La Boca - Something New

In the weeks since I finished Spanish Eyes, I've been flitting about, unable to land on a new project.

La Boca. The design for a new. slightly naughty X stitch portrait of my lips. 

La Boca. The design for a new. slightly naughty X stitch portrait of my lips. 

Feeling oddly drawn to working with some new materials, mixing stitching with more solid media, like metal and vinyl. Many experiments and many fails (my drilling skills are non-existent). For personal reasons, I'm going to be out-of-commission for a few weeks, so I won't be able to work on the alternative materials. 

Stitched, redwork words. I'm trying to incorporate these into a metal piece, but so far nothing has worked.

Stitched, redwork words. I'm trying to incorporate these into a metal piece, but so far nothing has worked.

In the meantime, I designed a new x stitch project, La Boca, a slightly naughty image of my own lips. It's a great project to work on while I'm laying low for a few weeks. I'm thinking about submitting it to next year's Stitch Fetish show, but I'm not sure if it's naughty enough.

Is it?

Stones, 2015.

Is there any bliss greater than listening to Jane Austen audiobooks and stitching in the sun?

Stones, 2015. 

Stones, 2015. 

Well, there are lots of kinds of bliss. This is just mine for today.

Finished Stones. Hand embroidery on a watercolor background, 8"x10".

Detail from Stones, 2015.

Detail from Stones, 2015.

Unsure what my next project will be! I'm open to anything. I think I'll take a walk and think.

Rope of chain stitch

When I finished Spanish Eyes, I was adrift, not sure what to work on next. So many ideas for projects, but I had the hardest time focusing and starting something new.

chain 1.jpg

I dug through my portfolio and found this stitched watercolor piece that I'd started a while back but got distracted from. I can't remember by what.

But I'm pleased to have something so repetitive and simple to work on right now. Just ropes of luminous chain stitch, in No. 5 pearl cotton, over a gray and black, bark-like, painted background. 

Sometimes, simplicity is a relief.

Many changes coming to my life in the next few months. I appreciate the stability in my creative practice at this moment. 



RuStitch Rocks San Jose

Strange as it may sound, you enter my tiny Durham apartment through my bedroom. The first thing you see is my bed, with its deep red quilt, and a giant framed print of the RuStitch grid hanging above it.

RuStitch Grid, by 35 artists. Aubrey Longley-Cook, 2013.

So it felt oddly intimate to find the same image I see every day on the homepage of the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.

It's there because Aubrey Longley-Cook's RuStitch x stitch/video art collaboration is now showing at at the museum as part of the exhibition "Common Thread."

I'm thrilled that my piece, Frame 11, is part of the exhibition. Woot!

Here are the details:

March 7, 2015 – July 5, 2015
A Common Thread, Guest Curated by Susan O’Malley

So if you're in San Jose before the 4th of July, go say hi to Ru. In the meantime, watch this awesome video of the finished project.

Can you say penultimate?

No time to celebrate, but my crazy, epic x stitch project has turned the final corner!

Spanish Eyes. WIP 3/13/15.

Last night I finished the penultimate section of Spanish Eyes. One more 50 x 50 stitch section to go!

Stitch code for the final section!

I have no idea what I was thinking when I started this self portrait of my eyes. Why did I design it so huge? (It's 6 x 14.5 inches, or 15.25 x 36.8 cm.) Because I'm insane, I guess. 

Stitching until my fingers are bloody and raw. Ha!

Ok, back to work.

Turn your head, Mami

This is my beautiful, complicated mother Min, at around 30-years-old.

Redwork Mami, 2015. Hand embroidery on cotton.

Mi mami, mi mami. ("Mi mami," because my mother's family is from Puerto Rico.)

Chain stitch detail of her thick, black hair.

I look at this image, based on a photo taken by my Irish-American father, and I'm back in the position of my five-year-old self. The longing I always felt for my mother. The desperate wish that she would turn her head and look at me. Smile at me.

For my parents.

Turn your head, mami. Please.

Vulnerable & confident... with a needle in my hand

You are who you are.

Detail from Redwork Mami, 2015.

I am who I am.

Rinsing. Still stitching.

Confident and still very vulnerable. As an artist, a woman.

Still so many stitches in the Spanish Eyes.

Right now I'm working on a redwork version of my beautiful, complicated mami. And I'm trying to finish Spanish Eyes, which is a piece where my eyes look so much like my mami's.

It is so hard. But I keep moving that needle. Even when I'm sad.

Everything is there, under the thread

I painted this background watercolor of a cold, dark, rainy day. The kind of day that usually wears me down... the grayness of the external world bleeding into me, oppressing me.

Silver & Lead, 2015. Watercolor, graphite and
pearl cotton hand embroidery.

But not that day. I felt passionate and alive. Yellow and red. I could see the bitterness of the atmosphere around me, but it did not touch me.

I wondered at my alchemical good luck. I searched for signs. But I'm a rational person, not prone to believing in mysterious forces. So I found none.

Detail from Silver & Lead, 2015.

But still, I penciled in a few alchemical symbols on the piece, for silver and lead. Fortune and hard work.

8 x 10 inches.

The symbols are there, under the thread. Everything is there, under the thread.

Bascom Hogue Considers my Riff

I’m immensely fortunate to have some amazing artists and writers as online friends. The indomitable Kansas-based artist Bascom Hogue is the spiritual king of my Stitch-U-Verse.

String Box 5, 2015. Distressed watercolor, graphite and pearl cotton
hand embroidery.

Bascom was incredibly generous to write me about these String Boxes. He compared them to a hook or riff, which really resonates with me. So I’m going to borrow his words for this post about my latest String Box.

Detail from String Box 5, 2015.

First he defined the riff. "A musical idea, often a short riff, passage or phrase, either melodic or rhythmic, that is used to make a song appealing, to catch the ear of the listener."

String Box 3, 2014.

Then he explained their power. “And the thing about hooks is that they have an almost neurological effect. They do something to you. They get to you. They push your buttons in a way that's hard to withstand."

String Box 2, 2014. (For Andy)

And he lamented their absence of the riff from the discussion of art making. “It's a pity that useful words like "hook" and "riff" don't find their way more into the discussion of art, because there's some art they can help us to understand.”

WIP: Slightly different spin. Silver and Lead.

Finally Bascom related the concept to my String Boxes. “Take that definition of hook and change ‘musical’ to ‘pictorial.’ It could be a description of the String Box. This work is all hook, it's designed as a simple, strong visual catch; one riff, writ very large. And damnation, it's good.”

Detail from String Box 5, 2015.

Thank you so much, Bascom. I'm beyond grateful for the attention you paid to my work and the incredibly articulate way you described it.

Read a fantastic interview with Bascom on Donkeywolf. And check out Bascom's stunning work!

Blurs and WIPs

Feeling frazzled by work in the salt mines and balancing it all with my creative life. Boring refrain of many of poor chump, I know.  

Plotting a distress watercolor. With graphite and pearl cotton.

But, fuck it. I can complain if I want to. If I need to.

A few stitched before work.

Little time to write, stitch, paint, read, think.

The Eyes are waiting for me.

Stealing time here and there to work on a project.

No time yet to stitch this drippy watercolor.

Practice a stitch.

Experimenting with woven wheel stitch on watercolor. Didn't work. 

Fuck it.

Poking holes when I can't sleep. 

That's the way the fates played out for me.

Shipping Frame 11 for exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Textiles.

Onward ho.

Quick, 80s-themed Seven for the Pi Day Project

The good folks of Vancouver, WA, are organizing a little textile art celebration for Pi Day this year, March 14, 2015. The little nerd that I am, I had to get in on this project.

This is what I call a fast project. 

The ever cool Jamie Mr X Stitch Chalmers turned me on to this project, called the Fiber Numbers of Pi.

Regram from Jamie Chalmers, who recently visited NC.
More on that visit soon!

I stitched up a quick 80s-themed seven for the project.

A gallery of numbers for Pi,
from the Pi Project site.

Don't be shy! The deadline is Feb 14th. Get stitching, fools!

Moonlet and String Diamonds

Finished two new pieces for an art fundraiser at the Compass Center for Women and Families in Chapel Hill.

Moonlet, 2015. Watercolor, hand embroidery.

I'm enjoying painting some patchwork backgrounds and some space-inspired scenes.

String Diamonds, 2015. Watercolor and hand embroidery.

The pieces for this show had to be 5 x 7 inches. Both pieces felt like studies at that size; I'd like to try to make both of these pieces on a much larger scale.

Painting patchworks.

I'm also working on some more muted color background watercolors. But for now, lots of color seems to have captured my imagination.

WIP. Size 12 Pearl Cotton.

Fighting against the gray days of winter. I just love color and pattern.

First Scenes, 2015

WIPs and starts of early 2015. Mostly mute.

Getting back into the early morning strength training, corporate salt mines day job and attempted art making at night... it's not so easy.

WIP, Planet. Watercolor and pearl cotton, hand embroidery.  

New Years Days X stitching on Spanish Eyes (self portrait.)
In my tiny apartment. 

Painting scenes.

Well worn pokes.

Vintage film star trading cards. Inspirational gift to stitch from my friend Mel.

String Box 4. Featured on

Insomnia stitching on planet piece. Watercolor and hand embroidery.
I'm trying, 2015. 

Kwik-E Bliss. Pleasure in seconds.

Some pleasure is in the waiting. Not Kwik-E Bliss.

Kwik-E Bliss., 2014 Mixed media and hand embroidery.

This is the bliss of getting your fix. The kind of fix that you can only get at the convenience store, at dawn, before work.

North Carolina refrigerator repairman and poet Waylon Stefans wrote about his morning stops at the Kwik-E Mart, watching the amazing relief of his fellow patrons getting their addictions fed ahead of their drives into work.

Playing the Mega Millions (here, in stitch) was Waylon's greatest bliss.

The first golden bite into a Honey Bun, the salty crunch of the pork rind, the gentle hum of the Red Bull lighting up your brain... And then there is the sweet kiss of nicotine filling your lungs. Bliss. Enchantment.

Some of these fixes extend beyond the transaction with the clerk at the counter. Take Waylon's greatest fix of all -- playing the lottery.

Every day, before driving to his day job, the repairman/poet purchased three scratch-off lottery tickets and four Mega Millions plays. His truck was filled with lists of numbers to be played. There was always the slightly soggy silver powder from the scratch-offs, mixed with orange Cheese Doodle crumbs, on the filtered tips of the Marlboros in his ashtray.

Painted Cheese Doodles and layered bits of lottery tickets on the card.

The pleasures of the lottery stayed with Waylon, day and night. Imagining what he would do with his winnings was worth the $12 he spent every day.

The year before Waylon died (of a heart attack, alone in his truck in the driveway of his Durham home), Thirteen Blackbird Press published this collection of his poetry. It was his sole publication. His numbers never hit.

(From my faux library catalog card collection for made-up books.)

String Box 4, for my brother and his beautiful family

String Box 4, 2014. Watercolor and hand embroidery.

I know I'm a little obsessed with these String Boxes. I can't believe that I've only made four, because there is something about the contrast of the wild colors of the watercolors and the precise structure of the embroidered boxes that makes me happy.

Another view. Which way is up?

String Box 4 was made for my brother Joe and sister-in-law Charisse. My family is small (my parents, my brother, sister-in-law and my two nephews, who live in Austin.) 

To be honest, sometimes all of the smiling family Christmas photos on Facebook make me feel left out. I don't have children of my own. I'm divorced. I have the desire for a big family, but it wasn't in the cards for me. Although I'm a non-traditional person, I'm not immune to longing for what I don't have. People who have children are so lucky.

WIP. Stitching the crosshairs. 

But what I DO have is amazing. Joe, Charisse, Kelsey, Hudson and my parents, Peter and Min. They are all so loving and kind to me. They all make me feel like I belong to them. They take care of me. I wish I could take care of them, too. 

Before the first stitch.

All I can do is share my love with them (I try to be a good aunt, sister and daughter) and make them things. And String Box 4 is what I made for Joe & Charisse, who bailed me out of an enormous abyss this year. I can never thank them enough. 

Another view of String Box 4, 2014.

This is all I have to give. 

Now Showing - Threads of War

By crazy coincidence, a portion of the Denmark-based collaborative art project in which I participated, In a War Someone has to Die, is currently on display in Raleigh. And I'm thrilled that my piece is in the show.

One of the loveliest pieces from In a War. Artist unknown.

Curated by Betsy Greer, the Threads of War exhibition also includes textile art by Bonnie Peterson and work from the Combat Paper Project, in which a military wife, soldiers and civilians make paper out of worn military uniforms.

In a War, installed by Betsy Greer.

I never expected to see this work again. It has been shown several times in Copenhagen. Betsy did a wonderful job installing the collection in Gallery Two at Artspace in Raleigh, NC.
In a War, by Jamie "Mr X" Chalmers.

Selection of languages, textiles. Regram from Andy Bechtel.

One of the highlights of attending the opening was meeting Betsy in person and spending time speaking with her about the individual embroideries. We geeked out together, marveling at the needlework, variety of textiles and beauty of the stitched languages. What a lovely, passionate, interesting woman Betsy is.
In a War. Artists unknown.

(More about the uber cool Betsy: She is a writer, a researcher, and a maker. She earned her MA in Sociology from Goldsmiths College in London in 2004. She is the author of Knitting for Good! and most recently, Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism.)

Variety. Mine is the pink piece with blue and green flowers.

On a personal note I was struck by how much my stitching has improved since I made the piece in 2012. And I was moved almost to tears to see my mother’s handwriting, which I stitched, in her first language, Spanish. My mother has the most beautiful, looping, unusual way of writing.
Satin stitch Arabic. Artist unknown.

Here are the exhibition details: Threads of War, Artspace, Gallery Two
, 201 East Davie Street, Raleigh, NC
, December 5, 2014 – January 17, 2015

Another Fake Library Card, mofos!

Edgy little Kat di Natale always knew that the rest of us would eventually recognize the genius of her "mofo" critique of early 21st Century life. And here is the proof -- Harper Collins gave her a book deal!

Another faux library catalog card for a made up book.

"Merry Xmas, Mofos!" is the first in what she expects will be a delicious series of guidebooks for the "world weary poseur."

Where else can you learn about using Instagram filters to gussy up the looks of your hideously ugly relatives and their evil spawn? Or find tips for the best way to remain on the functioning side of drunkeness at family gatherings? Martha Stewart? Yeah, right.

WIP: Merry Xmas, Mofos! Watercolor and hand embroidery on card stock. 

di Natale is currently living in her step-grandmother's basement up in suburban Toledo, working on the pitch for her next title, "Trolling Yourself on Twitter for Sympathy and Buzz, Mofos!"

Go, Kat, go!

Naïve? Clueless? Arrogant?

Naïve? Clueless? Arrogant?

WIP: 11/5/14. More than halfway done.

I’m not sure which quality is the most responsible for me taking on this insanely huge piece. Probably a little of all three.

Spanish Eyes has turned into my "Epic Art Project" of 2014.  This is my first X stitch design and only my second X stitch project. (The first being the RuStitch project with Aubrey Longley-Cook.) So clueless is probably the best explanation. Or the least unflattering.

"Money shot." Stitching baby pink floss (4 strands) for the "whites" of my left eye.

The downside is that sometimes I feel less like an artist and more like a machine. But you have to put in the work to create anything, so it that’s how it goes.

Overview of Spanish Eyes.

Since I have a busy, corporate day job and a life full of people I care about, I haven’t had as much time to paint or sketch or play with new ideas. When I have time to focus on art, I sit patiently and stitch my eyes. Not that I don’t enjoy it. Not that it doesn’t excite me to do the work. It is just not so interesting to share with others.

So be it. Head down, keep working.