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Not everything is a's why

"Geauga Native" by Rebekah L. Smith

We have had many people ask about this wooly. Inspired by the place Rebekah lives, this piece has more of herself and her surroundings in it than most pieces. Each leaf, a native species to Northeastern Ohio, contains native species of flowers, birds, and mammals. The motifs were carefully chosen to bring little pieces of the outside world into Rebekah’s home. It is an unusually large and highly detailed wool appliqué. Sometimes a piece comes out better than you expect, and so it was for Rebekah with this wooly. The hand-dyed colors and stitched details give it a life beyond simply depicting nature. It is, in my opinion, one of her masterpieces. It combines a sense of place, a love for nature, a connection to the land, and a mastering of a craft.

For those reasons, this piece will never be a pattern. We have had so many questions about this piece, wondering if and when it will be available. Usually we take that as an indication that it should be made into a pattern—and we do take your recommendations seriously. But this piece is not a pattern. It was made as a unique piece of art.

Rebekah began as a folk artist, painting individual pieces for sale. When you begin as an artist who creates one-of-a-kind pieces, moving to pattern design can be challenging. A unique work of art is the design goal for an artist. All decisions are made for the one piece. Rebekah began designing and creating wool appliqué pieces as an artist. She created unique pieces for people to enjoy in their homes. This is why you see a number of appliqué pieces on Pinterest that have no patterns. These pieces were never intended for patterns; they were simply pieces made for one home.

As she began to sell more of her wool appliqué creations, people began to make inquiries. “Is there a pattern for this?” they would ask. And Rebekah was taken by surprise. No one had ever asked for a pattern of her painted pieces, which is where her art began. As the questions continued, she began to see there was a whole other side in textiles unlike painting. There was a community of people who wanted to make things, they just needed a pattern.

Creating designs for patterns is a whole new way of thinking. The design must be unique and beautiful, but also versatile and pattern-friendly. This adds another dimension to the creative process. Not only does the artist have to create a design, she has to create a process that others can replicate.

The practical issue that arises is a different process of design. Notes and measurements must be taken, patterns that can be duplicated are made and kept safe, and the process must be tested to ensure that others can follow the directions and obtain the same outcome. The artist is not only thinking of her own desires in creating the piece, she is thinking of others and how they will be able to participate in the life of the piece. In a more realistic way, you can imagine the disappointment when Rebekah shows me a pattern she designed, and I say “that’s lovely Mom, but it won’t fit on an 8 ½ by 11.” And back to the drawing board she goes.

There is a tension, then, that remains between creating art and creating patterns: they are very different. Pure art, as we will call it, is to be enjoyed by someone for its individuality. A pattern is made to be repeatedly made. The piece is no longer the artist’s alone: those who recreate it have taken part in the process and take a part in the life of the design. This is what is both amazing and exhausting about designing for purchase. It can be incredibly satisfying to bring people together and allow them to take part in the creative process. But sometimes it feels like giving little pieces of yourself away. How does the artist maintain balance then? She must be sure not to give everything away.

I write this not to disappoint you, but rather as an open window into the world of Rebekah’s designs. We hope you enjoyed a glimpse inside her artistic process. Next time we let you know that something won’t be a pattern, I hope you’ll remember this post and say to yourself “Oh--it was art!”

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