By LEIGH GUIDRY, The Advertiser
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) – Marie Palmer’s office is covered in a whirlwind of color – a turquoise sewing machine, boxes overflowing with thread and acrylic landscape paintings in various stages of completion.
She sits in her pink chair, an “inspiration wall” with photos of famous masters and their works behind her. She pulls a needle and embroidery thread through a linen shirt, a large flower taking shape on what was a stain.
It’s his way of recycling used objects.
The blue linen dress she’s wearing has been given a similar update, with threaded patterns on the top.
Palmer likes to embroider on usable objects like clothes, pins or cards, which are all around her desk.
“That’s what embroidery is for — surface decoration,” she says. “That’s how it’s been planned over the years.”
Palmer, 39, uses her needles and thread to sew these surface decorations with intricate and expressive imagery. The small details that mark his bees, his Louisiana egrets and the flowing dresses of the women appear like brushstrokes, prompting him to refer to this art of embroidery as “thread painting”.
She even recreates famous yarn paintings on tiny surfaces, like a fabric pin from Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”
All of this work takes place in a converted shed outside his home in Lafayette. A mom of three, Palmer realized she needed the room for all her art supplies but also for quiet.
“I’m an introvert,” she says. “I need time to reflect and be alone, to get ideas out and refine them as I go. It takes quiet energy to get it out of my brain.
Palmer still remembers painting and drawing as a child, then her godmother taught her to embroider around the age of 7. She returned to art later in life, learning more through videos and finding role models online.
Then she started creating her own creations. She particularly likes to work with linen and generally uses DMC embroidery thread. Sometimes she will use silk thread.
His designs vary, reflecting nature, mythology and simple scenes of daily life. One of his favorite pieces – and perhaps the greatest – is one of his grandparents washing dishes together in their kitchen.
Like the concept, the colors are simple, mostly different shades of brown. But his stitches create the look of wood grain and the flow of the fabric of their shirts as his grandmother turns to hand him a blue dish.
This piece took over 100 hours, she says. She appreciates it not only for the personal connection to her family, but also for reflecting the traditionally feminine history of embroidery.
“Embroidery, in general, has been women’s work for centuries,” Palmer said. “Being a mom is the most important thing in my life, so being able to portray domestic scenes is important to me.”
She is often inspired by her children and family. She recently completed a small portrait of her father, which took about 20 hours.
Palmer is able to carve out little moments to embroider almost every day. Most of the projects are small and lightweight, making them easy to take to her kids’ music lessons or to work at her husband’s electrical engineering business.
“I take advantage of these stolen moments to do it,” she said.
And of course, she finds time to work alone in the shed.
“For me, it’s my best outlet to work on emotions, relationships with other people,” Palmer said. “It’s my therapy and my meditation in one.”
Palmer also sells her work through her online Etsy store, Artemis Unraveled, named after her love of mythology and art. There, shoppers can find highly detailed, hand-embroidered butterfly wing earrings and artwork to hang on your wall.
Although embroidery is her favorite, she still works with paint and other mediums to create her landscapes as well as decks of oracle cards. Some have been sewn, and others are mixed media. Then she scans them and sells the printed cards, shipping games to Japan and France.
“I never do the same thing,” she says. “It takes a long time to perfect.”
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