Hooked & Pricked

comments (0) March 31st, 2008     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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Nava Lubelski, Side Dish 2004

Nava Lubelski, Side Dish 2004

Photo: Museum of Arts and Design

Hi, my name is Jennifer Stern, and I am so pleased to have this opportunity to share my embroidery stories and adventures (filled with both designer details and character builders) with you. I first discovered the art of hand embroidery—counted cross stitch, to be exact—while I was in my 20s. My friend Kris, who used to work on aida cloth samples, taught me the basics of counted cross stitch. Of course, I had to jump in, starting with the most intricate design I could find. And, instead of working with easy to count aida cloth, I found divine 32 count Irish linen. I was hooked. I carried my current project around with me everywhere…just in case I had a minute to stitch a little. Then I got married, had two adorable girls, and the cross stitch still sits in the corner (although I do eye it every now and then).

After I had my first daughter, Anna, I started working part time at Manchester Sewing Machine Center, in Manchester, Connecticut. I was bombarded with all kinds of sewing, all kinds of sewing machines and I discovered the most amazing thing…machine embroidery. You could actually attach a hoop to a sewing machine and it would stitch it out for you! All you had to do, it seemed, was change the threads.

So, I had my second daughter, Abby, and happily worked at the store, taking every sewing and embroidery class that I could. In December of 2000, I was harassed into entering a fashion show at an annual dealer’s convention for Pfaff sewing machines. Little did I know that this process of conjuring up an amazing embroidered confection would become an annual event.

I created a respectable dress featuring Pfaff embroidery designs and hopped onto a plane bound for Las Vegas where the convention was to be held. At the fashion show, I saw all kinds of incredible garments and I met all sorts of interesting people. It was a lot of fun, but in the end, I didn’t win. (That’s why you enter contests, isn’t it?)

Back at the store, I was teaching Pfaff Club, and one of my students showed me her “digitizing” binder. It was filled with all kinds of samples of embroidery designs that she had created using digitizing software. After that, I became her student. She patiently showed me how to create my own designs. I would spend hours digitizing myself into a corner, and she would show me how to fix it. I was in love. Eventually, I got the hang of it, and I have been creating my own designs ever since! (I went on to win Best of Show at the Pfaff Fashion Show the next year!)

I’ve been teaching and designing at Manchester Sewing for 10 years now! When I take a minute to look back, I am amazed at how much I’ve grown. When I started working at the store, I thought I knew how to sew…only to quickly realize how little I did know. Now, the only difference is, I’m constantly aware that while I know a lot, there is always more! What will the next cool notion, technique, software program, or embroidery machine be that will inspire me? (And I can’t wait to share it all with you!)

One of my favorite ways to become inspired is to take advantage of every exhibit that is even remotely related to embroidery, sewing or fashion. I thought it would be appropriate to kick off my blog by filling you in on a cool exhibit at the Museum of Art & Design in NYC, Pricked: Extreme Embroidery. (Even the name of the exhibit invokes all kinds of juicy design possibilities.)

As a designer of original embroidery, if it’s not mainstream, it’s for me. Embroidery not only embellishes the clothes and décor we live in, it can also showcase a diverse range of subject matter as expressed by the 48 international artists represented here. This exhibit is currently showing at the Museum of Art & Design through April 27, 2008, and explores how the traditional handcraft of embroidery is transformed into a modern expression of contemporary art and design.

The Exhibit

I expected to see works of embroidery featuring traditional materials such as cotton, wool and a variety of yarns. But, I was pleasantly surprised to see unexpected stone, digital prints and human hair incorporated into the mix. Subject matter ranges from dreams and whimsy to serious social issues. My personal favorite is our 16th President’s wool afro.

One of the designers, Nava Lubelski, had an intuitive fashion-forward sense when she created her hand embroidered thread on ink stained cotton canvas. While flipping through the January 2008 issue of Vogue I noticed that models wearing the likes of Helmut Lang and Piazza Sempione were sporting the Stained Look as well.

Be sure to check out this surprising exhibit before it closes on April 27th, 2008. The Museum of Arts & Design is located at 40 West 53rd Street in New York City.

Visit their Web site at www.madmuseum.org

posted in: embroidery, exhibition, museum of arts and design, pfaff

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