Interview with Stitch Witch

The Stitch Witch, better known as Deborah Waltenburg, is a woman who caught my attention on eHow. She has a wide range of interests and is a freelance writer. Counted among her interests are knitting and calligraphy.  From her work and talents you wouldn’t recognize a woman coping with ADHD. Read on to learn more about the artisan Deborah.

Hélène: How long have you been a yarn addict?

Deborah: I’ve always been in love with oversized sweaters in straight flat stitches or full of cables and designs. I have 4 sweaters that I wish could have stayed with me forever, but life, wear and tear and an overly generous spirit let them get away from me.

In addition to my sweater addiction, I’m always intrigued by the delicacy of filet crochet or any type of intricate thread work. Laces, tablecloths, runners, edgings, you name it, I am always seeking the ultimate design to add to my repertoire. Then, I can spend months or years in some cases working on a piece just to give away.

I didn’t start ‘making’ things with yarn and thread, though, until I was in my early 20’s (painfully stated, 15+ years ago).

Hélène: Why did you choose fiber arts over other media to express yourself?

A: I’m not a crafty person, by nature … defined as someone who can just come up with nifty lil trinkets off the top of their head. I have to be inspired by what I see in the world of fashion and art. The key reason for choosing fibres and yarns ~ Cost! Crochet hooks and knitting needles last forever. Yarn is somewhat easily accessible, but the costs are going up for quality yarns: you can still find the affordable materials online. It’s just a bit more difficult now than in the past!

Hélène: What inspires you? In life?

Deborah: In life it’s strong human beings, mostly those who are constatnly bucking the system, and making their voices heard. And my Grandma. She moved forward constantly, until she could move no longer. She is always with me, wrapped around me like a warm blanket, and pushing me forward with her strong capable hands.

Hélène: She sounds like a wonderful woman and her guidance is still felt. Now, what inspires you in art?

Deborah:In art, true beauty is in the exquisite details and colours. I’m thoroughly enamoured of renaissance and impressionist works, and awed by the abilities of the artists of the past, such as Waterhouse, Van Gogh, Delville, and so many more. If you want to see some of the most beautiful paintings ever created, you need to visit ArtMagick.com. There is no better resource, in my opinion.

Cemeteries, Spanish and Italian architecture stir my soul. Early fall and early spring: destruction and creation at their finest. These are the things that inspire me.

Hélène: Do you have a favourite colour? Or shape or line?

Deborah:I am attracted to dark, rich, vibrant colours more than pastels or non-colours, such as white and ecru. Our home is a veritable palette of colours. Dark grey and mustard yellow in the kitchen, sable and copper tones on the walls and furniture of the living room, darkets burgundy and coppers in the bedroom: colour is everywhere in our home!

HStrialrun

Shapes and lines? I am a calligrapher so swirling dirvishy lines are what I am attracted to. Laces, Spanish iron works as you see in France and New Orleans, or anything mosaic or beaded in nature. The busy-ness is probably what attracts me most. But then, top it off with simplistic straight lines, and I’m good to go!!

Hélène: Have you a special mentor? Who do you thank, and blame, for getting you started?

Deborah: I was taught to sew by my mom and grandma, however, no one in the family works with yarns, except me. I am self-taught all the way, and still learning. I didn’t start knitting until about 2 years ago, and was looking forward to learning it with my mother-in-law, however she has since passed away, and so I’m just kind of carrying it on in her honour!

However, this brings me to the thought of a quotation that was shared with me by a lovely fabric artist, Margo Lovinger. Often mistakenly credited to Goethe, whoever created this particular piece of wordage could not have said it any better:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative ( and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Hélène: That sounds like my family motto: ‘Fortune Favours the Bold.’ What is it that rings true to you?

Deborah: Why is this true for me? Although I taught myself many of the skills I have today, it was when I was brought into the fold of my husband’s family of very creative and motivated fibre artists that my talents were fostered and grew. And things have progressed ever since.

Hélène: What has been the hardest thing for you to do? How did you overcome that hurdle?

Deborah: Knitting. It is more difficult to learn when you don’t have an actual, concrete display or person showing you. I’ve had to rely on books and magazines, so I frankly don’t even know if I’m doing stitches correctly, but, hey. .. if it looks and feels good to me, then it cannot be wrong.

The one truest way to get past any hurdle is with persistence and dedication. Even if you have to put it down and walk away for a spell, coming back, and working on it again and again is the only way to break the Curse of Confusion! Just do it!

Hélène: What keeps you getting up in the morning?

Deborah:  I can attest to the fact that you just have to MAKE yourself move some days! But the very act of crocheting, knitting, and any other art form is, in itself, a medication, because it allows your mind to go away from what distracts, and allows you a total focus and concentration.

Hélène: How would you describe your most important work?

Deborah: A work in progress.

Hélène: Any advice for the novices among us?

Deborah: Never give up. Find your own voice, and your own style. Don’t follow trends, follow your heart. Look everywhere for inspiration: nature, cities, classic and modern art, fashion magazines, the inspiration is all around, you just have to be open to seeing it.

Never stop learning. When you stop learning, you’re dead. Literally! No more learning then!!

Hélène: What advice can you give when photographing your work?

Deborah: Experiment.

Hélène: Keep working at it. It takes as long as it takes. That’s your message.

Deborah: Yes. Try different rooms, different backgrounds, different lighting (natural or artificial light, flash, no flash …), different angles. You’ve got to show your pieces in the best light, so as to display all the attributes of the work.

Hélène: Talk a little about craft shows. How do you prepare for it?

Deborah:Do your research. Know your audience. You’re not going to sell lots of cool, gothic, black lacy stuff at a church Christmas Bazaar and you aren’t likely to sell a toaster cover in Christmasy shades of red and green at an art festival. Once you know the target market, then you can seek out the shows you want to attend.

Hélène: Anything more, Deborah?

Deborah: Marketing, marketing, and more marketing. Once you get to the show of your dreams, make sure your setup matches the mood you want to give off: Halloween at Easter probably won’t work. Display your pieces so people want to see more …

And there is a ton of advice online. Just research thoroughly, so you can start on a good, balanced footing instead of flying blind.

Hélène: Thanks so much, Deborah, for giving our readers the opportunity to see handcrafted artisan work from your point of view. There is so much in what you have offered us that is valuable to the person just starting out and to the expert as well.

Deborah: It has been my pleasure, Hélène.

Yarn FixThe first step in recovery is to admit that you have a problem.  My name is Deborah and I am a Yarn-oholic.’ Visit Deborah Waltenburg’s blog and join the fun of knitting.  Deborah will soon have a shop at Etsy.  I love the flow, the design, the colors, the textures.  In this art, it IS about the destination,

Photography by Deborah Waltenburg

Notes to Self – All Life Must Cease …

All life, as I know it,  must cease until my bathroom is repaired.

Last evening, while I was doing some research on the ‘net, I heard running water. And my sister heard running water at the same time. We walked down the hall to the bathroom, and what did we see?!

We had a water feature. A waterfall if you will. It was coming down in torrents from the vent in the ceiling. We rushed about, not quite like headless chickens, getting pails and buckets and even one of the refrigerator drawers, getting dirty towels from the laundry and a few clean towels from the linen cupboard, too.

We bailed and we added towels and I called the evening emergency number for our condo.

The super came up to assess the situation. His eyes bugged out and then he ran. Eventually the water lessened. Then the waterfall stopped.

Bob, the super, returned with a wet vac and cleared as much water as he could. On his next visit he had the insurance people with him. We spent the night listening to industrial fans and dehumidifiers.

We are in need of a new bathroom ceiling. The water damage extends across the entire ceiling. It’s going to be a messy job: we live in a 30+ year old building and it is constructed of concrete, lath and plaster.

So.

That’s what happened last night. And that’s why life as I know it will not return until this whole mess, new ceiling and all, is finished.

Oh! What caused our inside Niagara Falls?

Our upstairs neighbours were doing their laundry. You’re right: the drain hose popped out of the drainpipe. And they didn’t know it until Bob the Super knocked on their door. I expect it was worse for them: our water damage seems to be restricted to our main bathroom but their pool of water extended into the hall and 2 of their bedrooms.

It could have been much worse for us.

Great News – eSMArties

MY FIRST ENTRY
There’s a new shop in town: the Etsy eSMArts boutique of hand crafted items.
Memories
Memories

Memory wire embellished with hearts, glass beads, and coiled wire beads: this is my first offering in a new shop at Etsy.com: the eSMArts Boutique.

At the Etsy gallery, where everything is handcrafted, a new boutique can be found. It is offered to the shopping public as a place where you can find quality items made by hand. It does not offer home made: items of artistic, handcrafted artisan work are for sale.  Think of it as a Gallery Boutique. It is worth a visit: the products in this store vary widely.

Pictured above is a unique bracelet whose design rose from a fight with memory wire.  I finally conceded that a cuff bracelet would have to be made with something other than memory wire. I threw my cuff bracelet failure onto my work bench and a couple of days later picked it up again.

It had become a cuff bracelet with a difference. The manner in which the memory wire end curl around each other makes this piece of artisan jewellery a one of a kind cuff bracelet.

And it’s official: this is my version of a cuff bracelet. It’s all mine. It is unique to me. The failure has been elevated from a despised failure to a place of honour:

GREAT NEWS – Almost Spring Toronto Bead Oasis Show, 2009

Okay. It’s official. I AM EXCITED!!   Excited !!!I picked out my booth at the ‘Almost Spring’ Toronto Bead Show, 2009.

I am planning and researching and building up inventory and … The list goes on.

This is my ‘Almost First’ show. I want to learn from others’ experiences as much as I can first.  Has anybody got valuable Helpful Hints for me?

I will go on to write my own brand of horror stories later. Those I will share with you.

So.

Look for me at the Almost Spring Toronto Bead Oasis Show.

I want to sell some of my glass bead artisan jewellery designs. And some of my own jewellery. And even a small supply of components.

And I want to visit with the other vendors and with you.

There are classes to sign up for; taught by experienced and inspiring teachers.

Look for me in room 206, Booth 27. That’s to the left of the Bead Oasis Show Admissions Desk at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Front Street; a block west from Union Station, and right across the street from the CBC Building.

The ABC’s

A ->

 

B ->

 

C ->

Consistency: Uniformity, relatively speaking. You strive for that uniformity throughout a piece of work; whether it is embroidery, petitpoint, wirework or beadworkor anything else. In quilting, the goal is the consistent length of stitches. In Hardanger it is the tension maintained on the thread. In wirework it is the regularity of the loop sizes, the jump ring integrity. Consistency tells the beginner and the expert apart. Once a technique can be done uniformly, the expert can play around. That ‘playing around’ is recognizable when done by an expert: it looks ‘intentional.’ It looks very different from the beginner’s learning steps.

P ->

Patience: All things come to her who waits. It is a virtue. The expert got that way by doing, practising, playing. The rank beginner will have to do, practice and play if she wants to become an expert, or a competent practitioner. Put the time it takes to become an expert to good use: Practise.

Practise: makes perfect. See ‘Patience,’ above.

Niki.Tasha – Follow Up

 
Black n Silver Amulet Bag Backside
Black n Silver Amulet Bag Backside

Well. I did promise to add pictures of the finished amulet bags and I have been remiss in not doing so.

I’ve received a slap up the side of m’ head, figuratively speaking, so here they are.

You will note, I hope, that these pictures don’t quite match the graphs offered in Niki Tasha’s Apprenticeship. Read on and you will see why.

(See the wee speckles in the silver section on the left? Some of my silvers look so much alike that it isn’t until you’ve got a bit further that they show themselves. I am of the mind that these speak to the imperfections of Artisan Jewellery that make them truly unique or one of a kind.)

 

Black n Silver Amulet Bag Frontside

Black n Silver Amulet Bag Frontside

This is one of the patterns for Tubular Even Count Peyote Technique. It does look different from what was graphed: that’s the artistic licence we all have. I copied the graph for the back and the front sides. Once the tube had reached what I considered a  pleasing size (approx 2″ x 2.25″in or 5 x 6cm) I squished it until I hit upon the configuration you can see here. The lesson in this step is to try a pattern different ways: you can be a slave and do the pattern as written, or you can adapt the pattern to your taste. Add a bit of yourself to each pattern or technique and you will have something unique; something that will look different than all the others using this same pattern. I sewed up the bottom side by adding a couple more rows on only 1 side. Then I ran my thread through the ‘teeth’ back and forward and pulled: it’s just like pulling up on a zipper.

Then on to the top or ‘lid’ of the bag. I decided to fiddle with the lengths of the rows and came up with something that looks a bit like a pair of boots.
 
Then the strap step followed. I began the strap by adding beads to a row several below the lip of the bag. Several rows of that with a pattern I use often, a wee flower in pewter colour glass beads with a silver centre held between an edge row of silver on both sides. I stitched 18 rows which seems a lot until you remember in Peyote each row is only half a step up.  Then I continued on only 6 beads on one side of that back tab and worked back and forth until I had a strap that would slip neatly over my head.  When I reached that length, I connected the 6 bead strap back to the back tab.
 
Blue n Silver Peyote Amulet Bag Frontside

Blue n Silver Peyote Amulet Bag Frontside

 
Blue n Silver Amulet Bag

Blue n Silver Amulet Bag

The Blue n Silver Peyote Amulet Bag is from the other graph offered in the Niki Tasha Apprenticeship. It, too, does not quite resemble the graph. Again, I have exercised my artistic licence and ‘smooshed’ the finished tube to find what I liked. In this case I chose not to repeat the pattern on the backside: it cuts down on having to concentrate on the pattern on both sides. I love things asymmetrical so I  chose to have the pattern wrap around one side. A few rows of beads added to only 1 side of the tube and ‘zipping’ up the bottom and there you have it: an amulet bag.

 
The strap starts at one side by weaving 6 beads to the tube. With those 6 beads I used a Flat Herringbone technique: it’s a technique I love and offers an opportunity to experiment. When I reached the magic ‘slip over the head’ length, I attached it to the other side of the amulet bag by weaving the beads of the strap with the beads on the side of the amulet bag.
 
When you don’t know what to add when cooking, it needs a ‘soupçon’ of something but you don’t know what you add either some cheese or some sugar. In design work you add a snippet of black. If I had used yet another silver or pewter, the pattern would have a very washed out look.
 
I have no ‘lid’ for this bag. I couldn’t decide what to do with it, so I left it open to the skies. Maybe some good luck will fall into it.
 
 
Blue n Silver Peyote Amulet Bag Side

Blue n Silver Peyote Amulet Bag Side

No you aren’t seeing things: I’ve smooshed the tube to better show that this is really one of the patterns from Niki Tasha’s Apprenticeship.

 
There it is. I have posted my pictures for Niki Tasha’s Apprenticeship.
 
Has anybody got questions for me? Something I didn’t explain well enough? Comments of all sorts, except the spamming sort, are welcomed; nay, looked for. I can only get better and that happens a whole lot faster when there are other ‘slaps’ (figuratively speaking).
 

 

Notes to Self: A New Direction

Well, I did vent some hot air in my last Notes to Self: Bead Journal Project. I felt better after doing it, so the venting did some good. I still don’t apologize for the bombardment. If anything, I am grateful for the individuals who challenged the worthiness of my September bracelet submission.

The Spanish Bracelet that WON

The Winning Bracelet

The bracelet that didn't pass

The losing bracelet

 Why?

It made my brain work ~~ always a painful process. Well, for me it is.

I have over 40 years of experience in the needlework arena. I don’t sew, and it takes me months to get around to replacing buttons that have disappeared into the recesses of coat pockets. But I do use needle and some form of ‘thread’ and I embellish, using many different techniques.

An embellishment in its own right, glass bead artisan jewellery when well done invites compliments and conversation. And it takes humble things, like wire, and makes something beautiful using many different techniques.

It is the marriage of embroidery techniques and my version of glass bead artisan jewellery techniques. What is born of this union is the Tips and Techniques thread I started some little while ago and have been ignoring shamelessly. It has been given a new lease on life.

So. I’ve decided to thank the naysayers for shedding light upon my path. They gave me lemons and I’ve given you lemon meringue pie.  MMMMM~Good.

Yours in beads ~~Helene