Exploring Folk Art with Wool: An Interview with Kelsey Anilee Smith
As many of you know, my third book is about to come out. Many of you have already pre-ordered it from me, and I can't tell you how thrilled I am to get it into your hands. To satiate your curiosity about the book, I am doing little mini-interviews with each of the book's collaborators. I share in the book about how I met each one and about our friendship, but I want to give you a taste for each collaborator's work individually. We'll start with someone many of you know, because she works for me, is my co-author, and she's my daughter! Let's take a peek at Kelsey's work today.
1. How did you get into embroidery? How long have you been doing this?
"I was a no-sew kind of girl for a long time—my medium was ink and watercolor. On a trip with mom right after I graduated from school I was bored, and started a mini appliqué project. I enjoyed it, but I realized I really liked the decorative stitches. That’s what started me into embroidery. I did one pattern from Yumiko Higuchi (Her work is amazing! My version of her pattern looked, well...ok.) and then immediately began designing my own patterns for myself. I started making these little necklaces that I sell at shows about 3 years ago, and then I started making other things, too. Working with mom, I was exposed to the world of teaching and pattern-making, so I started making a few patterns to go up on my Etsy store, along with other finished pieces."
2. What inspires your designs? How do you choose what to create?
"My design inspiration comes from two main sources: antique folk art and nature. I love the outdoors, and I love exploring the pieces of the past. I want to create things that give me a sense of delight, with a nod to the past and a touch of whimsy. So lots of flowers and vines, critters and birds show up in my work—especially flowers."
3. What are some “must-have” tools or materials for this technique?
"I’m a bit of a free spirit when I embroider. Sometimes I use a hoop…and sometimes I don’t. I will try any thread I can get my hands on, and I will try to stitch on anything that resembles fabric. I think that I actually would say that the ultra fine Micron pen (.5 pt) is essential for me. I’ve tried tons of transfer methods, but nothing beats tracing with an extra fine tip permanent pen for me. I put a lot of thread on my pieces, so it never shows through. You just have to be extra careful when you trace."
4. Who is an artistic influence for you (dead or alive)?
"It might seem like a cliché answer, but I am very inspired by Monet. Obviously, my work doesn’t look anything like his, but he did not just paint in a bubble. He went outside, he worked in his garden (he was actually an excellent gardener, nearly more a gardener than a painter), and he painted what he lived. I want my designs to blossom out of my life, and reflect the things I see and love to do. I want to be almost a better gardener than stitcher of flowers, or better at seeing beauty than actually creating something beautiful."