Born in Zambia, South Africa, you grew up in a very different environment than your Ohio life now. What was the impetus for you to leave South Africa? Hold old were you when you left?
I was thirty when I came to the United States. Due to the turmoil in South Africa I wanted a more stable environment to bring up my children.
How did your subsequent travels impact your life and career? What was your journey geographically?
I was born in Zambia. At the age of five my family moved to Cape Town, South Africa then to Johannesburg where I finished my schooling and attended nursing school. In my early twenties I lived in England for three years then returned to South Africa for an additional five years before immigrating to the United States. Since moving to the United States I have lived in Connecticut, Tennessee, Utah and Ohio.
Do you remember your earliest experience of being creative?
I sewed from a very young age, making my first quilt in high school. During my stay in England I learned to English paper piece. My interest in quilting continued when I moved to the United States, where I spent more time designing my own pieces.
My mom taught me to knit at a very young age. When I was seven I knitted squares to be made into a quilt for a school charity project. I also spent a lot of time making barbie doll clothes.
How did creative stitching and embellishment become your focus? Did you explore other approaches to making art?
From a young age I was exposed to many forms of art. My dad was very artistic and there was always an allowance each month for my sister and I to take different art classes. Over the years I have tried pottery, stained glass, portrait painting, encaustics, folk painting and jewelry making. Through my many explorations of different forms of art I found a love in textiles.
I love to teach new techniques to my students. Fifteen years ago I taught myself a few embroidery stitches so I could add embroidery stitches to a pincushion I was teaching. The response to the added texture was overwhelming, which kickstarted my interest in learning embroidery to add texture and dimension to my work.
Your color choices and imagery are folkloric reflections of the countryside. Do you lean on your personal memories for this visual process?
Yes, my hand drawn pieces are influenced from my childhood in South Africa and from my many travels, especially international folk-art. My childhood had a huge impact on my designs and color choices
In addition to design and pattern making, you have written popular books about creative stitching, teach workshops and run retreats. What work do you enjoy most?
I love the design process and exploring new techniques in each piece. Having found a love for wool, this medium can be ever evolving as it lends itself to multiple layers and endless stitching. The design process goes along with the teaching that I love to do. My favorite part is sharing new and innovative ways to embellish and seeing the confidence my students develop finding their own creative path.
Your business employs all 4 of your children and you design jewelry with your sister. Assuming these are harmonious relationships, this must create business stability for you. When did you start your company?
I started my company sixteen years ago in my basement with one part time employee. After ten years in the basement we leased an office space and have expanded twice. Today, three of my children work for me, as well as, five other full time employees. We do all of our wool dying, kit assembly and web business here in Ohio. My sister is now retired and handed over the wool dying to my son, Jason.
How old are you and what are your plans or goals to continue being creative?
I am now 58 and feel like I still have years of creativity in me. As most of my work is hand work I have more ideas than time to create them. I put a lot of work into my block of the month program every year along with new designs showcasing my mill-dyed wool line and Eleganza Perle Cotton line.