Like many other people I’ve been blown away by the extraordinary creativity of Cara Richard. With her distinctive style she transforms the canvases she stitches to real works of art.
We interviewed her for our first stitcher profile of 2015.
Tell me about how you started doing needlepoint.
My grandmother taught me very basic needlepoint. Growing up though I dabbled in many art forms. I had trouble sticking to one medium until I rediscovered needlepoint. Now I realize I am integrating and applying techniques I learned elsewhere like in painting and drawing.
Even so, “following the rules,” so to speak, never fully satisfied me. For me, the combination of the tactile sensations of the wools, threads, ropes and other materials, as well as the canvas, combined with the vast array of colors of these materials, satisfies my creative juices and allows me to express my emotions.
Your approach to stitching a canvas is unique. How and why did you start stitching this way?
I call my needlepoint pieces thread painting. My goal is to capture the essence of an image by manipulating textures using a wide array of fibers and incorporating various medium into the projects to include wire, cords, rope and beads.
I play with stitches and their individual capacity for expression—short and long, plaid, couching—and often cut the canvas to produce a three-dimensional effect. These techniques, combined with an eye towards composition, balance and perspective, produce pieces that have spontaneous movement and evoke emotion.
What attracts you to a particular canvas?
Choice of subject, I believe, is personal to each artist. For me, I am particularly drawn to nature scenes especially after my father passed away. What I cherish about him is he was awed by life in its simplicity. He inspired me to “see” the different shades of grays in a tree, pinks in a flower bud, greens in grass blades. I often use my own nature photography digitally transferred to canvases. I strive to replicate that in my needlework so others are similarly awed.
Editor’s note: Cara’s current project is doing just this with a picture of tulips. You can learn more about it and see her progress on Facebook.
Do you have lots of projects going on or do you stitch one thing until it’s done?
Lots of projects! I’d like to meet the needle pointer who can stick to one piece until it is done—-I haven’t yet. Needlepoint is my passion, so it is impossible for me to contain my excitement about all the creative possibilities. I want to run with my ideas—which are many. I try to be restrained walking into needlepoint stores, but I’m enticed every time. My home overflows with threads, canvases and tools. Regardless, I set deadlines for each piece to stay disciplined. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your ideas fulfilled.
What’s the process you use to stitch a canvas?
I don’t adhere to a step-by-step process and often do not have a plan. Yet the consistent theme throughout my pieces is that they are three-dimensional. I no longer see the needlepoint as a two-dimensional entity. The image I see before me has vast possibilities: the only limitations are the materials I use to “bring it to life”, so to speak. A ballerina might have tutu mesh added to the canvas; a flower might be complemented by a frame of garden greens implying the earth; a picture of a dog might have furry thread to allow tactile correctness.
Is there any particular effect you’ve done and loved so much you want to do it again?
There are three effects, non-traditional though they may be, that I will continue to use. The first is best known as “drawn thread”. It consists of cutting the warp and weft of the canvas. I have used this with great success for adding dimensionality to my pieces. Second is couching which consists of going over and over either a cord,thread,straw or even metal washers which allows me to show the full effect of the beautiful array of color, texture, sheen or shine of the product used. Finally, in my thread painting of “Tree of Life”, a piece by Jane Sasserman *(pictured above), I used River Silks Ribbons, silk, nylon and other threads in this piece. The quilt-like effect was produced by allowing me to manipulate the ribbons easily. I was able to sew through it as well as squash and/or twist it. By couching the outer edges of design, it made it look like an applique embroidery.