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Gail Hendrix
By Rita Vainius

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Gail Hendrix was born and raised in the Washington, DC area, the oldest of four children. Her father, John Griscom McGuire III, was the Captain of a PT boat who died when she was only 4 years old. She was raised by her mother June Justine, a homemaker who immersed herself in charity work and the arts, and her stepfather, William Henry Martin II. Gail happens to be the only one of her siblings who has gone on to a professional life in the arts. One sister is a midwife, another sister, an accountant and her brother is a businessman. Gail attended Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, graduating in 1968. She then enrolled at the Corcoran School of Art, the only fully accredited college of art and design in Washington, DC graduating with a degree in Communications Design. Gail might have gone on to a job as a graphic designer in an advertising agency or some other similar position were it not for the fact that Mrs. Chase of the American Needlework Center attended an exhibition of art at the Corcoran. Gail's work was on display and immediately caught Mrs. Chase's eye, who offered Gail a position at the ANC on the spot.


In its prime, the American Needlework Center in Georgetown was an prestigious institution - the oldest and most renowned needlework shop in the extended area. One learned and honed one's craft there in a manner similar to the guilds of yesteryear, going through the various stages of apprentice to journeyman to master craftsman. Wasting no time, Gail began her apprenticeship there the summer after finishing college. At the ANC she learned how to apply her creative energies, artistic abilities and technical expertise to needlepoint canvas - a novel medium and different from anything she had worked on before. Once she had mastered the techniques, she fine tuned them, eventually advancing to the position of head designer. In explaining her attraction to needlework, Gail remarks, "What first appealed to me about becoming a needlepoint designer was the fact that I could use all aspects of my training as a commercial artist, drawing, color, design, print and photography. This has inspired me to raise my craft to the highest level possible."


Gail spent seven years at the American Needlework Center, by which time she was ready to strike out on her own. In 1979 she began designing for several shops in the Washington DC vicinity under the name Festival Designs. Within a short time, she had made a name for herself in the community. Two years later Gail met Hyla Hurley who owns a store called The Point of it All. (See this month's shop focus for more about Hyla's store). Gail began designing for Hyla in 1981 and has worked almost exclusively with her ever since. Strangely enough, it was artist, not shopkeeper who made the initial overture to design exclusively for the shop. Hyla, ever the realist with her bottom line to consider, was intensely flattered but concerned that she would not be able to guarantee Gail enough business. Gail's response was indicative of both the tremendous regard she held for Hyla as an individual and the faith she had in Hyla's business acumen and promotional abilities. She unhesitatingly responded, "You're a good businesswoman and I like the way you operate. I'm not worried about it!"

Thus began a partnership which has over time only served to maximize each woman's talents and potential. Hyla is better at design concept than execution and refers to her method as "idea designing." She communicates her ideas to Gail; Gail shines in her ability to transform a mental concept into a visual composition which unfailingly corresponds exactly to what was pictured only in Hyla's mind's eye, right down to capturing the most elusive details, such as the expression on a face. But this is just one aspect of Gail's rare abilities. She also creates customized projects for the many other commissions which emanate from Hyla's clientele and under Festival Designs, markets her own original creations. In retrospect, Hyla admits that Gail had the foresight to see their combined potential well before she did. Having never wavered in their commitment to their artistic collaboration and each other, they now stand on the cusp of launching Gail's designs into a whole new realm - the wholesale marketplace. The secret of their success as a team works both ways. Hyla stresses, "I've seen a lot of artists who were fabulous, but Gail is in a league by herself in when it comes the range of her design abilities. There is nothing that she can't do." One look at the scope of styles and subject matter Gail has produced, confirms her remarkable diversity. On the other side of the coin, only Hyla seems to be able to unstintingly convey ideas to Gail so that Gail can extract the its essence and translate it into a reality. It's almost a kind of a sixth sense they have developed over the course of their interaction. Ask anyone else in the shop who has tried it and they'll tell you that it seems to work flawlessly and seemingly effortlessly only between Hyla and Gail! Gail's uncanny ability to interpret ephemeral thoughts is somewhat akin to the musical prodigy who can listen to a melody once and then both play it and set each note down on paper on the spot. Their most recent collaboration has resulted in works inspired by Ottoman art and culture, a theme currently spotlighted in two outstanding exhibits at the Textile Museum and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, both situated in their own backyard - Washington, DC.One of these is the Ottoman Medallion design presented as this month's free pattern and the other is named Ottoman Dragon, a design as dramatic as the name. Both hand painted canvases are available directly from The Point of It All.

Gail describes her personal artistic style as bright, clean and precise. Gail's designing M.O. is to either design directly on canvas or begin with a sketch depending on the project at hand. Through long years of practice she has become proficient at expressing her own inspirations directly onto the canvas. Since Gail's designs reflect her inner life, she states, "I prefer to have my work speak for itself." Gail designs for her own satisfaction but never loses sight of the fact that it is primarily her livelihood. What do you know - a real life pragmatic artist! When asked if she prefers custom design work or concentrating on her own designs, Gail unabashedly remarks, "Whatever brings in the most money!"

Gail is married to Kenneth Weldon Hendrix, also a craftsman who designs architectural millwork and works as a cabinetmaker. In '93 the couple relocated from the urban Washington scene to a farm in rural Pennsylvania. Gail quickly made the transition from city to country girl, falling immediately in love with the rolling hills and landscape. Having lived in an city environment her whole life, she now revels in the wildlife surrounding her - deer, pheasant, woodcock and abundant varieties of birds. The denizens of her new habitat tease her creative spirit, providing endless stimulation and inspiration. She has adapted completely to the quietude and slower pace, discovering in it a revitalizing sense of peace which permeates every day. This feeling of well being leaves her freer than ever before to concentrate on her work, removed as she is from the many distractions which are an inescapable part of the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

Even though Gail's career is focused on the needlearts, she has not forsaken other artistic pursuits and still engages herself in painting, photography and lithography. Other interests include her three beloved dogs, whom she delights in taking for walks or a swim and in "dressing them up" to suit the holiday at hand. She adores watching British television because she enjoys hearing proper English spoken - not anything like the bastardized English spoken in the States! Newly adopted rural pastimes range from gardening to volunteering at her local church. Just as she made a name for herself in Washington, she has already gained a new, but different, notoriety here- known far and wide for the homemade jam which she makes and sells at jumble sales to raise money for charity. Gail is the first to admit, "Every day is filled with joy."

For information on Designs by Gail contact
The Point of It All
3301 New Mexico Ave. NW
Washington, DC
phone: (202) 966- 9898
fax: (202) 966- 2955
e-mail: hylah@erols.com
website: http://www.thepointofitall.com
hours: Mon. - Fri. 10 am to 5:30 pm
Saturdays 10 am to 4:00 pm

The Ottoman Medallion handpainted painted canvas retails for $82.00 plus shipping. The Ottoman Dragon is available for $245.00 plus shipping.

© 1997 The Caron Collection Ltd./ Voice: (203) 381-9999, Fax: 203 381-9003

CARON email: mail@caron-net.com