Piedmont Craftsmen fiber artist Laura Gaskin is based in Fairview, NC. She embroiders “stitched pictures”, using embroidery like painting to depict landscapes and still lives with vibrant cotton floss. Below, Laura talks about carrying on traditions, her process, and “Fall Blooming Camellias” which can be seen in Piedmont Craftsmen’s current exhibit, Close to Home.
I grew up in central North Carolina but moved to the mountains 30 years ago. Both of my parents were from the southern Appalachian region of northwest Georgia. My grandmothers and aunts kept their hands busy as they sewed clothing, knitted, quilted, and embroidered. Using simple cottons and wools, they created beautiful objects for everyday use. Many women shared these skills in that time and place. That is a big part of my identity as an artist. I see myself as an heir to that tradition and my work as being rooted in that region, among those people.
I create stitched pictures. My process begins with an original line drawing that I transfer onto cotton canvas. Next I outline the individual shapes with black cotton embroidery floss before I fill in with color. I fill in using a technique that I developed over time. I go over each area scattering stitches of one color. Then I go back over the same area scattering stitches in a second color, then a third, continuing this process until the space is entirely filled. In this way, I place different colors side by side, allowing the viewer’s eye to blend them much as they do when viewing the dabs of paint in an Impressionist painting.
I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. My house is in the country across from a sheep farm. The farmer grows the golden delicious apples that sometimes appear in my work, including “Fall Blooming Camellias.” There is a dirt road that winds up the mountain to a pasture that affords long-range mountain views. Those mountains are often backdrops in my stitched pictures, including this piece. I hike up the dirt road, collecting nature’s leavings as I go: turkey feathers, fallen nests, colorful leaves, wildflowers, interesting stones, and buckeyes. I set my collections on the windowsill where I can look at them and beyond them. In this way, the outside and inside are blended in my view. My designs often play with that idea, blurring the distinction between outdoors and indoors. The black and white window frame in my work reinforces the separation and the integration between the two.
Last October, I spotted a shrub in full bloom set among the season’s fallen leaves. A few days later, I came across the same scene in a second garden. That was the inspiration for “Fall Blooming Camellias.” I designed this piece around two themes that I enjoy using in my work. First, I’m interested in nature as it grows versus nature as we shape it. Second, I like to work with contrasts. Since we enjoy the blooms of new life, we have found a way to force this shrub to bloom just when nature intends it to sleep. At the same time, native trees are shedding dead leaves, obedient to nature’s plan. The cat has summed up this situation and passed judgment. She keeps on walking.
“Fall Blooming Camellias”, pictured above right, can be seen now in Close to Home. More information about Laura Gaskin and examples of her work can be found by following this link.
CLOSE TO HOME, a group exhibit
featuring work by Piedmont Craftsmen Artists
from NC, VA, & SC, is on view
through June 14th.