This is where it started.

Someone asked me where I got my skills with fabric. The short answer? It’s a disease, contracted from my mother, who got it from hers, who presumably got it from hers.

When I was 8, I wanted a soft-sculptured adoption doll. They cost around $250 — even back then — so my mother said she wouldn’t buy me one but she’d get the materials and teach me how to make one. I had been doing handwork for a couple years (cross-stitch and embroidery), but this was the first thing I made on the machine:

Emily

I did ALL of it myself, the summer between 3rd and 4th grades. She’s quite obviously been well-loved — she went with me to summer camp (which is where the nametag came from), and to spend the night with people, etc. The dress she’s wearing is one that I wore as a baby. Might even be my “coming home” outfit, though Mom can’t remember if it was this one or another pink one that I came home in.

Here are her toes — notice that the left foot has more than 5 because of the way the fabric puckered…

Toes

And her eyes, handpainted with acrylics (following the instructions in the booklet about how to paint them — I didn’t come up with that on my own). I also sewed on her hair (lovely how dusty it is now — ick!) by hand.

eyes

At our rehearsal dinner, Mom brought out the doll and tried to embarrass me with it, but it didn’t work. I’m very proud of that doll, because I remember it being VERY hard to do, and yet I stuck with it and finished it.

The next year, Mom and a few of her friends taught my brownie troupe how to make these pillows. Cross-stitching was taught by my mom, and blackwork, embroidery, and quilting were taught by her friends.

pillow

These are the colors that were in my room growing up. I made all of that pillow by myself, including attaching the ruffles.

When I was 11 I made a matching lap quilt that Mom still has over at her house. It’s sunbleached on one side. And Mom made a bedquilt (full-sized) with all of those same fabrics — her very first quilt, actually.

Mom has a BFA in Interior Design, and is very gifted with color and design. I’ve often wondered what the world looks like through her eyes, because she must see things differently than I do. We’ve gotten into many philosophical discussions about that, too. I even tried to write a story in college from the viewpoint of a gifted artist, but couldn’t figure out where to go with it, but it was very definitely inspired by my mother and how I believe she must see things around her: everything in paintstrokes and shocks of color. Mom’s very strongest gift is with color — she’s very talented at using color to evoke emotion, rhythm, movement… We talk a lot about it, actually.

I was surrounded by art growing up — painting, fabric, yarn, etc. Mom made sure we were exposed to lots of different art forms and mediums, and she has HUGE volumes of reference material on the great masters, so I was studying Michelangelo and Degas and van Gogh from a very young age. Completely fascinated by art and how artists put things together.

At this point, I’m still finding my artistic voice. I’m getting closer with scrapbooking, but I’m still just dipping my toes into the pool with quilting, because I haven’t branched very far out on my own yet. I still use others’ designs and visions, rather than trusting my own. But every year finds me a little more confident and a little more willing to try something wild and different.

Long story short: I’m a product of my environment. I was raised by two very creative parents — an artist and a scientist (physician).

I blame them for my freakish need to make things all. the. time.

5 thoughts on “This is where it started.”

  1. Oh my. Emily is beautiful. You have a stick-to-it-iveness that is admirable. While the rest of us flit from one project to the next you actually get stuff done. MANY STUFFS DONE. I’m exhausted just reading your last two entries 🙂

  2. I love this story. Rachel wants to learn to sew, and I know she will never regret learning, especially after all she’s created in pottery the past 3 years. I love little six-toed Emily!

  3. I remember Emily! I still have the little pillow you taught me how to make… remember that? You were the one who taught me how to draw “Really Beautiful Princesses!” I can still remember your Mom patiently trying to teach me how to knit. I wish I had contracted a bit of your disease… your talent never ceases to amaze me my friend! You definitely inspire me!

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