Be sure to check out her free
We last featured Orna Willis
in October of 1999. Since then she has truly come into her own
as a renowned needlepoint designer. We are pleased to present
this recent interview and to profile some of her stunning and
Shield of Life Triumph
What prompted you to begin designing jewelry?
I have my hands in all aspects of design. Everything from clothing,
accessories, home design. I'm interested in it all. Jewelry has
the same respect for detail as does needlepoint. Needlepoint
jewelry seemed like the perfect combination. It gives us needlepointers
an opportunity to show off our art and it is a challenge to bring
about a jewel-like effect by using layers of dimensional needlepoint.
In addition to needlepoint jewelry, I design a line of metal
and bead jewelry. I have been fortunate to show these pieces
in galleries across the country. In 2004 I took an extensive
course in lost wax techniques, chain work and stone setting.
Studying new techniques enables my love of designing to soar!
Shields of Life Valour
Shields of Life
What inspired you to write an extensive family biography
in Needlepoint Now magazine and then create a design comprised
of elements each representing members of your family? It seems
to be a rather unusual feature to take on especially as an ongoing
It's hard to pinpoint inspiration, but I'll try. Our family is
very close although geographically we have always been far away
from each other. The distance and the absence makes you think
about family members and what they mean to you. During 2001,
my family was particularly on my mind because Reid, my husband,
and I were thinking about adoption. Having children, biologically
or through adoption, is continuing a link from the past to the
future. I wanted to try and capture each family member in a small
design and, along with the needlepoint piece, tell a story about
each of them. I felt that by doing so I would encourage the reader
to contemplate about their own families. It was a true labor
of love. Just a few weeks after I completed the piece dedicated
to my in-laws, my father-in-law passed away. He saw the design
and read my story about them and it was a huge comfort to me
to have had the opportunity to let him know how much he meant
How have your new designs evolved from your previous work?
Was the change a conscious decision or just a natural progression
for you as an artist?
In many ways my designs have changed and yet I think it is
still easy to recognize my designs. Color is still my greatest
fascination and my designs all begin with color. I have expanded
my experimentation with color, more and more, leaving the expected
behind and moving on to explore different, unusual combinations.
The change is in part a conscious one as I become bored with
variations of the same elements and need to move on. Using threads
and stitches in non-traditional ways by leaving symmetry and
moving to free forms and then returning to study symmetry on
a higher level. One of my explorations in the past few years
has been of "Tessellations". The name comes from the
Roman word Tessella, the small square tile used in ancient Roman
mosaics. A Tessellation is a shape of tile that repeats to fill
a surface without any gaps or overlaps. I developed a design
class using these principles and also designed two pieces called
"Tessellations" and "Tessellations Again".
Where do you now get your inspiration for your new designs?
Inspiration comes foremost from places I visit, fashion, theater
and from nature. I read and follow the arts and the world of
design closely. I like to stay connected and see what artists
are doing in other disciplines. My older daughter who lives in
New York is a great inspiration. We often talk about trends in
design and in color. However I never forget to find inspiration
in the past as well. It is always a challenge to bring a modern
twist to a piece inspired by an ancient pattern.
Main Living Space
Brimming with Orna's Love of Color
Do you still teach needlepoint?
Yes! I love teaching. Sitting in my studio designing can be lonely
at times. It's great to be among people who have the same love
for needlepoint as I do. I just got word that I will be teaching
at the ANG National Seminar in Baltimore in 2007.
Shiri and Nina (Orna's daughters)
with Shiri wearing earrings Orna designed
Are you currently displaying your work or have plans in
the future to do so?
I am currently displaying my needlepoint bags and jewelry at
Projects Gallery in Philadelphia. My jewelry is in several boutiques
and galleries around the country.
Window in the Old City
What inspired you to write your books: New Art of Needlepoint and My Point Exactly? Do you plan to write any other
I do plan on writing another book, however writing a book is
such a huge undertaking that I need to wait for the perfect time.
I think I will title my next book If I See One More Needlepoint
Pillow I'll Scream.
Window in the Old City at Night
What were your experiences like being featured on the Carol
Duval Show and also on the Jewelry Making Show of the DIY Network?
Being on the Carol Duval Show was a wonderful experience. Carol
has a great respect for needlepoint, and the hours of detailed
work and care that the stitcher puts into the piece. Being surrounded
by crafts one can do in an afternoon, she sees needlepoint, quilting
and beading, in a league of their own. Preparing for a taping
of the show is hard work: figuring out how to best explain a
technique to an audience that may never have done any needlework.
Doing ALL this in a five-ten minute segment is quite a challenge.
The taping for me is always great fun! I love the people that
work on the show. I always feel very comfortable in front of
the camera and spending time in LA is a great perk as well. I
heard from many women that they decided to try out needlepoint
for the first time as a result of seeing the shows. That is a
source of great pride for me. For the Jewelry Making Show I worked
with a different host, Jackie Guerra, and while being very different
from Carol, she was a lot of fun as well.
Note: Orna was featured nine times on HGTV's Carol Duval show
and two times on the DIY channel, Jewelry making show.
Nina's Room with Orna's Work
Peacock Tales, on the Right Side By the Window
(The Wall Hanging above Nina's Bed is an Appliqué
also designed and made by Orna)
All Orna's designs including needlepoint designs, finished
pieces and jewelry can be found on her website. For more information,
Ornaments-designs by Orna
1147 North 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
E Mail: email@example.com
To read our prior Feature on Orna Willis go to
Orna has just been featured in Home and Garden magazine (Philadelphia Edition).
She is currently displaying her needlepoint bags and jewelry
at Projects Gallery in Philadelphia.
She will be teaching at the ANG National Seminar in Baltimore
Orna's very personal and intriguing ongoing series about her
family were published in Needlepoint Now from January
2001 to January 2002.
Jan/Feb - Her Grandparents
Mar/Apr - Shiri -her older daughter
May/Jun - Her In-laws
Jul/Aug - Her Parents
Sep/Oct - Reid- her husband
Nov/Dec - The Future/Adoption
Her piece in Canvas Quarterly was published in
the October 2005 issue.