My heart cannot take it

Do Not Flake on Me is done, sent and delivered to the Northern California stitch artist Lisa Leggett as part of the Phat Quarter Spring Swap from MrXStitch.

Do Not Flake on Me, 2012

It was great fun to stitch up another "Do Not" embroidery. I've written here before about how much I love taking the hard graphics of hazard signs and turning them into soft stitch. This piece reminded me how much that aesthetic appeals to me.

Do Not Flake on Me snugged up to Do Not Enter, 2010.

Yes, it's a snowflake and a prohibition circle. I have come to hate the cold. Living alone for the first time in my life, I negotiated the darkness and chill of my first winter by myself in the world. It was hard. Even though this was a mild winter, I spend far too much time shivering, wrapped up in an electric blanket in my poorly insulated apartment.

My simple sketch.

As I was stitching the piece I wished that the cold, dark nights of winter be gone, both literally and figuratively.  Let it be Spring again and, dare I say it, Summer. Let there be warmth in the air and in my heart. Let there be music and friendship. To much heartbreak in recent years. Let the winter be gone.

Thick red fill stitch surrounded by fine gauged chain stitch. 

And it is gone. There is warmth, again. A fragile warmth, but it's building. And the warmth is coming from me. I am making it for myself, with the help of my friends and family. And I am hopeful. 

More Spirograph tanks for me

Detail, stitching through Sulky Solvy.

My retro obsession continues unabated (just like the "domestication of the dog," to quote Homer Simpson) and I've been stitching myself spirographs. Lots of spirographs.

Me outside my office.
(Thanks, Jess, for taking the photo!)

Sporting a double, pink and orange spirograph on a navy cotton camisole to go along with the red one I stitched on a black cami. My new summer uniform.

Pearle cotton in pink and orange.

I think I got back into Spirographs last summer when I met a guy who had a spirograph-esque tattoo on this inside of his wrist. I love the elegance of the loops and the throwback feel.

Feels like Summer.

Now I've started a new camisole with a special image on it inspired by my squeeze... And I'm back to my word stitching project. AND I'm excited about the new Phat Quarter swap I'm sign up for from MrXStitch. I'm geeked about the piece I'm designing on the theme of Spring for the fabulous Lisa who blogs at A Cuppa Tea With Me. It is a mashup of sorts.

Go, stitching!

In a war, someone has to die

So said a temporarily out-of-work professional African soldier. So heard Danish artist Hanne Bang, who was inspired by a television news interview she saw with the soldier to create a collaborative, stitched art project titled, "In a War Someone has to Die." 

Stitched handkerchiefs. Foreground, Katherine,
background, me.

Bang is collecting embroidered handkerchiefs from stitchers around the world, each inscribed with the soldier's line in her/his own language. She will sew these handkerchiefs together to form a large installation artwork later this year.

I heard about the project on the MrXStitch site. My friend Katherine and I decided to participate. We each stitched up the line in Spanish. Spanish is my mother's first language and I had her write it out for me in her beautiful, strange handwriting. I used a brightly colored new handkerchief and chain stitch.

My handkerchief in chain stitch with little stitched flowers.

Katherine is bilingual, having learned Spanish while in Honduras in the Peace Corps. Her husband is Honduran and she uses Spanish professionally in her social work career. She stitched it up on a vintage handkerchief in backstitch. (Interestingly, Katherine's mother's first language is German. I wonder if she ever considered doing it in German.)

Katherine used a vintage linen.

I love the way that the artist's experience with the news media lead to this art project. To me it shows how being open to stories and news from around the world can inspire huge, collaborative projects.

Imagine the scene: A reporter and a camera person interview a professional African soldier for a Danish news program. The segment is viewed by the Danish artist back in Europe. She is moved by the coldness of the soldier's words and she plays with the feelings and associations that the news story stirs in her.

Brightly colored pink cotton.

Bang then reaches out to the stitching community, online and in her physical surroundings, and we all are pulled into the creation. My mother, who has no other connection to the professional soldier, the unknown reporter or the Danish artist, writes out this sentence at her kitchen table. And she is disturbed by the words her daughter stitches. But she is used to me and she is game.

My mami's handwriting.

Read more about Bang's work here.

Afflicted by Words

My words pile grows.

Words and writing by Andy and me.

And this makes me silly happy, even in my affliction.

My mami's beautiful handwriting.

Still collecting and still stitching. I feel like a bird gathering twigs and fiber for a nest.  I feel like a mad, giddily nerdy archivist digging through a vat of letters.

Word and writing by me.

I feel like an Absinthe-drinking, word-obessesed character from a Borges story... a passionate, intense, woman dressed in black, with bright red lips, glasses and a mad look in her dark eyes who whispers, "give me more words," in a breathy voice into the ears of the fellow word-afflicted.

Word by Lisa RK, writing by mami.

The more clear-headed of you ask, what are you making? A perfectly rational question. And if you know me, you know that I am a perfectly rational person about many things.

Saudade, word and writing by Ron.

Kumquat by Chris, writing by mami.

But about these stitched words... I am not. And I don't know yet what I'm making. Right now I'm just doing. Collecting and stitching words and asking you, in my most beseeching voice, "tell me a word."

Words and writing by Marcus and Juline.

Word and writing by Bryony

(I adore the words you've given to me, in your comments, in person, in email. I'm grateful for your grace.)

Bar stitching. Grace by Jamie MrXStitch Chalmers,
writing by mami.

Word and writing by Susan.

What else am I making? Well, I have ideas racing around. An idea for a tiny, naughty-fun Valentine for my squeeze. And idea for a tiny portrait in red floss. And I'd like to stitch up a handkerchief for this Danish war project.

Wanton by Ellen Schinderman, writing by mami.

But what am I making with all of these words? I don't know. I know that I see a massive collection of fabric, stitch, paint and words. In the writing of all of these different hands.

Word and writing by Monique.

People on Fire, by Guillermo Kuitca, 1993.

Perhaps the stitch-speration for this giant, crazy project was this painting from the NC Museum of Art that I saw last summer called, "People on Fire" by Argentine artist Guillermo Kuitca.

Word and writing by me, the afflicted.

For now I can only smile and reach out to you and ask again, will you spare me a word? Ask your friends. For me.

Doing Flips for Doaflip's Mr. Burns' Cookie Pillow

My Phat Quarter Food Swap piece arrived from Emma in the U.K. and, can I just say, it is flipping brilliant.

On my lap. I want it next to me at all times!

Emma (a.k.a. doaflip, who blogs at Flip-a-dee-doo-dah) made me an elegant little cross stitched pillow depicting the fake business name that C. Montgomery Burns provides to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when they come to smack down his skinny ass in the "Homer Goes to College" episode of The Simpsons.

“Ah, General Tso, you were a formidable opponent, but your chicken is delectable!”

That's right. Simpsons' Nerd Girl O now owns a piece of Springfield paraphanelia stitched just for her! And I'm flipping out. FLIPPING OUT. I am like Lisa with her pony. Could this be any cooler? The answer is: NO.

In all its glory. 

How did this scrumptious little piece come into my greedy little mitts? From the Phat Quarter Food-Themed Swap, via MrXStitch and flickr. (For this swap, I made one of my "Do Not" embroideries for Salvaged Mutiny.)

Do Not Eat, 2011

Two other considerations.

Number One: I have never done cross stitch, but I've long admired the elegance and cleverness of this kind of work, including the amazing pieces created by beefranck. In person, the gorgeous details of the piece are evident -- the graceful border, the careful lettering. Take some time to explore Emma's tumblr page and flickr stream for more examples of her work and design.

Mr. Bergstom is a hunk. 

And Number Two: This has inspired me to create some more Simpsons-related stitching, like the little Lisa Simpson piece I made for a cool man a while back.

My giddy mind is crackling with possibility! As anyone who is a Facebook friend or who follows me on Twitter can attest to by my constant stream of Simpsons's quotes, I have an endless supply of happiness to create!

Me and my new bestie.

For now, I say thank you to the uber talented Emma for this amazing little artwork. I'm so grateful and humbled by this amazing gift.

Photo by Emma

Emma, Emma, Emma... how I love thee!

Sketches for the Great Curve & a Stitchgasm

Still in the sketching phase of a self portrait. I know that I need to make the move onto fabric and just start thread sketching. Moving slowly but I'm making progress.

Playing with the image against blue Balinese batik

I envision the piece on the blue Balinese batik ground fabric above. I think. I'm attracted to the watery colors with patterns of plant life upon it.  Trying to simply the image my friend Alex took in May 2011. Layering it on the fabric and on other sheets of paper. I just need a basic outline and then I'll let the stitching guide me.

Simplified outline pattern

I think I'll go with this very basic sketch to start with and take it from there. Removed the fingers from my shoulder and changed the hair, which was in a pony tail. This is a slow-going project. I'm  playing and sketching with thread.

With the holidays coming, I have all sorts of simple stitched gifts to make for friends and family. Luxuriating stitching simple things for my loved ones. But I can't show the work in progress here because I don't want to ruin any surprises. I can say that I'm stitching names, words, lightening, clouds, bears, squirrels and rabbits... but that's all that I'll say!

Spinach quiche for my fiber arts group

Been cooking and baking a lot and experimenting with new tools, like the pie cutters I used to make the leaf design above. Trying to bring visual pleasure to the experience of tasting my food. Hardly an original concept! Haven't been an overly hearty eater of late -- the stress of this year killed my appetite but as I get happier, it is coming roaring back. But I love food and preparing for people I care about. And trying to make it as lovely for them as I can.

On the inter webs front, I was uber geeked to be featured in a Stitchgasm from MrXStitch for my Do Not Eat! and Do Not Enter! hazard signs! And I'm grateful to Denise Fenton at for blogging about my Big Yes! features. I have a new Big Yes! in the works that is going to blow your freaking minds, peeps! Keep an eye out.

Finally, take a listen to the Talking Heads The Great Curve. As David Byrne sings: The world turns on a woman's hips.

Do Not Eat!

No really, eat... please!

Photos from my finished swap piece for the Phat Quarter food-themed swap by MrXStitch. Shipped it to Salvaged Mutiny.

Along side the bigger Do Not Enter embroidery

I love taking the crispness of hazard graphics and converting them into the soft wonkiness of stitched pieces.

Back stitch as fill stitch with chain stitch framing
the circle

The layers of stitches piled almost on top of each other.

The fork tines looking all wavy and strange instead of hard-edged. Imagine those fabric spears between your lips.

Farewell, little embroidery.

Late for a very important date! And photo inspiration at First Friday!

Me, stitching, ah...

Got a very late start of my piece for the Phat Quarter food-themed swap. The fabulous Salved Mutiny is at sea right now (literally, she is somewhere on a ship) and she told me to take my time with it, which I really appreciate. With the chaos of my recent move and all, I haven’t done much stitching or sketching.

Do Not Eat sign on my light box

Decided to do a hazard sign for the swap. I haven’t stitched up a hazard sign in a while. I don’t know why I love them so much. The odd simplicity of their designs? The way the image is reduced to the simplest elements to convey the warning?  There is something poetic about them to me.

Biohazard quilted piece,
still need to make it a proper pillow

I’m stitching the swap piece up on white cotton in the traditional red and black colors. But I also like to switch up the colors or ground fabric, like I did with my bio-hazard pillow or the Hans the Riot Cop piece.

Close up of simple back stitch

Lots of excitement about my new apartment. It is very unadorned at the moment. Want to fill it with threads and fabrics and stitches and color. My artwork and the artwork of people I admire.  Want to have gatherings. Want to fill it with passion and life! I know I will.

How beautiful is this orchid color?
Want to fill my home with this color.

For now, finally finished my spirograph dishcloth, so there is some color for my place! Gonna stitch up a lot of spirographs as gifts… let me know if you’d like one!

Had a fabulous time at First Friday in Raleigh this weekend! Local art rocks. Wandered around from gallery to bar with a rockin’ friend who appreciates art and creativity. It is just energizing to explore art with him. Electric stitch-speration abounds!

We saw some cool music photos from the Hopscotch Music Festival, the annual live music event in Raleigh. The exhibition inspired me to possibly pick up my camera again to take photos of something other than myself and what I make. We’ll see.  (Who am I kidding? I have too much on my plate already.)

I was particularly taken by the work of NC photographer Abby Nardo and this piece:

By Abby Nardo

I love the high perspective of the shot. And I love the clustering of the audience around the stage and the scattering of empty chairs. Gives the viewer the experience of being at a live, local show. Moody and gorgeous.  I encourage folks to explore her flickr stream for other lovely live music shots. Yah!

OK, back to stitching, kids! Gotta finish this piece for Salvaged Mutiny. 

I adore this Spoonflower fabric. I want every color!
Sending out my love and affection to all of my friends online and in meat space. Life is great because I have you in it. For real. Keep rocking…

All for the STITCH… On blogging, flickring & tweeting like a joyful MOFO

Keeping this blog has rocked my world.

Editing photos for a blog post in my NYC hotel
This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but there you go.

I started reading arts and crafts blogs about two years ago. At first, I lurked on the whipupFeeling Stitchy sites, gobbling up the posts and following the links to the amazing creative spaces of artists and crafters around the globe.

Through Feeling Stitchy, I remember stumbling upon Jenny Hart’s Embroidery as Art and feeling like I was home, like I had found a long lost, secret family.  Here was a stitcher who was making art, often out of portraiture, and I was mesmerized.

Turntable embroidery featured in a whipup mosaic
When I found my way to the MrXStitch blog, things really cracked open for me. Beefranck and MrXStitch have a gracious, loose, egalitarian approach to blogging and feature the work of so many individual stitchers in their Stitchgasm posts. Following links from their posts, I found my way to the blogs and flickr galleries of 20-30 other stitching artists, including (to name a few of many):

The Smallest Forest .  Joetta Maue  .  Penny Nickels .  Bascom Hoage  .  Drucilla Pettibone  .  Ric Rac  .  Mimi Love  .  Beadgirl  .  Jennifer Andrews

So, I took the leap last fall and started cocoaeyesthestitcher. And my creative world flew open. Suddenly, I had a space to capture all of my attempts and thoughts about making. Not only to document, but to muse. Not only to record, but to connect.  When MrXStitch and Feeling Stitchy featured some of my work on their sites, I could NOT believe it.

Blogging lead to flickr and wonderful flickr groups like Phat Quarter and Embroidery. Phat Quarter lead me to the January 2011 Music Swap, which introduced me to jojobooster, gigglymama and so many others. Gigglymama invited me into the EFU group on Facebook, where equally stitch obsession people happily gush about stitching.

Unexpected present from jojobooster,
all the way from New Zealand. LOVE!
And about a month or so ago, in a completely non-stitching turn, I met a new friend who turned me on to Twitter, which I completely adore.  I follow dozens of textile artists and it gives me a view into a more casual, quick and organic part of their stitching lives… a tweet about thread selection is followed by one about melting chocolate croissants or a tune. I love the joyful, random playfulness of tweeting.

Now I tweet almost every day, too, mostly about work I’ve seen online, but also about songs, my changing moods, dinner dates, and my own stitching.  Check out my twitter stream for lots of little posts about amazing artwork… a running quick list of things that inspire me. And tweet me a tune! @o_corcoran.

And my thought of the day, as I pack for me move next weekend, stitch on my Phat Quarter Swap piece for Salvaged Mutiny and dine al fresco and see the Paperhand Puppet Intervention tonight… to work and artists you love...
...leave comments on blog posts or flickr shots that touch you...
...tweet and share your creative life with like souls online...

BE GENEROUS. It makes life more fun. And it can give other makers a much-needed charge in the loneliness of their making.

Besitos, my friends!

That's it. Just be generous. 

Confusion and color and projects and more confusion...

Rainy and gray day in Durham and I’m feeling a little rainy and gray on the inside. Much less sure of what the future holds or where I’m going in my personal life. Trying not to make any big life decisions from this place of uncertainty.  It seems almost impossible that my heart could hold so much and be so tangled.

The weird thing is that this huge knot is almost completely separate from my creative life. I have so much excitement about what I’m making and my current projects. I’ve never experienced such a disconnect between the personal and the creative parts of me. Aren’t they the same thing? Aren’t they intertwined? I don’t understand!

Right now I’m working on three main projects.

Number 1: A dishcloth decorated with spirographs in happy colors! Let these happy colors wash over me and cheer up my soul!

I had forgotten how much I loved spirograghs as a child until I saw the wrist tattoo of a dinner companion. It wasn’t a spirograph, but the design was early 70s and it reminded me of those magical plastic disks and the fantastic joy I felt as I played with them… it was amazing to see what designs would come out on the page.

Number 2:  Just starting on a Phat Quarter (MrXStitch) sponsored, food-themed swap for the incredibly talented Salvaged Mutiny, a British mixed media artist and costume designer who travels the world on ship. I’m serious!  Sounds like a very cool person and her work is AMAZING. 

After much sweating and searching and sketching, I have created an image, which relates to my passion for hazard signs, believe it or not. Must nip off to the fabric shop to get my background fabric this afternoon. More to come…

Number 3:  And finally, I’m in the very early stages of collecting images and doing preliminary stitching for the Sketchbook Project 2012 as part of the arthouse coop with the Brooklyn Library of Art. I chose the theme “Writing on the Wall.” I know that I will focus on stitching text, both found and intentional. 

By Andy, China
By Erin, NYC
Friends have been very generous about sending me images of signs, graffiti and other text that they’ve come across in the world for me to collect and potentially stitch. If YOU have any images, please email them to me!! The pages and pieces will be quite small and I’m excited about the space for experimentation that this allows.

But despite all of this creative excitement and stitch-speration, my heart is all tumult. I just don’t know what to DO with all of this emotion.

So for now, I’ll just stitch.


link to us!

I am SO HONORED to have had my work featured in my TWO favorite embroidery blogs this week.  Astonished, actually.

Nicole, an AMAZING embroidery pattern designer and stitcher (whose own blog, Follow the White Bunny, is a huge source of inspiration) posted about my Turntable piece on the Feeling Stitchy blog on today!  I've bought Nicole's patterns from her etsy shop and they are just beautiful and, to me, have the quality of gorgeous children's books illustrations.

You can see the post here:
feeling stitchy: You spin me right round...: " a Woven Spider Wheel stitch, performed here beautifully by Olisa! Olisa made this awesome turntable embroidery for a recent Phat Q..."

And on Wednesday, Beefranck of Mr X Stitch fame posted a stitchgasm of my Little Hans embroidery on the Mr X Stitch blog!  Holy Frijole!

Mr X Stitch is the edgy wonderland of the embroidery arts blogosphere.  And Beefranck's fabulous cross stitch patterns turn traditional motifs on their heads with her dark wit and boundary-pushing messages.

You can see the link here:

Heartfelt thanks to Nicole and Beefranck for being so kind to me as I embark on my embroidery adventure. I'm HOOKED on stitching.  I think about it night and day. I'm so very grateful to them!!!

Turntable Embroidery Lands in New Zealand!

My turntable embroidery arrived safely to the warm and fabulous Jo in New Zealand.  Yippee!!

The Phat Quarter Music Swap (on flickr, sponsored by the Mr X Stitch blog) was a blast and I strongly encourage others to join in future swaps. This was my first time and I was just blown away by the gorgeous, creative pieces that the participants created.  Check out some of their work here. 

This piece was so much fun to stitch up. Inspired by The Record exhibition at the Nasher Museum (for which I recorded the audio guide), I sketched up several turntable and record designs in my sketch book.  Just doodles. 

However, I was insanely unrealistic about how long the piece would take to stitch. The finished piece is framed in a 9”x12” (23cm x 30 cm) frame. What the hell was I thinking?! For two whole weeks, I was stitching every night after work for a few hours and all day long on the weekend.  I’m not kidding.   

My neck and shoulders became mine fields of knots.  I developed freaky calluses on my finger tips.  I drank lots of booze in an effort to relax my muscles.  I listened to several hours of the “Stitching and Junk” pod cast from Mr X Stitch, which is hysterical and kind of rated R. Good times! 

But it was so worth it to make something for Jo.  She is such a good soul… so kind, so supportive and so creative.  It’s especially nice to make something when you know the recipient will really understand the work that went into it. 

And I really pushed myself, playing with color and stitches.  My favorite stitches have to be the woven spider wheel stitches that I used for the volume button and other buttons.  Jo said that they make her want to push the buttons! I want to make a whole piece of just these woven spider wheel stitches.   

And I really like the effect of the back stitch fill stitch on the record itself.  Although that is what took the longest to stitch. 

The back

OK, enough excitement here from me.  I’m a freaky geek! 

Phat Quarter Swap, Oh My!

Cold and ice, be damned!

THE most fun, exciting new project of this week is taking part in the Phat Quarter flickr group swap. Phat Quarter is the flickr group for the Mr X Stitch blog, which is one of my favorite embroidery blogs.

This is my first swap with this group and I'm geeked!

The theme of the swap is very broad: Music.  We are free to create whatever we want, however we interpret this general theme. Forty stitchers from around the world will be making pieces and sending them to each other.  When I look at the work that has come out of past swaps... wow!  Some really beautiful, whimsical pieces are being created and shared.

I have been hooked up with two LOVELY stitchers and I could not be more excited about this.

by i_hear_noises

i_hear_noises (a.k.a. Denise) is a playful, inventive stitcher in Cologne, Germany.  I am lucky enough to be the recipient of a piece by her.  I love her wicked, embroidered handkerchiefs!  There is something wonderfully subversive about a pretty, flowered hankie inscribed with "bitch."

by i_hear_noises

Denise has extremely diverse musical tastes (Joy Division, electric and house music, Hip Hop and Motown!) which impress the hell out of me!  She is a university student studying English and social sciences.  I imagine she is a wild but super intelligent young woman.  Her tumblr site has fantastic music videos.  I have a feeling that she will be creating something a bit on the funky side, which I love. Lucky me!

I'm creating a piece for the talented stitcher jojobooster (a.k.a. Jo) in Parau, New Zealand, who sounds like someone I'd love to hang out with if only she didn't live 8,500 (13,200 km) away.

Jo blogs about crafting at The Unexpected Hug.  She has participated in Phat Quarter swaps before, where she made this gorgeous piece for an anatomy-themed swap.

by jojobooster

Jo is a Brit who has relocated to New Zealand.  I love this pillow she made for her mother-in-law that has Maori designs.

by jojobooster

And then she makes plush.... could I just swallow Jo up?! A plush maker who creates charming pieces like this ninja hugging creature?

by jojobooster

My only hope is that I can make something worthy of her wonderful spirit!

So, yeah, I'm kind of excited about this swap. Can you tell?  I have some sketches started and I have a pretty good idea about what I'm going to make, but I can't share it here, which is hard for me.

Taking this post in a different direction (sort of), Juline took me to a super duper fun, black & white themed art party this Sunday in a beautiful home/gallery in Chapel Hill.  The exhibition was from local collectors' black and white photography collections.  I got to see a Harry Calahan original print, which was very cool for me.  He was one of the first photographers whose work really captured my imagination.

Here is a photo of me (right) and Juline at the party.  The spinning light installation in the background is giving me ideas for my embroidered piece for Jo!  Things that go around and around... hmmm....