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Janet Perry, of Napa Needlepoint
How did you become involved in needlework (cross stitch, quilting, etc)?
I come from a crafty family. My mom is an artist and has never found a craft or medium she wasn’t willing to try at least once. As a child, with her help, we made bleach bottle piggy banks, a four foot tall papier mache bird, tried weaving and tons of other things. On my dad’s side, my grandmother was a couturier quality seamstress and a phenomenal knitter and crocheter.
Then there’s me, left-handed, clumsy, and with little talent for art. But I’ve always loved it along with color and fiber of all kinds, even if I wasn’t good at using it. Just before my 14th birthday in 1970, I saw a needlepoint kit in a magazine. I begged my parents to get it for me. We went to the only needlepoint shop around, which had the kit, and we bought it. My grandmother, who had done most of one needlepoint once, showed me how to make a stitch and I had finished the project within two days.
Within a year I was teaching myself new stitches, designing my own projects, learning Bargello and looking for new and different threads. By the time I got to college, I was showing my needlepoint, dyeing my own threads, and stitching at every possible moment. My mom says that it was as if needlepoint found me. I loved from the moment I started it and I never tire of it.
Tell us about your family.
I have three kids (21, 25, and 26), one husband, and one cat (at the moment). My son, the middle child, is the only one living at home. My eldest lives in Washington, DC and my youngest goes to school in Annapolis, MD.
My husband is a native San Franciscan and, except for college, he has always lived in the Bay Area. After almost 19 years or living in Napa we moved south about 15 miles to Mare Island, a historic and disused naval shipyard to a new house which has space for me to have a studio and for my husband to have an office, since he works at home four days a week.
Our cat, Dot, is the last of her family. She lost two of her brothers in the last year. We’ve had her since she was 2 weeks old and since she has to be a house cat here, she has become quite devoted, sleeping on the day bed in my studio.
Where does the inspiration for your work come from?
I tend to see things in terms of stitches and threads, which is both a blessing and a curse. I am always looking at pictures, art, and crafts and thinking about how they could be needlepoint. I am interested in almost everything.
Having said that I see that some things have consistently inspired me. I adore quilts and am always finding new ideas for needlepoint from them. I love the look of vintage graphics of all kinds; they have such charming but clean lines. Recently I have been exploring Native American art of New Mexico and the Pacific Northwest, I find it very inspiring.
Do you ever collaborate with other designers or teachers and, if so, what kinds of projects do you work on?
The Art Needlepoint Company and Craft Cruises are on doing a needlepoint cruise where I will be teaching. The first one will be to Alaska next June. I am also working with Patt & Lee Designs on creating some educational offerings for stitchers at all levels.
When did you first learn about, use or hear about The Caron Collection threads?
I think I saw them when they first came out in a shop in Ann Arbor, MI while I was on a business trip. I was enchanted by the colors and bought one, Passion, I think. I went home and made the free Byzantine ornament. The bought another color and did the same thing.
I tend to buy Caron threads the way other women buy lipsticks, they are my favorite pick-me-up. I also tend to fall passionately in love with a particular color and hoard it, buying it almost every time I go into a needlework shop.
I’m now working on a series of hearts named for gemstones that use different shades of Waterlilies as the theme thread. The series I’m doing now has Tanzanite, Padparadscha (orange sapphire), Topaz, Aquamarine, and Ruby.
How have the Caron Collection threads impacted or influenced your designs?
I’d say in a couple of ways. When I’m working on something realistic, I tend to look for a shade of Watercolours which has shades of the same color to add depth or realism. For example, a stone wall looks great in a combination of Suede & Dark Suede.
For Bargello, I like to use shades of Caron threads as a starting point for a color scheme for an entire piece. The threads add interest and richness to a design. I will sometimes just pick a skein from my stash and let it inspire my design.
What is your favorite Caron Collection thread?
Probably Watercolours, as I think I have more of it than any other single thread. But I just love the look of the colors when they are dyed on silk. Silk has such an ability to hold colors and make them vivid. It’s one of the things I love about that fiber.
What kind of upcoming projects or plans do you have?
Right now, I’m designing and making projects for my second Bargello book, Little Bargello Treasures. I’m also developing on-line classes in needlepoint techniques. This is an area that hasn’t been explored deeply, but it is one where I think much can be done.
I’ve been astounded by the interest in my free course on beginning needlepoint, so I want to use a similar format for more experienced stitchers. One of the first will be on many techniques to use threads like those from The Caron Collection on painted canvas, a subject of interest to many stitchers.
What has been the most fulfilling aspect for you about designing needlework?
I have to say that doing this is the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had since I was a teenager and started to do needlepoint in 1970. It’s been my passion ever since and I’m lucky enough now to be able to make it my career. It’s so great to share the fun of needlepoint, especially Bargello, with others and have them get excited about the possibilities and how they can make something uniquely theirs so easily.
The Internet has changed our entire society. What are the pros and cons of the Internet as it concerns our industry?
Being an Internet person in my previous career, I love the Internet and the possibilities it gives us as stitchers. Since shops are far apart and can’t possibly carry everything, buying on the Internet gives the stitcher in a remote location an opportunity to enjoy needlepoint. It gives us all a chance to learn things without having to travel or join a guild, or find a book (which probably doesn’t exist).
We make a community through the Internet. I have friends, close friends, who live far away, who I don’t see, but with whom I am closely connected through needlepoint and through the Internet. But there is a danger, doing the Internet right is not the easiest thing. You can’t just slap a website together and expect sales to come. If you’re a shop, that’s like having a poorly stocked thread wall. You need to be generous with your knowledge, ideas, and time. You need to use the technology to say what you want to say, not whatever technical widget is popular this week.
I look at many websites and only about 25-30% have a combination of good information, clear presentation, and no useless or distracting features. It’s maddening because there is so much potential to improve our stitching and for those in the industry, our businesses.
Needlework is our passion. How can we pass our enthusiasm and skills along to future generations in a way that is appealing and exciting to them?
This has to be done in two steps. I don’t think I would have taken to needlepoint so quickly if it hadn’t been for two things. First, children need to be made aware or and exposed to beauty. This isn’t happening in schools these days, but it’s so easy to do this at home. Is there art on the walls? Do you mention to kids about how beautiful something is and tell them why? Do they look at picture books of art? Do you teach them how to see beauty in all things, including music, cartoons and picture books?
The other important thing is to get them doing and appreciating crafts. By stitching yourself, you encourage them, but if they want to do more, give them the tools. Also, try other crafts with them. If you aren’t any good, they know it’s OK to be learning. If they like a craft, encourage them. Help them learn by finding books, stores, teachers, other stitchers.
Importantly for the new stitcher is finding a good shop; one that will encourage the child. If the shop doesn’t like children, won’t answer questions, or doesn’t let the child pick out threads, that spark of interest can die. But if a shop takes the child in hand and helps her pick colors and threads and a project and encourages the result, the spark grows into a flame.
I know that my native (and hidden) love for needlepoint would have grown without these things. But because I had looked a beautiful things all my life, I could respond to what I made and saw. Because I had tried many crafts and seen my mother fail at some kinds of art and crafts, I wasn’t afraid to try. And because my local shop encouraged and supported me, needlepoint grew quickly from just another craft I tried to be my life’s passion.
Name: Janet Perry
Business Name: Napa Needlepoint
Address: P.O. Box 1351, Vallejo, CA 94590
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