Dyed and Gone to Heaven – An Online Magazine and Needlework Resource  

The Dynamic duo of
Marjorie Hunter and Amy Bunger

by Rita Vainius

In our Gallery of Innovation we present the dynamic duo of Marjorie Hunter and Amy Bunger. Given the prolific results and longstanding success of their collaboration, it seems that working as a team must have been written in the stars long before they ever met.


Amy Bunger and Marjorie Hunter

It was while working as a Stewardess that Marjorie Hunter learned to needlepoint. Marj enjoyed crocheting and knitting but discovered it was rather too cumbersome to cart along an afghan to work on during flights. She insists, "I got into the designing and painting end because I had become such a confirmed needlepointer." Her career as a painted canvas designer began somewhat inauspiciously while Marj was just helping a neighbor out in her shop. A customer requested a duck design to use on the cover of a man's jewelry box. The owner could not accommodate her, but Marj offered to give it a try. Since childhood Marj had been graced with an affinity for drawing and painting. Marj left the shop with canvas in hand and as she proclaims, "The rest is history!" This first success led to more commissions and before long Marj was exhibiting at TNNA markets, beginning modestly with only half of a booth. By the time Marj finally retired from doing shows, she was filling more than three booths.


Like many a stitcher, Amy learned needlepoint from her mother, but it was not until Amy was in her twenties that she was motivated to pursue it wholeheartedly. She subsequently worked part time at a needlework store. After moving to Kentucky, Amy held some unsatisfying jobs before deciding to open her own needlework shop. After occupying three previous locations, Amy's Golden Strand, made its permanent home on Summer Ave. in Memphis, TN in 1985. Her wholesale and stitch guide production businesses, Amy's Keeping Me in Stitches, are conveniently housed in an adjacent building. These businesses stay put, but Amy does not; a good portion of the year she hits the road as she is much in demand to conduct workshops on creating custom stitch guides, which she calls "recipes," for painted canvas. By the time Amy moved her shop to Memphis, she had a firm foundation of stitching skills and business experience under her belt. She has collaborated for many years with Marjorie Hunter in writing guides for the Damarj Designs line of handpainted canvases.


Amy fell into this specialty quite unexpectedly. She was already customer of Marj's in 1993 when she showed her a Damarj design of the Garden Nutcracker that she had stitched. Amy had designed a vegetable garden in 3D stitches as a background to the nutcracker using some of her husband's plants as models. Marj was very impressed with Amy's imaginative rendition. Amy subsequently asked Marj to custom design a Robin Hood Nutcracker modeled on one, which Amy's sister had given to her as a wedding gift. To thank Marj, Amy offered to let Marj use her version of the Gardener in her next show. At that time Amy's most fervent wish was that Marj would ask her to write stitch guides for her canvases. As Marjorie looked over Amy's stitched pieces, her initial comment had Amy stumped, "You know what they are going to want you to do, don't you?" Amy hadn't a clue, so Marj enlightened her, "They are going to want you to come and teach." Still mystified Amy asked "Who?" According to Marj, "The rest is history as far as that is concerned, too." By the time Amy left market, she had in-hand a make-shift teaching contract, three confirmed teaching jobs and an agreement to write stitch guides for the Damarj Designs line of nutcrackers. Amy was soon receiving more teaching assignments, writing articles for a national needlepoint publication and creating stitch guides for new additions the Damarj Line.

Marjorie and Amy meet several times a year just to brainstorm about designs. Marj insists, "We seem to get the creative juices going in each other." She adds, "Because I am still and at heart will always be a needlepointer, I look at the world in a different way than a typical artist. I now design with the idea that a stitch guide will be done on the piece, however. I will eliminate certain detail work, knowing that it will be put in the stitched piece."

Most of Amy's focus involves designing a continuation of a theme. She has designed some pieces from start to finish, but more often Amy's job begins when Marj's is done. In creating the stitch guides, Amy is inspired primarily by the design itself. Marj and she will discuss the design as if it is a person that they actually know or have seen. Amy elaborates, "Sometimes I look at a design and it instantly has a name and a place to live, work, and stand at the moment. People get really tickled with our designing because the pieces frequently come with stories, names, and personalities. It makes a big difference when I am deciding on the special techniques, threads, or stitches to think of my needlepoint as being a photograph of a 'real' person or thing."

Amy describes her personal artistic style as "mimic." She explains, "I think of what that object would really look like or feel like and decide on stitch and thread accordingly." Amy's choice of threads is flamboyant and her combination of stitches and techniques bring texture and dimension to the design. Marj has always given Amy great latitude in writing the stitch guides and they work as equal design partners in each project. Often Marj will supply a canvas depicting only the figures and Amy will select the many details and background features that truly bring it to life. It is a collaboration that is endlessly stimulating, challenging and satisfying to both of them.


Each brings special talents and skills to every project. Amy's design style has changed over time, becoming more sophisticated. Color play is an ongoing learning process and it never ceases to amaze Amy that she can struggle for days over a color combination while Marj can take one look and pick out the perfect companions of hue. That's exactly why teamwork works so well given the proper combination of personalities and talents ­ it results in a sum that is far greater than each separate part!

Since their initial collaboration, Marj and Amy have worked on more nutcrackers, Christmas figures, Deco designs and Oriental themes and motifs. They plan for many more to come. In the spring of 1999, Amy bought the rights to the Damarj designs for which she has written stitch guides and now holds the sole rights to distribute these as well any new designs on which Marj and she work together.

The Damarj Canvases, which Amy has created the Stitch Guides for, are available retail from:
Amy's Golden Strand
Address: 3808 Sumner Avenue, Memphis, TN 38122
Phone: (901) 458- 6109
Fax: (901) 323- 4701
E-Mail: amys3808@aol.com
Website: http://www.stitching.com/amys

And wholesale from:
Amy's Keeping Me In Stitches
Address: 3814 Summer Avenue, Memphis, TN 38122
Phone: (901) 323-6391
Fax: (901) 323- 4701
E-Mail: bobbunger@dellnet.com
Website: http://www.stitching.com/amys

For a previous Shop Focus featuring Amy's shop, Amy's Golden Strand, go to

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