Theresa Lawson is a fiber artist who creates her work with fabrics and threads starting with a plan and improvising along the way. She discovered artists making art that seemed accessible and started making art for art’s sake.
How did you get started making fiber art? Why did you choose that medium?
Not an unusual story really. I was fascinated by the clicking and quickness of my grandmother’s knitting needles when I was 7 or 8. She first introduced me to fiber arts.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.
When I was in primary school, an art teacher told me I had nimble fingers and should keep up with my knitting…of course eventually I discovered boys were more interesting and gave up for a good long while. Then another blow to my creativity was a high school counselor telling me I didn’t have the brains to study art at university and should concentrate on administrative pursuits.
I would fiddle with making here and there but never anything serious UNTIL I went to the urban craft fair in Seattle. I discovered artists making pieces that were just charming expressions of their creativity. It was the first time seeing actual artists making art that seemed accessible and not reserved for the elite. I started making more art for art’s sake.
I gravitated to fiber arts naturally. I felt like they were more forgiving but with their texture and adaptability, felt much more interesting than 2D paintings or drawings. I liked that they would literally stand out from the canvas or didn’t even need a canvas at all.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
Marrying similarities in the things I’m trying to represent with elements of embroidery stitches is my thing. It’s fun to build a landscape or a home using stitches in a non traditional way. It draws you in and inspires you to think less linearly.
What inspires you to create?
Without a doubt, other artists are the most inspiring to me. There seems to be a bottomless sea of creativity out there, The things people come up with and the way they manipulate their mediums is always exciting to me.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your new title, Hand-Stitched Oasis?
To not be afraid to start designing their own embroidery pieces. Many people are uncomfortable not working from a pre-planned pattern. I think these are a great starting point, to get you familiar with translating a pattern into embroidery. Often there won’t be a pattern for an idea you have formed, and Hand-Stitched Oasis gives you the tools to bring that idea to life.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
A little bit of both. I start with a plan, which inevitably goes wrong and then I have a chance to improvise. Invariably what I’m working on turns out better than I had planned that way.
That’s one of the things I like about embroidery, it’s a very forgiving art form and when something goes “wrong” it never turns out to be a mistake.
How do you manage your creative time? Do you schedule start and stop times? Or work only when inspired?
I always aspire to having a schedule but it never seems to work out that way. I find that if I have a set schedule and I force myself to do something I don’t feel inspired to do at that moment, I get bored or resentful and the project gets abandoned. Even if it means putting something off for a while or getting the chores out of the way first, I find it much more productive to work a little ad hoc.
What is your favorite storage tip for your creative supplies?
I don’t know if you’d call it a storage tip so much as a make life easier tip. I have a special tray that I found at an antiques mall years ago. When I’m working on a new project, everything for that project goes in that tray. Since I move around a lot when I’m working, it makes it easier to pick up work from wherever I am.
I also have an Ikea tray table that I put wheels on. I can plop everything on it and wheel it around with me. Then if I’m done for the day I can just wheel it out of the way.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
It’s easier for me to work from images so I don’t keep a sketchbook or journal unless I’m developing a pattern for other people. Normally I make a collection of images I find on the internet, or create a Pinterest board of things that inspire me. I look at them whenever I’m unsure of where I want to go with a piece next.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
Usually, my husband puttering around the house or tinkering on his guitars. My cat meowing for food every 10 minutes. One of the free streaming channels playing a TV show I’ve seen a thousand times.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
One of my favorite pieces was my trio of hoops dandelion. It came from a walk my husband and I took in the spring.
The dandelions had just gone to seed and were floating about in the breeze. Normally these little flowers are so annoying when they take over your whole yard, but here they were so beautiful.
It struck me how they kind of own all of the planes of their existence. Their roots are ferocious. The plant spreads out unashamed and its seeds take flight, floating for miles until they find a new home.
This is where the idea to separate the plant into 3 hoops came from. And the fact that they are so attention seeking as a plant meant I needed to choose a stitch that was attention grabbing like turkey work!
Which part of the design process is your favorite? Which part is a challenge for you?
My favorite part and the most challenging part is taking something that has inspired me and figuring out what I want that to look like as embroidery. What is it I want to stand out? What’s the fun little hook? It’s the most exciting part of a new project and the part that requires the most mental energy.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
“Don’t sweat the small stuff” With a medium like embroidery, it’s so easy to get frustrated if something isn’t turning out like you imagine it.
Fiber is like that, it’s going to do weird things. One thread will be different to another. If you’re too rigid about your project, it’s going to make you miserable.
You have to remember, it’s just embroidery, no one’s life is depending on it. Enjoy it for what it is and use it as a way to relax/create/whatever heals you.
Where can people see your work?
You can hop over to my website themonsterslounge.com and join my newsletter for monthly updates (and some freebies).
Interview posted January 2024
Browse through more hand embroidery projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy.