How did you get started creating fiber art?
My grandmother was a quilter, and when I was little she would let me play in her sewing room and experiment with her fabrics and threads. She was patient with me as I learned how to thread a needle and form a straight backstitch, and always created different projects for me to work on while she was working on one of her masterpieces. As I continued to grow and make my way through school, I experimented with other mediums and tried to be a sculptor, sketch artist, and oil painter, but my attention kept going back to fibers. A few years ago I returned to embroidery and hand stitching and decided to treat it like painting on fabric. I moved away from pre-designed patterns and took the things that I had learned from my painting and sketching classes to begin to create my own designs and morph this love of fibers into a new art form for myself.
Who taught you how to create fiber pieces, or were you self-taught?
Much of my skills come from my grandmother and the stitches that she taught me and the rules of fiber that I learned from her, but I have expanded upon that knowledge and changed it a little to make my pieces look the way that I want them to look. Over the past two years I have heavily focused on embroidery, but I am slowly making the transition into introducing some naturally dyed products into my line. The knowledge I learned about the different kinds of fibers and how they react to dyes and their properties has helped me as I have experimented with different dye sources and perfected the products I will be releasing.
Did you know you would start your own brand, if not what spurred it?
The birth of Thistle and Thread wasn't accidental, but the fact that it is now my full time job definitely is. My husband is from Uganda, and we both lived over there while we were dating. Once we decided that we wanted to get married I moved back to the States to work through his visa process to immigrate to America. We weren't sure how long it was going to take, but we knew that it wasn't going to be a short time, so I started spending more time creating fiber art and decided to sell it to fund travels back to Uganda. The plan was never for Paul and I to stay in the States for more than a few months after our wedding, so I never imagined that I would be creating a business out of my hobby, but plans change and here we are. After our wedding Paul really encouraged me to quit the other job that I was working and pursue this new venture. It has been such a gift to be able to spend each day creating and sharing my work with others.
How do you get ideas for new products & photo shoots?
I have recently shifted to releasing my pieces in collections as opposed to one new piece at a time. Each collection is meant togo together and work to create a specific look. After the inspiration behind the collection is established I choose the color palette and shapes that will be incorporated. I am so very fortunate to have so many friends who are incredible photographers and have homes that serve as the perfect canvas for some fun styled shoots. So after the collection is complete I will get together with some friends and we plan out a great shoot that highlights the themes show in the pieces.
What are your inspirations?
At the start of Thistle and Thread I was really unsure where I wanted to take my business stylistically, so I just created what I thought was popular at the time and what I believed would sell. It was really uninspiring and caused me to feel a little lost in my work. About a year ago I decided that I was going to make a shift and create pieces that excited me. It felt like a leap because I had found some success with the pieces that people knew my business for, but thankfully the new pieces came with their own success. I think my customers changed a little, but those who stayed with me and the new ones who joined truly understand the art that I am creating and share the emotions that I am conveying through my work. It has brought a new community to my business that has been really inspiring. My sources for inspiration change as I grow and experience new things, but I am currently loving the colors and shapes found in landscapes Paul and I see as we travel. My studio is above a floral studio, so that always finds a way to influence my pieces as well.
What's your favorite thing about sharing your art with others?
There's something so great about knowing that people appreciate the things that I create and I can add something special to their homes.
How do your hobbies influence what you make?
Since starting Thistle and Thread I feel like I don't really have any hobbies in the classical sense, but Paul and I love to travel and because of our international background much of my methodology and techniques are drawn from how others are doing this same craft around the world.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge in business past a present, is definitely finding work/life balance. I love what I do so much that many times I don't want to stop. There are days where I will start at 8 am and keep going until 11 pm. It's such a great thing to love waking up each morning and diving into work, but my relationships around me were struggling. So, I have been making a strong effort to create office hours and have some structure to my day instead of just going and going without stopping. We are even taking a three week vacation soon that will consist of little to no work, which would have never happened six months ago!!
What's been your best advice you've been given?
"Quit your job and just go after this. You will only have regrets if you don't." —My Husband