Thanks for sharing; so inspiring. Willemien

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    1. Thank you Williemien! The eyes of the birds are so dimensional they look like marbles! Please share the article with your friends. Terry

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  2. Loved reading about Katie and seeing her beautiful work. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you Kit! I had no idea that Katie knew how to do this type of work. What a great surprise. xo, T

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  3. Amazing work, thanks for sharing Katie's work with us!

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    1. Thank you Connie! It was a special treat for me to be able to share her work.

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  4. I, too, loved reading about Katie. The birds are so amazing! Thank you for sharing this incredible artist and person with us.

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    1. Thank you Mia! Her eye for detail just knocked me over. I know she has talent but I can see how her "day job" has really honed her eye.

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  6. Divine, such beautiful bird studies with incredible detail and genuine movement. What an eye, and what wonderful ability to transmit all that in stitch on fabric. I was intrigued by her comments on listening while working - as I could have written every one of those words myself.

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    1. Hey Allison, Thanks you for the wonderful observations! Isn't it interesting the connection between hearing and doing. I think we hear, form mental images yet we are looking at the work. It forms a strong connection. I know Katie will appreciate your supportive thoughts. xo, T

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  7. ohhh can't wait to share this with my husband who is totally in love with birds. And yes - creative types attract - my husband and I just sorta started "hobbies" 20 years ago around the same time - him woodworking - me quilting (not purposely together btw) --- jump ahead 20 years and we are now getting accepted into the same juried shows. We had a gallery owner greet us last Saturday with "Ohh there are the talented Sayre's" toooooo funny - I almost looked around to see who walked in behind us - LOL!!! You're blessed with your dDIL!!

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    1. He Nina Marie, It is true and it is fun. Great to be with someone who understands and appreciates your need for creative time. Sounds like you guys have got "it" going on! xo, T

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  8. Terry, Katherine is a treasure and more. I love that she is finding her voice with the stitch. It is not surprising that what she does to make a living, restoration of posters, is counterbalanced by her attention to the stitch with embroidery. I lust for the "Kite" piece.
    She is one of us. I hope to meet her one day. Somehow, oh....maybe because I have spent some time with you, I think that both you and Katherine are great friends. Lucky you, Lucky Katherine.

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    1. Thank you dear Christine! Your thoughts mean a great deal to me. I'd love for you to meet Katie as she is "one of us". I love the cross-over between her restoration work and her art and I certainly understood her feelings about the difference in connection between work work and art work. I also love seeing another artist who is demonstrating the potential of a modest material....colored floss.

      Have a BIG weekend Chris! xo, T

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  9. Wow, Katie's work is amazing! i'm so glad she shared the detail shots so we could see all the little dots of color (like the wee orange ones in the blue kite). I used to embroider (only with kits, but still) and I can appreciate all the skill, time, and attention to detail it takes to create these masterpieces. Thank you for sharing katie's work and words with us.

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    1. Thank you Vivien. It's always great to hear the responses of someone who knows the medium. I loved seeing the very simple sketch on the fabric that is the foundation for Katie's work. All that detail then develops in layers as she works. Always great to hear from you!

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  10. Astonishingly beautiful work. Her passion shines in her work.

    Bye for now,
    Aryana

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    1. Thank you Aryana! I love that you used the word passion in regards to this work. It makes a huge difference. xo, T

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