Spotlight: Kathy Schmitz, Embroidery Artist
The fun, whimsical embroidery designs that Kathy Schmitz creates often begin with doodles. And who doesn’t love to doodle? Kathy elevates her doodles to finished embroidery designs that both experienced stitchers and newbies will enjoy. This is how she does it.
What inspires you to create?
I find inspiration all around me. I love looking at illustrations from antique children’s books, taking a walk through my neighborhood, or a hike in the woods.
What are your earliest memories involving your own creative expression?
I was very fortunate to have a mom that encouraged me to create. There was always an abundance of crayons, markers, paper and plenty of fabric for sewing as well. She would even hang my early “masterpieces” on the walls of her sewing room.
What different creative mediums do you play around with?
I love painting with watercolors, drawing with pen and ink, rug hooking, crochet, knitting, embroidery…. and I’m still adding to the list!
Do you plan your work out all ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
When I start a new project there is a lot of “playing around” which usually consists of doodling, doodling, and more doodling. Sometimes these doodles spark an idea and I’m off from there.
How often do you start a new project?
I always have something in the works whether it’s big or small. I feel a bit at a loss if I’m not actively working on something. Not that all projects started get finished! Some end up in a drawer never to see the light of day again. That used to be stressful for me, but now I try to embrace the process.
How has your work changed over time?
I started with drawing and painting and that slowly progressed to embroidery. Years ago I had drawn a picture which my mom embroidered for me. I loved the look of translating a line drawing to thread on fabric. I hadn’t embroidered since I was a little girl, but I remembered the basics and set to work. I’ve been designing embroidery patterns since 2007.
Are there recurring themes in your work? Do you do series work? How does that affect your approach?
I do like to have a theme when I’m starting a big project. Sometimes this can be seasonal and sometimes it’s working around a common shape or item. The Forest Park Friends started with two bunnies and grew from there. I could have kept adding animals! They were so much fun to design and stitch.
How do you know when a piece or project is finished and needs no additional work?
Once the embroidery is finished and sewn into a project I like to step back and look at it for a day or two. If it needs a little something I’ll add it then. It can be something as simple as adding a trim around the edge. The trim I used on the Forest Park Friends is Chenille yarn. Once I sewed that on I knew I was finished and happy with the look.
Do you feel that you chose your “passion,” or did it choose you?
I honestly do not remember ever wanting to do anything but create! I’m very fortunate that I can do this for a living!
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
My studio space is a spare bedroom in our home. There are windows that look out onto our backyard which I love. Natural light, green trees, blue sky, birds are all things that make me happy and keep me motivated. I have a comfy place to sit and stitch and a desk to draw and paint at. One whole wall is just bookshelves filled with things that inspire me – old pincushions, books, antique wooden boxes to hold thread, pencils and other supplies, fabric and quilts. My studio is a bit of eclectic mix of different things I love.
What is your favorite storage tip for your creative supplies?
For storing my supplies I love to use old suitcases and old wooden or metal boxes. I attach a small tag stating what’s inside. This way I can actually display my supplies on my bookshelf and they look pretty.
What are your favored/most used materials? Why do you use them? Where are they available?
I have lots of materials I can not live without! I love the Pilot FriXion pen to trace my patterns with. A stock of 8 1/2” x 11” freezer paper sheets is always nearby to trace my embroidery designs onto fabric. I make a copy of the design onto the paper side of the freezer paper (using an inkjet printer). Then I iron the wax side to the back of my fabric. Now the pattern stays put and the fabric is stabilized which makes tracing so much easier. The only note I would make on this is that the pattern would need to be in reverse if there is any wording on it.
My biggest stash would have to be my threads and flosses. They are so pretty to look at! I use 12wt Sulky, The Gentle Art overdyed floss, Valdani 12wt variegated (sooooo pretty), DMC, Cosmo, Week’s Dye Works. I can’t live without my threads.
The Forest Park Friends were stitched using Valdani 12wt thread. Valdani has assembled a box of the 12 colors used in all 10 of the patterns so it makes it easy to buy one box and get to stitching! The Forest Park Friend Valdani thread collection is available on my website www.KathySchmitz.com.
What is your typical day like?
Mornings are “me” time with tea, oatmeal, and a crossword puzzle. After that, it’s time to catch up on emails and shipping. At some point I like to either go for a walk or ride my bike. The fresh air helps me clear my head and I come up with some good ideas during this time. My FAVORITE part of the day is when I have time to sit and stitch. I try to allow at least an hour a day of stitching time, but usually it’s between 3-4 hours a day. Since my studio is in my home, my day also includes laundry, clean up, dinner prep, and a bit of gardening.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
Trying new things helps to stir my creative juices. Recently I started playing around with colored pencils on fabric before I do my stitching. I also added some beads to a recent piece. I have a beautiful stash of wools I like to play with too.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Do what makes you happy. Best advice ever!
Good question! There’s quite a few ideas floating around in my noggin. Whichever one eventually floats to the surface will become my next project. At the moment I’ve been into stitching pin cushions and magnetic needle keeps which I plan to sell as finished pieces. I’m slowly building up inventory and then I’ll add them to my website. I send out a Newsletter to update folks when new items are available.