Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On Designing for Needlepoint

Yesterday I received the following post which was the end of a long comment about Summer Solstice, my summer project.
I've posted all comments on my website, but this one seems to ask that I answer it more thoroughly, since it hits squarely on the reason I've been stitching Summer Solstice.

Here’s the end of terryb's long post:
This is a fun exercise, but I hope your intentions were not to convince us that designing is easy. Rather it points out the complicated aspects that are involved and how important it is that they all mesh to create a beautiful and successful end product.

And here's my answer:
No, the purpose of Summer Solstice has not been to convince anyone that designing is easy. I've been designing needlepoint projects for a long time now and I've never found it easy.

My idea was to develop a small design by picking up my needle and starting, without any idea where I was headed. I was hoping to take my followers through the various stages of developing a small design so that they could see the process and begin to evaluate along with me each of the stages Summer Solstice goes through.

Sometimes it is easy to think in black and white and forget about the gray areas between the two extremes. In this case, at one end is a design by someone else and the stitcher simply reproduces what the designer did. At the other end is a blank piece of canvas in need of a design. There are a lot of possibilities between these two extremes, and that's what I am after.

I am not asking everybody to pick up blank canvases and fill them. I am hoping that people will learn to watch more carefully what they are stitching and bring a little of themselves to their needlework by making small personal changes. To make the changes well, someone has to grapple a bit with the design process and think about where she's headed.

When someone stitches a design that is all worked out ahead of time, it is a safe and easy choice. As the stitcher hits the awkward stages that all designs go through, she can overlook them and focus instead on the pretty color photo of the design as it will become. Once she starts to deviate even a little bit from the pattern, she will have to learn to look at what is actually happening on the canvas and evaluate where she is and where she is headed.

With my Summer Solstice project, that's exactly what I am trying to demonstrate. I don't know where I am headed or whether it will work out. What I have to do is stitch a bit, then stop and evaluate where I am and where I want to go, then try out my ideas and see if they work, rip a lot when they don't, evaluate again and stitch again.

So why grapple with these problems at all when the world is full of beautiful designs just waiting to be stitched?

Over my years as a needlework teacher, I have heard so many times the excitement in someone's voice when she takes a small step toward personalizing her needlework by trying a choice of her own and discovering that it works. There is a sense of engagement that doesn't exist with rote reproduction of a design. Yes, it is more difficult, but it is often very rewarding.

I am hoping that Summer Solstice will help people see a myriad of possibilities and the differences that small changes can make; I am hoping people will begin to look at their own needlework projects and say, 'I wonder what would happen if...."

Gay Ann