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!
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?
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.
‘The 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
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