When I think about needlepoint canvases that are so beautifully painted you almost want to frame them like that, Leigh Designs is always at the top of my list.
When I first saw her canvases, nearly 20 years ago, I was struck by two things. First, I noticed her use of colored canvas. Colors were fairly new for painted canvas then but Leigh embraced them realizing they were a wonderful way to try interesting techniques and to show off her designs. Second, I saw how beautiful her designs were. They were so much above the quality and style of everyone around her that they took your breath away.
Another thing that’s unusual about Leigh is that she never makes one of anything. Every design is part of a group of related designs. The big cats series, Up Close & Personal, above, is one of my favorites. In this series there are eight designs. The designs in a series are all related in subject and the same size. This makes them fantastic to buy in multiples, for example buying two for a set of pillows.
Often the series have other series related to them. The Espana series, above, comes in both pillow (most are 10″ or 12″ squares) and coaster sizes (6″ square). I’m always happy about the coasters because I like smaller pieces. While many of her canvases are in other sizes, these three are the most common.
In addition to these two sizes of her square designs, Leigh has a collection of ornaments. We tend to think of ornaments as being simple and straightforward in design or very easy to stitch. Not Leigh’s. They are complex jewels of decorative art with several design elements in each. Of course they are on colored canvas and of course they come in series. They are beautiful and well worth collecting.
More recently she has branched out, bringing her signature style to canvases made for Lee Needle Arts bags. There are two series of these, one for the purses and one for the ebook covers, above. As you might expect, these sets are not related in theme but put Leigh’s great style on something you’ll use every day.
Leigh’s canvases are always realistic. The elements may not be put together as they would be in real life, but each of them is accurately depicted. That’s part of what makes them so beautiful as canvases. I was at a show several years ago where she premiered the Manor Born series, above. She had them up in her booth and I could immediately recognize some of the houses — that’s how accurate they are, painted with great care.
I am often in awe of how Leigh’s canvases are stitched, they are among the most beautiful needlepoint I have ever seen. A great example is the Flaming Fowl from the Imari series, pictured above. It was stitched by Sandra Arthur. Notice how wonderful the flaming tail is? And I just love the way the thin outlines of gold draw our attention to the wavy lines. Another thing worth noting is that here the background is left unstitched or is only lightly stitched.
Happily for us she has persuaded many of these amazing stitchers to write stitch guides for the canvases. That makes the innovative techniques used by Sandra Arthur, Sharon Quick, and others accessible to us all.
Leigh is a treasure for the needlepoint world. If you haven’t seen her canvases, go visit her website, look around and commerce drooling. I know I’ve added several to my must stitch list today!