Turning the Page

January buzzed by without one word from me. Considering that it was my blog “anniversary” month, now at three years of babbling, I feel a bit disappointed I’d let it slide, but I won’t be too hard on myself. It was only a temporary blog pause that was necessary to make way for the “new”.

My recent leg injury forced a few changes that have helped me take a good, hard look at where I’m headed. Although I’ve always felt it best to live in the moment, I think I had been a bit too ignorant of particular consequences.   Artists are like that.   If not for keen focus, many contracted works of the masters would not be completed. (The Sistine Chapel might be bare, if not for Michelangelo‘s passionate discipline.) But there comes a time for all of us creative types when the reality hits – when you realize your own creative needs are being neglected while everything that you are accomplishing is for someone else. Yes, getting paid to be “someone else’s pencil” is pretty cool and a great way to make a living, but there has to be balance. Without equalizing the playing field of creating for self as much as for others, one might be led to cut off an ear.

Self Portrait - Vincent Van Gogh(Okay, so I’ve heard that Van Gogh actually may have lost his ear at the hand of his rival Gauguin, but it definitely reveals the time bomb reactions that can churn inside the frustrated mind of a working artist.)

During the last few months, I found it impossible to take on any new custom digitizing orders and I couldn’t even allow myself to give an “I’ll be back” notice. Instead I placed an announcement on my web site stating, “Custom services are no longer available.” And after all the changes that occurred in January, I’ve decided that notice will remain permanently. No, I am not leaving the embroidery industry. I am simply putting custom services at Moonlight Design to rest.

Actually, I’ve been planning my retirement days since I purchased my first digitizing system at the shocking cost of $25,000 (in 1995 that was considered a bargain – one half the cost of the previous decade). At that time I was employed as the in-house puncher for a 50-head embroidery shop, Write-On Embroidery, a great place to work, run by wonderful employers. But I was looking to find a way to work from a home office, believing I’d be more productive in my solitary peace, away from daily business interruptions and roaring machines. I was also hoping to establish my future “retirement job”. (Who in today’s world can completely retire? Besides, I’d shrivel without a job to wake up to, and flipping Mc-Burgers or greeting Wal-Mart customers are not of my forte. I am more capable of creating their logo and need those particular folks to make my lunch and point me in the right direction. Alas, we each have an important purpose in this world.)

The only way to afford such a luxury of having my own digitizing equipment was to take on custom orders, which indeed helped pay for the machine, computers and necessary software programs. When the payments were complete, I found myself obligated to an established client base whose work generated profits on a roller coaster margin as it followed the erratic economy. During the up years, it was necessary to resign my position at the embroidery shop, and then during the down years I had a choice: walk away from digitizing completely and find another line of work; or market, market, market and work a zillion hours to meet a zillion deadlines in order to stay afloat. I chose the latter. I didn’t get much sleep.

So a few years ago, I decided to take a part-time position working from my home office as a customer service rep for EmbroideryDesigns.com, which offered a steady income to count on when custom orders were slow. Every day since I’ve enjoyed conversations with EmbroideryDesign.com’s customers who need help shopping the web site, using their designs, and while sharing my knowledge about everything embroidery. In return, I discover what embroiderers like or don’t like or what they want to see on the design market – inspiration for my own stock design sales. They reveal their hair-pulling woes, offering ideas for my articles in Stitches Magazine or issues I can address in this blog. And at the same time, I am representing the work of some of the highest quality digitizers; many of whom I’m fortunate enough to call a colleague and whose work I respect with the highest regard. I love that job!

Last November when I injured my leg, I was suddenly forced to reduce the hours I sat in front of a computer each day, and even though it was during the time of year that custom orders bring in the highest profit, choosing to work only for EmbroideryDesigns.com was the most logical decision to make. What a wonderful freedom I had found – no burning the midnight oil to meet those “yesterday” deadlines or contacting clients with the disappointing statement of “sorry for the delay”. It even allowed for more time “playing” with the ever-evolving I-Cliqq software, taking my time and having fun with my own creative expressions.

So recently, when I was offered a full-time position at EmbroideryDesigns.com, I accepted without hesitation. I’m not sure how my physical time clock is going to handle 8:30-5:30, Monday thru Friday. My body and brain may very well panic, but it’s time for me to take charge of such things. I have to look at the bright side. For the first time in years I will be working a routine schedule of weekends off and will actually have opportunity for those 4-day weekends that I hear most folks cheer over; not to mention I’ll finally understand the true meaning of TGIF. But I doubt if I’ll be a Monday hater – without a day to begin a new work-week, surely, the alternative would be to sit idle, feeling useless. No, thank you.

Digitized by Machine Embroidery Designs

I admit I have had a bit of an argument with myself with this decision, fearing I might be deserting a few favored clients, but I am wise enough to know I am not the only master digitizer out there who can handle their work. I’ve never been a competitor, but a team player, and I’m most confident my colleagues, as well as the promising new punchers, won’t mind if I leave custom services to them.  After all, I’m not closing the book, but simply sailing on to the next chapter.  

Today, I saw a status on my Facebook stream that said something similar to: “I’ve reached that age where my brain went from You probably shouldn’t do that to what the hell, let’s see what happens.” Yeah, that’s where I’m at. The future may hold a bit of mystery, but I’m now quite certain that I won’t be cutting off my ear any time soon – or anyone else’s, for that matter. 🙂

Advertisements

Inspiration in the Woods

© 2012 B. Landsberger“Look deep, deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything.” – Albert Einstein

During sunny seasons I want to lay in a patch of violets and clover, look up through the trees at the blue sky and watch puffy, white clouds float by. But I know better. My allergy problems are so unpredictable during the warmest seasons and I’ve had to accept that “smelling the roses” is not always the wisest activity for me. I allow myself to get caught up in the daily indoor grind, while stifling the feeling of being cheated out of outdoor pleasures. It’s not until the temps drop to the 60s and leaves © 2012 B. Landsbergermorph from the deepest greens to earth tones of orangey-reddish-browns that I’m pulled outside uncontrollably with the hope to find something remaining of Summer’s splendor.

Last week my big break finally arrived and I dashed out for a © 2012 B. Landsbergerwalk in the woods, camera in hand, hoping to capture the sustaining summery stuff. And indeed I found a few flowers, bees and a bunny or two that scattered faster than I could point and shoot. Startled by my rare presence in their domain, they sprang from under fallen branches and dove into the surrounding brush or below another pile of fallen branches. © 2012 B. Landsberger

© 2012 B. LandsbergerThe storms and flash floods in recent months have certainly made their mark. Splintered branches are dangling overhead, tethered by spiraling grape vines as thick as the branches they entwine. 

Many of the stately trunks bare scars that © 2012 B. Landsbergercause the mind’s eye to see faces with expressions frozen in time, revealing the pain endured when their branches were ripped away.  Their scars display the © 2012 B. Landsbergerstruggles that they had no other choice than to push through, and push they always do. I imagine it’s one reason they can survive for hundreds of years.

Some “tree expressions” take on a more extra terrestrial appearance after woodpeckers have their way, digging for bugs and creating coves perfect for winter nests – one of many ways Nature takes care of herself.

© 2012 B. Landsberger

Nothing goes to waste in Nature. That which falls to the forest floor is always put to good use as shelter for a variety of critters or it serves another purpose, as the fallen leaves that blanket the wild grasses, insuring the forest floor will return in Spring.

And there’s just something special © 2012 B. Landsbergerabout dead wood. Not one piece looks like the other; each with its own unique details of © 2012 B. Landsbergerlines and dots in a swirling grain of marbling tones.  I could meditate, ogling these images for hours, studying the shapes and flows of colors as the inspiration is absorbed.  It takes me on a non-drug induced, artistic high, reduces my stress factor, while at the same time, ideas are born … peaceful, yet motivating. And of course, I even ponder how these wonders might be digitized for embroidery or how to describe them in words. I find each piece of dead wood unique with a “story” that is incredibly fascinating.

So too is the bark of a living tree that continues to stretch and crack, evolving into vignettes of merging images only the mind’s eye can see.

© 2012 B. LandsbergerToo often I overlook the most brilliant beauty around me, believing if I don’t see what I yearn to see, then the beauty must not exist. But when I recognize the beauty that does exist – when I really look – it’s amazing!

“Look deep, deep deep into nature.”  What do you see?

[I see many things in the bark of this tree — turtles, faces, snakes, butterflies, Leprechauns, Angels, Jesus and more.]

all images © 2012 B.Landsberger ARR

Celebrating with Art & Spirit

Last week when I officially became one of the golden oldies, I decided a break from the office was in order, even if it was a work day.  It was my birthday. I had the right.  Right?  So camera in hand, I set off to enjoy the blue-sky day, in 70-75 degree temps, and with no signs of allergy-triggered sneezing to stop me.

Facebook Photo – Red Wing Visitor and Convention Center

My first stop was at the Red Wing Arts Association Depot Gallery to capture the view beyond the railroad tracks that run behind the building. If you’ve never visited the RWAA Depot Gallery, understand that the building is exactly that – a neoclassical depot style that once served Chicago, Milwaukee and Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad, where folks passed through the front door to buy tickets and then out the back door to board the train. Built in 1905 it was restored in 1990 and the building is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It continues to be an Amtrak stop and houses the Red Wing Visitors and Convention Bureau, as well as the office for the Red Wing Art Association.

I could have walked around the building for a pic, but walked inside with another agenda, hoping an art exhibit I’d heard about that had started on May 5th was still there.  A sign greeted me just inside the door, “Visions and Viewpoints – Artwork of the Dakota and Ojibwe People.” It described the free exhibition as a collection of works created by a dozen talented Native American artists. I had missed the events of the opening day that the director described as “awesome”, but although there were no story tellers and dancers on this quiet weekday (as great as that would have been to see) I wasn’t disappointed.  I came for the artwork that sang its own songs and danced its own stories.

There’s just something that tugs at me when I see Native American art. Maybe it’s the impressive works that depict Nature or the materials used from Nature, or maybe it’s the history and inspirational stories each item tells without saying one word.  Perhaps it’s the feeling of Spirit that exudes from the most beautiful, vibrant color combinations ever known to my eyes.  Or it could be that it’s simply a genetic thing, passed down from my Oneida great-grandmother.  But no matter what it is, it is

I turned toward the exhibition rooms while whispering, “Happy Birthday to me!”

The dance regalia held my attention for quite some time, being that I’m drawn to anything stitched. Without a crowd to weave and peak through, I was able to linger and mosey up close to examine every detail.

“Holy stitches!”  my self proclaimed.

Much of the work was not hand embroidery, nor was it embroidered on a computerized machine via a digitized file. The work was clearly free motion (or freehand) machine embroidery – a process that requires a high degree of control and patience, as well as time to achieve the intended shapes without distorting elements. (At least, that’s my opinion derived from one unforgettable experience of failed attempts.)

I bowed in deepest respect to artist Dana Goodwin’s dance shawl “Modern Woodland Floral”, a breathtaking combination of applique, embroidery and serious bling!

Other shawls of beautifully stitched stories adorned the walls, such as one by Chholing Taha, “Moose with Tree of Life” as seen at her website: Shawl Lady Dot Com.

The exhibit by a dozen Native American talented artists including paintings, sculptures and beadwork that reflects their culture, will be on exhibit in the Vogel Gallery at the RWAA Depot Gallery until June 24th.

Exhibiting artists: Nakoma Volkman, MN; Frank Big Bear, MN; Pat and Gage Kruse, WI; JoAnne Bird, SD; Laura Youngbird, MN; Chholing Taha, MN; Dyani Reynolds-White Hawk, MN; Charles Hilliard, MN-WI; Lori Ann Biggs, IN; John K. Sterner; Dana Goodwin and Dennis Williams, MN.

Artwork of the Dakota and Ojibwe PeopleAs for a photo of the view from behind the Depot, this is as close as I got. Lingering inside with this awe-inspiring exhibition of art and Spirit – “Views and Viewpoints” – cut my visit short.   It’s okay.  The outside view will always be there.

I proceeded to take an enjoyable little road trip along the Mississippi to Lake City for lunch on the shore of Lake Pepin. And that was only half of my celebration of gratitude for making it one more year, but I’ll save the rest for another time.  For now, let me just say, Day One of 60 was a very fine day, indeed!

Photos – “Visions and Viewpoints” Exhibition posted with RWAA Depot Gallery permission.

Stitches Magazine is 25!

Back in 1986 I was a contented, part-time print artist without one thought about machine embroidery. It was a nice, peaceful few hours each week at a custom print and embroidery shop where I could get lost in the black ink on white paper that would be magically turned to colors by sublimation or screen-print ink. Ah yes, it’s amazing what can happen with a technical pen while the mind flies away into the rainbow gardens.

Then one day my boss approached me with the proposition of full time hours if I could learn how to use the Melco Digitrac®. (See History at Wikipedia Machine Embroidery.) I looked over at the tall easel-like monstrosity with a sliding T-square shaped crossbar and input pad with a transparent plastic bulls eye that moved on an X-Y axis, devouring the space next to the Melco Super Star embroidery machine, daisy chained to a floppy drive, as well as a tape punch machine. “Ummm, I don’t think so.”

Understand, I already had a career as the local hospital’s head cook and I would soon become the kitchen supervisor after finishing one more month of school for certification. I was set. It was too late in the game for me to start a new thing. He gave me a key to the shop and the manual and told me to “play” any time I could fit it in, and then decide.  “I have school,” I protested.

This is your school,” he replied, with a gesture towards the monstrosity.  Well, what artist addicted to hand embroidery wouldn’t be curious enough to accept the opportunity for at least the experience?!  So I did. And it didn’t take long – a few days, maybe a week – when I knew I would no longer be creating menus and cracking eggs every morning.

But it wasn’t easy!  Back in those days (omg, I’m starting to sound like Grandma!) we didn’t have personal computers, much less the Internet. There were no schools or books for “punching” which was the common term then for “digitizing”, evolving from the tape punch process it required. We thought it a grand transition when we moved up to the floppy drive – the big one that really flopped. Without editing software or even a personal computer, trial and error was the only real teacher. I taped a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the Digitrac and insisted on working evenings to avoid interruptions. Other employees who had a message or question for me knew enough to stand quietly in my peripheral vision until I turned to speak with them, and if they didn’t … well … it wasn’t pretty.

So that first year was quite intense with late nights, punching and watching every stitch sew simultaneously on the machine, which I also had to learn how to operate and maintain to be sure in my testing of work on different fabrics, stabilizers and thread weights that any error was not caused by the punching that created the design. Back then there was absolutely no way to cancel a punched function without eliminating all of the work, so I learned to create very small files to avoid those duh-moments like forgetting to punch the needle down and watching the machine dance in the air for 15 minutes after an hour of digitizing. Then the small files were combined by writing a program using the machine’s keyboard – a process done very carefully, because the only way to test the program was by running the machine – a time and material waster if the program had errors. And I pushed my tenacious self through the turmoil of fabric puckers, columns too wide or too thin, the use of underlay where and why, thread breaks, gaps between objects, disappearing stitches, loose stitches and unraveling stitches, stitches too short or too long, and coverage too sparse or too dense. And I’ll spare you what was involved in creating “special stitches” of motifs and patterns in fills that were created only by manually sectioning each element into multiple objects. Needless to say, I desperately struggled while sinking deep into the land of stitched woes!

And then … that glorious moment arrived when my boss placed into my hands the very first issue of Stitches Magazine. I swear, I heard the angels sing! I wore out the pages of that issue, finding the answers to a year’s worth of built up questions. Since then, each issue has brought a continuous stream of ideas and solutions for all of us in this industry, and personally, I can honestly say I couldn’t have gotten as far without it!

So, with the deepest of my own gratitude and on behalf of those who struggled their way up and through this industry, allow me to wish Stitches Magazine a well-deserved and sincere congratulations on 25 years!

This also seems to be an appropriate time to announce that entries are now being accepted for this year’s Stitches Golden Needle Awards! There are a couple of new exciting rules that will leave no excuse for not giving it a go. From the editor, Nicole Rollender:

Enter the Stitches Golden Needle Awards Today

Our challenge to you: Enter ONE design in this year’s Stitches Golden Needle Awards for embroidery and digitizing excellence. Choose the best work that you currently have and show it off to us. We want to make this year’s contest the best we’ve ever had: http://bit.ly/gAzZ4W

Remember, you don’t have to fit this project into your schedule – just submit the best stuff you’ve already done!!!

And on another stitch … in regard to the announcement in my last blog about Moonlight’s Design Shoppe soon to close, I’ve found it’s necessary to change the word “soon” to “in the near future”. Disassembling a sister domain of e-commerce without affecting the other sister domain for a custom digitizing service, I’ve discovered, will take a bit longer than expected. (I’ll whine about that process another day.) So, in the mean time, I will continue to deliver sales and will see about dusting off some of the cyber-cobwebs with a few page upgrades, but for now, my new stock designs will be introduced each month exclusively at Masterpiece Embroidery. (A big welcome to the newest member of the group, award winning digitizer, Erich Campbell who submitted three wonderful designs to this month’s collection!)  Masterpiece Embroidery is the place to shop for embroiderers looking to increase their stock library with high quality designs created by 15 skilled digitizers at an unbelievable price of $9.99 – and that’s the total cost for over 30 designs! No memberships necessary, no sneaky fees – just one short month before the price changes, so don’t delay!

Till next time kids, keep on stitchin’! 🙂

Tree Buds, Dust Bunnies & Finding the Right Stitch

It’s been awhile since my last post, so allow me to back up a couple of weeks to the first official day of Spring, something that happened quite early here in the Midwest this year. Business had been unusually busy, and it was interfering with my seasonal habit of venturing out to the garden when the time was right. It was obvious the calendar and Nature had decided that the time was right and I was not yet ready. It set me in somewhat of a panic.  I’d had all orders but one caught up and had run into a brick wall, turning creativity into a ragged discombobulated mess. So, I ventured into the kitchen to take a break from the puzzle by finding something domestic to strike off the To-Do list.

While gazing out of my kitchen window, trying to distract myself from the tub of dirty dishes my hands were trying to make disappear, I thought of how dismal the bare tree branches seemed against Winter’s left-overs of a drab, dry, greenish-golden background. There hadn’t been enough snow all season to appropriately blanket and compliment a leafless tree. Everything looked dead. Oddly depressing, to say the least.

To lift my spirits I set imagination in motion, while picturing the lush beauty of the apple tree filled with delicate, white blossoms. It won’t be long, I consoled myself, but first there must be leaves, and for that we need buds. Little specks of green suddenly poked out from the grey tips as if dancing to the musical notes of a song, many popping up in close unison to greet the sun. I blinked with the assumption that my imagination had gone into overdrive. It was a good call, considering the green of the specks were about the same tone of green that dominated the design I’d been digitizing. But then the little specks turned into larger dots, and eventually, I realized I’d just witnessed my apple tree budding – something one can go a life time without seeing unless it’s in a video. Cool!

It brought to mind motivational speaker, Dr. Wayne Dyer’s thought provoking statement, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Well, perhaps this particular situation was simply nature being nature, but it was cool – and a darn good way to bring attention to Dr. Dyer’s most recent work, Wishes Fulfilled. Earlier, I had seen a few minutes of his public television presentation and heard him say another statement I’d been chanting while tackling the design, “If you want to accomplish something, you have to expect it from yourself.”

Well said, Dr. Dyer!  Perhaps that’s why I have dust bunnies in the corners of the steps that lead to the Man Cave. I expect the clean-up to get done by nagging at my hubby. (Yeah, like that has ever really worked in the history of man and wife.) He doesn’t notice so he obviously doesn’t expect it of himself and I certainly don’t expect it of myself, though occasionally he will claim the little bunnies are made up of thread scraps, putting the fuzzball in my court. I think not, dear sir! So there remains the little clumps of cobwebs and dust, knitted together with cat hairs – little furry critters that nag at me, and then I nag at hubby, and so goes the circle.    But, I digress.

At first examination of the artwork of the design I was working on, it hadn’t hit me as something too exciting, but it appeared quite elementary – a few common elements against a background of a faint gradient blend and colors in close tones ranging from yellow to green. Piece of cake, I thought with a slightly smug confidence. After all I’d digitized this type of logo more times than I could recall. And after 26 years of punching, I expected it of myself.

But what I had originally, so quickly assumed to be an easy job, soon became apparent that the artwork needed something to make it pop. Without it, the design in thread would sit like a flat, drab, boring patch of the same tone that would swallow the inside elements, even if nicely stitched. The embroiderer shared that thought, suggesting a pattern fill background to help separate it from the inside elements. The finished design would be sewn on sturdy fabric, but the size was fairly large, so I wanted to keep the stitch count down. And there began the quandary that led to days of test-sewing different pattern fills till I found one that would please my eye – a wavy pattern that seemed appropriate for the elements set at a long stitch length.

The embroiderer was pleased.   I was not.  There remained something uncomfortable to my eye. I had become so distracted by trying to improve the appearance of the background that I’d failed to foresee how the inside elements had became over-shadowed by the pattern. Changing it to a flat fill background with a shorter stitch length would bring out the inside elements, but it could add a ton of additional stitches, along with the fact it presented the possibility of buckling.  As well, I personally thought it just wouldn’t look so hot. What to do? And then, I literally awoke one night with the idea that a see-through crosshatch pattern seemed perfect for the situation. A light density of stitching offers color and detail, but even though it’s attractive, it doesn’t overpower the inside elements. All it requires is being sewn on a fabric color that works with the colors of the design – perhaps an applique to offer color without becoming the immediate focus, and plus, it’s achieved at a low stitch count.    I thought it was perfect.    The embroiderer thought not.     … sigh

I returned to using the pattern fill and stayed in tune with the wishes of the embroiderer, whom I believe has a better artistic judgement when dealing with thread. Embroiderers have more hands on experience with thread color, whereas, digitizers spend more hours gazing at monitor colors – it’s just the way it is. Put that together with the fact that this particular embroiderer has produced some pretty nice work, and her judgement was not in my mind to question.  But I couldn’t shake the feeling there had to be more. So while discussing the possibilities with her I studied the image of her sewn sample and noted that I really liked the fabric she’d chosen to test the design on – it really was a shame to cover it up. And then it was as if the light bulb went on in both our heads at the same time as our vision of the finished design came together, by heading in an entirely different direction. We simply needed to eliminate the majority of the background stitches all together and let the fabric work for the design.

Sometimes – perhaps, most times – as the good doctor suggests, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Happy Spring!

February Moonlight & a Month to Observe

Snow MoonThe full moon this week has brightened the night sky as if to proclaim the glory of February!  Seems appropriate considering all the events and celebrations – a list too long for this post – but allow me to touch on a few …

The rising moon caused a lot of ooo’s and ahh’s in Washington D.C. as it ascended above the capital; a photographer’s dream shot, as seen at “Daily Eye Wonder”. The Full Snow Moon is so named by Native American tribes because it’s a time when the heaviest snowfall is expected, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2012.

© Copyright by Concord Collections - EmbrideryDesigns.com

This winter there hasn’t been much snow landing in my Midwest backyard and no heavy storm is predicted (yet). Nevertheless, Groundhog Phil in PA saw his shadow on February 2, indicating there would be six more weeks of winter. Well, considering that in Southeastern MN, we woke up to thick fog that morning, I’m putting my money on Unadilla Bill in NE, a stuffed groundhog residing at Unadilla’s local pub of the same name, who has decided it’s time for Spring.

Floral Heart Applique by Adorable Ideas - EmbroideryDesigns.com

Floral Heart Applique - © Copyright by Adorable Ideas

Ironically, February “observances” are packed into the shortest month of the year, but 2012 is a Leap Year, so at least we’ll have an extra day for celebrations and create smiles for those born on February 29th. (Happy Birthday x 4!Leap Day is said to be a popular time for women to propose marriage, which I suspect might be a Sadie Hawkins moment for the impatient who didn’t get a ring on February 14th. And then those lucky ladies whose proposals are accepted, can plan a romantic wedding for the next Valentine’s Day, a somewhat popular date for getting hitched. The Dade City courthouse in Pasco County, FL even offers a mass wedding to avoid possible overflow.

There’s a slew of other things to observe this month – both respectable and bizarre – from Florida strawberries to spunky old ladies, according to a list at BrownieLocks.com.  Some of the national observances – both logical and odd – include:

Couch Flamingo by EMbroidery Patterns - EmbrideryDesigns.com

Couch Flamingo © Copyright by Embroidery Patterns

And here’s one that I need: National Time Management Month. To help folks manage precious time in both business and personal life, eResources has a few quick tips.

Let’s not omit global observances like International Friendship Month. I’ll mention Erich Campbellthe obvious – Facebook. I still have not yet updated to the new profile. Normally, I dive in and get the inevitable changes out of the way, but life has caused social networking housekeeping to fall to the rears. I suppose I should tidy up soon or it will likely be done for me. I’ve been hesitating wanting to find that one cool pic I can use for the header like some of the pretty darn good ones I’ve seen out there amongst my friends.  My current favorite is that of FB friend Eric Campbell, which displays a portion of his work that adorned last month’s cover of Stitches Magazine. Yeah, that’s pretty nice.

That brings to mind that February is also National Embroidery Month. Celebrated internationally up till this year, folks in all countries love embroidery. Like music and other arts, embroidery is an internationally understood language, whether or not it’s being observed in lands across the ponds. It’s one of the first skills achieved by humans, and an embroidery needle has been declared one of the earliest artifacts found in the line of tools. Embroidery has been used as a method of keeping records and defining honorary titles, as well as making a statement via art and decoration. The first hand embroidery machine, according to Wikipedia’s article “St. Gallen Embroidery” was invented by Franz Mange in 1828. It made gradual advancements up to the 1980s when Melco introduced the first computerized embroidery machine and Wilcom created the software to go with it.  The rest, as they say, is my history as well as other “old dogs” in the industry (and there isn’t a day that goes by we don’t learn a new trick.)

And so, it seems appropriate to decorate this post with designs by different digitizers, many who offer their designs via EmbroideryDesigns.com where I work a few hours each day as one of their customer service reps. It’s a part-time position, but I don’t really consider it a “job” – more of an educational pleasure as I exchange knowledge with countless embroiderers, chatting about the new machines on the market or thread breaks and such, when I’m not rescuing an occasional lost password or suggesting the right stabilizer or design for their project.

Butterfly by Moonlight Design - February Masterpiece Embroidery

It’s somewhat of a fun break in my day from operating Moonlight Design Embroidery Digitizing or working on stock designs as a participating designer at Masterpiece Embroidery, or writing “Punching Sense“, my column in Stitches Magazine, as well as various other duties like creating and updating tutorials for I-Cliqq Software (FYI to users: a new tutorial is penciled in for the near-future so to catch up with recent awesome updates.)

Yes, I have to admit I have a sometimes chaotic, but fulfilling, career that often swallows my time. On the other hand, it also offers me something many folks continue to search for – making a living at what I love to do. After all, if I wasn’t making money at it, I know I’d still be spending time at it anyhow.

Brillian Rose Hearts by Sweet Heirloom - EmbroideryDesigns.com

Brilliant Rose Hearts - © Copyright by Sweet Heirloom

And “doing what I love” brings to mind a video that seems appropriate to mention by movie director Tom Shadyac that I saw on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday last week called, “I Am I could write an entire blog post about my opinion on this thought-provoking and inspirational documentary, but I’ll let you make up your own mind if you catch the chance, and for now I’ll just close with my brief two stitches: worth watching! 

Happy February! 🙂

Winners! – Stitches Golden Needle Awards™

I am so excited that I can’t even think of the best way to begin this post, so, I’m just going to dive right in … CONGRATULATIONS! to this year’s winners of the Stitches Golden Needle Awards™ : Steve Freeman, Qdigitizing; Tanda Bundy, Bass Pro Shops; Affinity Express Team; Jane Swanzy, Swan Threads; Lee Caroselli, Balboa Threadworks; Marjorie Corrow, Life’s A Stitch Embroidery; U.S. Digitizing Team; Peggy Severt, Pegboard Crafts; Cathy Cattle, Sew B It Custom Embroidery (cover); and Barbara Stuemer, TexDesign!  Kudos to each one of you for some of the finest digitizing in the industry!

As one of the judges, I have to admit it was a difficult event this year to find something to write down as a “con” with so many beautiful, interesting and highly technical entries.  I found it near impossible to keep opinions silent about my share of the entries since I opened The Box last July.  (I said many “WOW!”s as I opened each entry!)  So, let me say now, the 2011 contest entries – including many that didn’t make the list of winners – proved to be some of the most astounding and simply awesome pieces that I’ve had the pleasure to critique.  Thanks to all who participated and made this contest so tough to judge!  See for yourself and check out the November issue of Stitches Magazine!

As well, congratulations to Stitches Magazine, honored as “Magazine of the Year” by the American Society of Business Publication Editors in the 33rd annual Azbee Awards of Excellence competition!  And congratulations to ASI publications, honored by ASBPE with eight national and 11 regional awards of excellence for writing, editing, research, design and photography.  Whew!  I must say that all this gives me great pride as both a writer and a digitizer to be a contributor to such a fine publication by a fantastic organization!  Read more …

Now on to other things … which there isn’t enough time for.  I am swamped!  As we near the holidays, custom digitizing orders fill every extra moment and I fade to the background of blogs and e-clouds, as well as anywhere outside my home office.  “Just My Two Stitches” is currently a difficult task to keep on the schedule so, I’ve decided it necessary to cut back to posting every other week, at least until the rush has passed. I’m hoping that you won’t notice because you’re staying just as busy!  See you back here in a couple of weeks! 🙂