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melissa h.
Claire M.

Meet the Author

Hey there, can you introduce yourself?

Medium author photo 2

Hi ! I'm a mixed media artist who moonlights as an author, graphic designer/stylist, craft business owner, and college professor. I'm profoundly interested in the idea of hybridization stemming from the fact that I'm 1/2 Japanese and 1/2 Caucasian [a happa]. My artwork revolves thematically around domesticity, craft, and gender cues. I am drawn to found objects, tending to alter them conceptually so that their original meanings, uses and intents are repurposed. I also often fuse "wrong" things together —attempting to decontextualize their original purposes and incorporating materials that question the line between art and craft. I received a BA in art in 1995 from UC Berkeley and an MFA from Mills College in 2003.

I have exhibited and work with galleries and museums both nationally and internationally I live in Oakland, California, with my husband, young daughter – she just turned 4 , two three-legged cats, a stumpy tail kitty, a deaf French bulldog, a pit-bull, and many, many spools of thread.

Tell us a bit about the book?

The "big idea" for knot thread stitch was to try and incorporated all different kinds of projects and really try to show how versatile stitching can be. I think I have projects for the absolute beginner as well as ideas on how to expand and contemporize the use of embroidery. There are projects that use stamps, photographs, kid's drawings, shrink plastic… if you can poke holes into something you can embroider. I tried to "update" some really traditional uses of embroidery – so there are tea towels [but embroidered over amazing prints and hand lettered by Kate Bingham Burt], a hankie [with a cold virus on it], fuzzy monograms, etc. I also wanted to emphasize how personal the act of making things can be – I thought a lot about how I use my own extensive craft book library — I tend to look at the pretty pictures and then figure out a way to incorporate a technique or idea in my own way. I dreamed about hading off my project ideas to a bunch of my über talented friends and seeing what they did with simple instructions. I gave them an outline of the project and a few ideas, but really no direction. I thought it would be really fun to see 2 completely different interpretations of a project idea back to back – and indeed it really was a treat !

What was the inspiration behind it?

The biggest inspiration for the book comes from my grandmother. She was the one who I watch embroider and knit and crochet growing up. She was always doing something with her hands and passed on the love of that to me. I also dedicated the book to my daughter. While I have always cherished handmade items something about her coming into my life heightened the importance of heirloom objects – things made with and for love for those you care about. I started working on the book when she was 2 and I kept thinking about things I could make for her, or that I would want to put in our home to spawn her own interest and reverence for things handmade.

Which is your favourite project?

Oh that is a tough question – I can't pick just ONE. I do really love the shrink plastic necklace project – and when I wear it I get the nicest compliments. I also am really proud of the pom-pom scarf project because I was able to find a way to save a scarf that was full of moth holes. I also like the portrait projects – of people and pets… and the fuzzy monograms…

What is your craft space like?

I am SO LUCKY to have a studio in my backyard [my grandmother is responsible for it – as she left me the money for it]. It's light and airy and was designed by my architect friend so it's EXACTLY what I need. It sits in the midst of our garden [which my husband keeps] so at various times of the year there is wisteria, blueberries, potatoes, tomatoes, roses, apples… It's so serene. I can step outside and sit in the sun for a minute when I want to. I keep all my supplies, sewing machines, favorite odd collections, craft and art books, etc. all close at hand. I have a big table surface to work on, a sink, storage, wi-fi, a vinyl plotter and lots of clean wall space. And I'll let you in on a little secret – I styled all the photos in Knot Thread Stitch – so everything you see in the book was shot in my studio and house/yard and all the props are mine too.

Have you always been creative?

I think so [but you should check with my mom and dad on that one]. In many ways I think creativity is all about problem solving and being inquisitive – and I've been trying to figure things out since I can remember. My whole family is like this – although I'm not sure they'd all claim to be "creative".

When did you first start crafting?


Who are your crafty heroes?

Oh gosh. Again another tough one. Lotta Jansdottir is one – I love her books and her sensibility AND I got to meet her [she took a workshop with me] and she was incredibly gracious and lovely. I'm a big lover of Japanese craft books – just in general – I don't think you can go wrong with them. I have to say that everyone IN Knot Thread Stitch is a hero !

Where do you find inspiration?

You know – I'm always looking around. LITERALLY. You might think I'm joking, but I sometimes practically fall on my face because I'm distracted looking at a building detail, or I'm examining spring blossoms, or I'm fascinated by a particular color combination. I went to an artist talk [Uta Barth – an amazing photographer] who spoke about a series she did where she would walk around her neighborhood looking up and looking down to try and re-see the familiar in a new light. Her talk – and this other blog – habit where people take a photograph and use 30 words or less to encapsulate their day inspired me to start a project called lookupanddown.

I also look to my friends – the talented artists/bloggers/makers that surround me. And books, family, pets… I think the key is to be open. When you see something you like [or don't like] you have to let it soak in – you have to be able to figure out what it is that makes your heart leap or your stomach sink. It sounds corny but everything we encounter is potentially food for fodder you know?

What's next for you?

Right now I'm working on a big installation and have been fortunate enough to find over 45 women around the world who are helping me crochet doilies. There will be 1000 doilies – 100 colors of thread 10 in each color – and I will be pinning them all to the wall. That show is all about the number 1000 [which is significant in many ways in Japanese culture] and opens in November at Fouladi Projects in San Francisco.

Really what is always next is to make art, make crafts, be a mom, try to be a good teacher… I would really enjoy a vacation though….

Publisher's Description

Knot Thread Stitch presents a modern, experimental, and creative approach to thread and embroidery projects. You'll find fun and surprising project ideas, a unique artistic approach, and uncoventional mixed-media materials such as stamps, paint, sequins, paper, and shrinky dinks. These projects are designed to be quick, fun, abstract, and creative, and many offer clever ideas for personal customization. With easy-to-follow steps and project variations, this book also includes project contributions and embroidery patterns from a long and stellar list of renowned artists and bloggers, including Lisa Congdon, Camilla Engman, Heather Smith Jones, and Amy Karol, just to name a few.