Purls of Wisdom

The Handwork Stories: Tim Pence

Posted by Mattie Solomon on Sun, Oct 28, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

In this series we have been sharing stories about the people and places where The Handwork Studio team members find inspiration for their craft. In order to expand our community we will explore the different ways that people got their start in sewing, knitting, and other needlework crafts. This series explores the art that goes behind this craft and understanding the sources of inspiration for different people, and this week will be introducing you to Tim Pence! 

The Creative Type

Headshot1There can be this assumption within handwork that one is taught these skills at a young age and has then stuck with that craft ever since. For some, however, needle arts can come later as a result of their passion for creativity and art. For regional camp manager Tim Pence, his connection to needle arts did not come until more recently. Before he found his passion for sewing in undergraduate school, he seemed to dip his toe into many different creative fields within the world of visual arts.

Tim’s creativity was discovered at a pretty young age as he and his brother became big fans of the He-Man cartoon and the Oz book series. “We took this to another level by creating elaborate storylines for our toys and improvising the outcomes,” and Tim said that ultimately, he loved being able to create a different world to play in.

Headshot2In his earliest memories, Tim fell in love with drawing and the kind of limitless places that it could take his imagination. He specifically really found a passion for drawing comics. When he was in third grade, Tim says that two of his friend in elementary and middle school would spend a lot of time creating comics. He and his friends “took this pretty seriously,” and in that time wrote and drew many different stories that seemed to spark a slightly embarrassed laugh from Tim even today.

Although Tim mentioned that these were maybe not the most groundbreaking pieces of work, he stated that it was a great way to get his ideas out when he was younger. This love of drawing and creating comics was just the beginning of Tim coming to understand not only what art means in a general sense, but what art means to him.

Cowboys and IndiansAs mentioned, Tim says that when he was doing needle work in college that was the time he felt really connected to needle arts. Now, as a MFA candidate in Theatre Set Design at Temple University, Tim feels as though he is finally being able to draw all of his influences into his work in lots of new and interesting ways. His program has been a great way to apply what he has learned to incorporate all of the senses into his work, and he feels as though he is able to reach a larger audience. “I think I have done a lot of exploring with different materials, processes, and mediums. Theatre design sort of gives me a context and a way to process all of it. I have been building up a vocabulary and now I have been finding a place to use that vocabulary,” said Tim.

sewn print on spongeWhen asking what has inspired his work, he said that one thing that he really looked to for inspiration was the music of Kate Bush, which he discovered in his early twenties. Even though he has never worked with music himself, he thought that her use of metaphor and the way she talked about her music was something that helped him “discover what art was.” It is interesting to see how music could inspire his work with visual art. Tim said, “I’m most transported by music as an art form, though I’m not a musician. It’s my goal to transport others in the same way, but through an immersive visual experience.” Along with her music, Tim said he is also inspired by relationships, nature, and the different materials he encounters.

Making art has become a huge part of Tim’s life, and something that has ultimately brought him to The Handwork Studio. While working towards his degree, he has loved being able to teach kids to hone in on their own creativity and introduce them to handwork. Allowing kids to access their own creativity is something that Tim sees as being very important. “It’s not something they would be learning in school to this degree. So, to be teaching them so many different things and watching them do things for themselves is really rewarding.” While teaching kids today how to grow in their creativity, he is also always looking for ways to improve and grow within his own craft.

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Click here for a look at our summer sewing camp options for your child. Also, be sure to check out our store and our new partnership with Simplicity Sewing Patterns

Tags: The Handwork Stories, sewmorelove

The Handwork Stories: Ana Castro

Posted by Mattie Solomon on Sun, Oct 14, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

In this series we have been sharing stories about the people and places where The Handwork Studio team members find inspiration for their craft. In order to expand our community we will explore the different ways that people got their start in sewing, knitting, and other needlework crafts. This series explores the art that goes behind this craft and understanding the sources of inspiration for different people, and this week will be introducing you to Ana Castro!

Artful Thinking

AnaAndLinusWhen asking studio administrator Ana Castro about the moment she caught the crafting bug, she paused for a moment, and attempted to trace herself back to that singular moment. After lingering over the thought, she responded, “Well, I never wanted to be anything other than an artist,” which truly speaks to the meaningful way in which Ana has viewed the journey of her craft throughout her entire life. Some people can pinpoint an exact moment when they were taught a certain craft, or maybe trace it back to a certain person, but for Ana, it seems that creativity has been at the forefront of her life from the very beginning.

Ana has always been surrounded by creativity, and a lot of her inspiration today comes from her Costa Rican background. The colors and textiles that come from that area really inspire a lot of her work, and she loves to infuse the styles of their traditional interior design into the pieces she creates. Along with her Costa Rican background, Ana also finds a lot of inspiration, especially when it comes to her color palate, from the style of the 90’s and the different toys she had when she was growing up. So, while one side of her pulls her towards the image of the traditional Central America home, another brings her towards her childhood in the states.

Growing up, Ana said she spent a lot of time by herself, therefore finding imaginative ways to express herself. “I’m an introvert, and you know a lot of people wouldn’t realize that when they meet me,” said Ana. A lot of her work is then inspired by the kinds of activities she did when she was younger, while discovering who she was. Most of her work is inspired by the body, and by movement and dance specifically. She says that a lot of her pieces mimic this sort of fluffy and plump feeling. Although never fully realizing it, Ana sees now how her childhood has found its way naturally into her work today.

AnaDressingLoomAnother part of who inspired Ana’s creativity growing up were her parents. Both of her parents are chefs, and she said that seeing them be creative helped foster creativity within herself. “They were so resourceful, and everything had to be made a certain way,” mentioned Ana, and it was the ways in which they always thought outside of the box which allowed her to think that her career as an artist could be what it is today.

Ana got her degree in crafts from University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 2014, where she fell in love with the entire creation process. During a critique for one of her earlier pieces, she realized that the work she creates has more meaning than just its materials. “I found that everything has a connotation whether you want it to or not. That was an inspiring moment and I chose to pursue that kind of craft after that point.” Then after University, Ana was drawn to the vision of The Handwork Studio, saying “I thought it was really lovely that they were expanding the audience [for needle arts] and that they were fostering a community.”

AnaArtworkNow, Ana embraces the meditative practice of her craft and loves being able to pass on these fiber arts techniques to kids today. “The projects they make become a part of their life in a much different way than store bought toys. We give kids the autonomy to pick every single part of their piece out, and that way they will value it so much more highly,” she said. By giving kids the opportunity to make these crafts a part of their life, Ana believes that more and more kids will be able to find ways of expressing themselves in the creative ways she did growing up.

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Click here for a look at our summer sewing camp options for your child. Also, be sure to check out our store and our new partnership with Simplicity Sewing Patterns

Tags: The Handwork Stories, sewmorelove

Alumni Profile Series: Sharon Baranov

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Oct 07, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

Welcome to the second installment in the Alumni Profile Series, which features profiles of the Handwork Studio graduates (and some current members) and gives you an inside look into their lives. Happy reading!

For a shorter biography of Sharon Baranov, check out the alumni page of our website!

Sharon headshot-1

Name: Sharon Baranov
Age: 18
Education: First year at the University of Pennsylvania
Major: Mechanical Engineering

Who is Sharon Baranov?

Sharon tells me that in addition to engineering she paints, sews, and does fashion design. Her favorite type of art is probably making clothes, but the week before our interview she took a still life painting class (where she tried oil paints for the first time) and loved it.

When she grows up, Sharon most likely wants to do something in mechanical engineering, but she also wants to relate her engineering back to fashion, because she finds that “they’re kind of intermixed a little bit because they’re both about making things.”

 

Early Involvement in Handwork and The Handwork Studio

Sharon started sewing at a remarkably young age. Her mom bought her sewing kits from Joann Fabric that she really enjoyed and she attended a knitting class at another camp and had a great time, so her mom signed her up for classes at the Handwork Studio. She tells me that she was 5 or 6 years old when she started attending the Handwork Studio. To start that young, someone else in Sharon’s family must have been interested in handwork if she got involved that early, but she shakes her head. “No one else in my family really did sewing. My two older sisters had learned to knit so when I first started knitting one of my sisters (who is about ten years older than me) was starting to help me, but she didn’t know a lot. She couldn’t really cast on or anything, so then my mom sent me to the Handwork Studio.”

Sharon has been a part of the Handwork Studio family for virtually her entire life. When I ask her about her journey with the Handwork Studio, she tells me that she started taking hand sewing lessons after camp, did doll making, and then once she was old enough she started machine sewing. (She had a private teacher that taught her how to machine sew before she began to machine sew at the Handwork Studio because she wasn’t yet old enough to be in the class. If anything evidences Sharon’s dedication to the craft, this is it!) “Once I was old enough to do [machine sewing] at the Handwork Studio I took a class every week and a bunch of my friends did it with me because my mom told their parents about it so I would take the doll making class on Monday kind of by myself or with one other friend and for machine sewing it would be me and like six of my friends. We would go for the Friday class. And after that they kind of...I guess by the time we went to middle school they had stopped and I kept going, and by then I stopped taking classes and did volunteering in classrooms. And then once I turned fourteen, I started working at the Handwork Studio.”

It’s telling of Sharon’s dedication and love for handwork that she stayed committed even when those around her found other things to do. Even after Sharon aged out of the Handwork Studio, she remained involved, working at the Narberth studio through summers and school years.

Its hard to imagine that the Handwork Studio has been anything less than formative for Sharon because of her lifelong relationship with it, and she agrees wholeheartedly. “It definitely had a lasting impact on me because it kind of got me going in sewing, and I had really great teachers, and they were really fun. Especially because I had a lot of friends that went with me and I made friends that kept me going. Taking sewing classes by yourself - which I also did with a private sewing teacher - can sometimes not be as motivating because you’re by yourself. With a bunch of friends you’re all picking your projects together, and it just makes the experience really fun. Eventually, as I got older...they still kept me on volunteering because I was too old for the classes. I never had a break when it was like “Oh I’m too old for the classes but too young to work.” They just kept me going with it.”

Sharon immediately launches into a story when asked if she has a favorite anecdote or experience that she wants to share. She talks about this “huge fat bunny that one of the teachers had knitted a while ago” that sat in the studio that all the kids loved to play with. “One summer,” she recalls, “I decided that I wanted to make it. So they just let me do my own thing, and every time I had the chance, I would work on knitting this bunny. They weren’t very strict that I had to do every project and they let me do my own thing. It was really exciting because I finished the bunny and it was a huge bunny.” She forms a circle with her arms, indicating how large the project was, and laughs. “It was really cute.”

 

Sharon’s  Journey

Instead, she is asked to talk about the most significant way handwork plays a role in her life, outside of working at the Handwork Studio of course. She tells me that the Handwork Studio taught her “about the fun you can have with sewing,” so now she focuses more on doing projects that make her happy. “I just finished making my prom dress in April, and I just do little fun projects. I don’t make it something that is difficult for me; I just do what I like. That’s what they taught me.”

“It was really hard,” she admits, “because I decided to make the pattern for it myself, so that was really difficult, but once I got the pattern it kind of went a lot smoother and I was able to finish it.” She thinks for a moment before telling me about her 3-week internship for a tailor that she completed as her senior project, alongside making her prom dress. She worked at a store called SewRob near where she lives and got to see more of the business side of sewing.  Did she focus on administrative tasks? Fashion related work?

“I saw what he was doing with the tailoring and the pinning, but I didn’t work as much with the actual sewing of stuff because it’s still his business and he had to let his workers do their own thing,” she explains. “But I basically checked if everyone finished the work right. I would take a pair of pants and press the hem and make sure there weren’t any threads hanging off, and then I would check it off. I also watched him pin different dresses. A bride came in, and I was able to see that.”

 

Sharon’s Art

Despite pursuing a career in something outside handwork, Sharon makes it clear that sewing will always be her hobby. She chose not to embark on a fashion career because she likes being able to make clothes for herself, and she likes the freedom of making patterns for things she wants. “That’s how I got into engineering,” she says. “I was thinking that I really like making things and fitting them together and seeing how they work.” She starts to tell the story of how she moved from fashion to engineering.

“I went to Parsons for a three-week summer program, and I did fashion illustration there which was a lot about putting the design and the colors together and stuff like that. And I liked it and thought it was really fun but it wasn’t really what I was going for. I was thinking a lot more about the patterns and how you can construct different clothes, and that’s really what I like to do. I don’t do as much fashion illustration at home; I just like to put things together and make the actual clothing. I know there are jobs like that in the fashion world but right after Parsons I had physics in school (my junior year) so we started doing projects like building a catapult or a bridge. I saw that I liked those two and how making those things connected to making the patterns in my sewing. I was thinking that if I get a degree in mechanical engineering and learn a lot about how things go together and how you make things then if I don’t like doing anything other than doing that with clothing then I can always go back and use what I’ve learned from my degree in mechanical engineering and apply it to clothing.”

 

Trials and Successes

When I ask Sharon what she’s done over the last few years that she’s the proudest of, I’m thrilled to hear her say her prom dress. She goes into detail about the process and design.

“Basically it’s this corset pattern, and it’s not like anything I’ve made a pattern for before so at the beginning I was really struggling. I did pattern draping on a mannequin, and it took me six tries and so many months to do it and finally I just was like ‘This is close enough’ and started cutting out fabric and making it into the dress. And as it came together it felt really good because I got so many compliments from people who were like ‘Oh my god, how’d you do this’ and it felt really good to see a final product. And that's really what I like about sewing. You get through the whole process which can be really challenging sometimes, but then you get a product in the end that you’re really proud of.”

As a visual artist who normally sticks to drawing and painting, I don’t really know what it’s like to use your artistic skills to make something intrinsically functional and to be able to wear your creation. Sharon agrees, saying that “You’re really close to your clothes. A lot of people express themselves through their clothing or just like nice clothing, so I feel like when you can make it for yourself, it’s just really nice. And it feels really close, even more sometimes than a painting.”

What is something Sharon wishes she could change about the last few years? She pauses for a second, then tells me that she wishes that she’d kept sewing more after she decided not to pursue fashion as a career. Before she attended the Parsons program, Sharon had sewing teacher that had her make something new every week, and even though it was challenging, she wishes she had kept up with that schedule. Sharon essentially took a six-month break from sewing and only really got back into it to make a dress for her winter formal, her junior year. “It was a little bit of a sore topic, but I wish I had kept going because there are so many things I could have made during that time…then I did my junior formal dress, and it was like, okay, I really miss this.” She’s coming into the realization that she needs to find a way to keep sewing in her life (which is why she took this summer off from work - to make art). It’s always a balance to keep space and time for your art alongside everything else school throws at you.

Does she have anything else to share about the Handwork Studio?

“It was a really good experience and made sure that I’ll always have something that I like to do and that I’ll always make time for. It helped me approach the arts. My mom is very into sports and stuff, and she’s never done any art, and my older sister was into painting, but I’m the first one to get into sewing. So it really helped me find ‘my thing.’”

 

 



Photo 1: Portrait of Sharon Baranov
Photo 2: Sharon wearing three of her designs
Photo 3: Painting of Sharon and her sisters
Photo 4: Jacket designed by Sharon 
Photo 5: Sharon in her prom dress, front 
Photo 6: Sharon wearing three of her designs
Photo 7: Sharon in her prom dress, back

Tags: Handwork, The Handwork Stories, Alumni, Alumni Profile Series, Profile, Sharon Baranov

The Handwork Stories: Julia Yosen

Posted by Mattie Solomon on Sun, Sep 16, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

In this series we have been sharing stories about the people and places where The Handwork Studio team members find inspiration for their craft. In order to expand our community we will explore the different ways that people got their start in sewing, knitting, and other needlework crafts. This series explores the art that goes behind this craft and understanding the sources of inspiration for different people, and this week will be introducing you to Julia Yosen! 

“For the Love of Teaching”

After graduating college with a fine arts degree, Julia Yosen found herself at a quarter life crisis asking herself, “What am I supposed to do with this?” This all too familiar end of college standstill is something that a lot of art students face, and leaves many with the question: well, what about teaching?

164085_512037776023_2250635_n (1)For Julia, teaching seemed to be the best option, but in that choice lies a path that she believed to be quite limiting. Julia moved from Vermont back to her hometown in Pennsylvania in 2006, and it was while she was working at a Joann Fabric, that The Handwork Studio fell into her view.

An almost serendipitous job opportunity was presented to her, and in that job, she could connect some of the many things that she feels connected to and is so passionate about. Melissa, a teacher at the Handwork Studio, connected with Julia while she was working at the cutting counter at the Joann Fabric. Melissa opened up an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something that would “revolutionize needle arts.” With a dream to connect a new generation of kids to needle arts, Julia jumped at the prospect of being an instructor for one of the first workshops and programs The Handwork Studio ever held. That was when her start with The Handwork Studio began, but her connection to needle arts and crafting goes back a little earlier.

Julia first fell in love with crafting as she walked through the aisles of an A.C Moore. The arts & craft store’s endless creative possibilities excited the crafting gene in Julia. Two of her best friends and her would go down into her basement and move from one project to the next, which mimics the kind of collaboration and creative exploration that she would be facilitating at The Handwork Studio camps some years later.

Whether it was making clothes for their American Girl dolls by cutting up a box of their old clothes or making pig puppets they found in the back of the book, The Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jigs, they were never short of crafts to tackle. “It was always the three of us in our basement, making all of these terrible projects. We would stay down there for hours,” said Julia, and it was here that she caught the bug for crafting.

As a kid who would always be starting her next project, Julia believes that there is something so empowering about creating something on your own. When you use your own hands to create something, there is a lot of pride that goes along with that. Julia did not discover her love for arts and crafts on her own but dedicates a lot of it to the things her mother and grandmother taught her when she was young.

Julia said her mother was always crafty, and her grandmother was a great painter who also taught her how to cross stitch. Although she says she was not that great at it, there is still something so powerful when having someone teach you a craft such as this. Although she originally thought teaching was something quite limiting, Julia has now come to understand the power of teaching needle arts to those who may not have had the same childhood she did.

“You want to be that inspirational person for these kids, and you want to create that environment where they are going to be excited about what they are doing,” says Julia while discussing her passion for working with The Handwork Studio. Even though it may not be where she thought she would be, having the ability to inspire a new generation of crafters fills Julia with an undeniable excitement. Julia believes that a lot of this creativity starts off “when we were little, and we are crafting and exploring,” and over the years, Julia has helped many little ones find their own creative gene within.

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Click here for a look at our summer sewing camp options for your child. Also, be sure to check out our store and our new partnership with Simplicity Sewing Patterns

Tags: The Handwork Stories, sewmorelove

The Handwork Stories: Homemade Halloween

Posted by Mattie Solomon on Fri, Jun 08, 2018 @ 02:44 PM

Creating a Larger Picture

Whether it is a grandparent, a teacher, a parent, or a friend, the people that make up The Handwork Studio all have a person or a time that can be linked to that first moment they were inspired to pick up a craft. Where one finds inspiration is often a personal story, and this series will work to uncover some of those amazing stories. I will be having conversations with members of The Handwork Studio’s team about the places where they gain their inspiration from and then sharing those stories with you! With each story, we will weave together a picture of the team here at The Handwork Studio by hearing from some familiar faces and some new ones. 

To start off this series, I thought I would introduce myself, and share some of my own connection to needle work. My name is Mattie, and I am a blogging and Social Media intern for the Handwork Studio. I am a senior attending the University of Maryland, where I study English Literature and Professional Writing. When I am not studying in College Park, or creating content for The Handwork Studio, I love to flip through fashion magazines, watch excessive amounts of HGTV, and count down the days until my next adventure.  

Stitching Together Generations

D61137A5-69A7-4303-B67D-FC1B4EA61A86Crafting is a special kind of art because it is not necessarily something that you go to school for or learn about in some art history book. For me, it has been something passed down from the generations of women who came before me, and it is exciting to think how I can pass it off to loved ones in the future. The women in my life have always been handy with a needle and thread, and anytime they mention something that they have created with their own two hands, you can see the undeniable joy and love that seeps through every seem.

Growing up, my mother used to make all of my siblings and my Halloween costumes. It seems impossible to me that she hand made all of these while having four young kids and still working, but I think for my mom, it was only natural to create and sew together things for the people she loved. She said that it would take her weeks to make all four of the costumes for my siblings and me. I cannot imagine thinking about Halloween all the way back in August! One of her favorite costumes to make was one where I was a flower bouquet. She said, “I made you a bonnet with all of these silk flowers that I had to individually hand sew onto the fabric. I loved the way it turned out, and you looked so cute with your tuffs of blonde hair and dimples.” Taking the time to make a butterfly or batman costume was done out of love, and that has been the lens through which I have viewed the art that goes behind needle work.

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My mom was not just handy with a sewing machine, but also seemed to effortlessly succeed with every craft or art she set her mind to. The scrapbooks that line packed book shelves, the hand painted furniture adorned with ornate floral designs, and the carefully planted flower pots on our porch have filled my family home with the love and care my mom has showed with everything she does.

Seeing these symbols for family around my house inspired me to be like my mother in these ways and ask her at every moment to teach me whatever she was working on. After learning how to knit and sew from her mother, it seemed completely normal when I asked her if she could teach me how to knit when I was about 12 years old. Maybe this itch to create is something I inherited from my mother and grandmother, but I think it is also a product of being around such inspirational and hard-working women.

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My mom always tells me about the times that I would imitate my grandmother as she would knit. I think this kind of imitation has infected me with the passion to create, and the passion to create for those that I love. I am working to be as good as my mother and grandmother, but for now I do not mind sitting on the sideline and watching them weave together what they love most in the world

Stories like mine are shared among so many people and across so many generations. If my story reminded you of someone in your life who inspired you to pick up a craft or art, share your story down in the comments below. We would love to hear your story and see how we can grow this community of thoughtful teachers and learners! 


Click here for a look at our summer sewing camp options for your child. Also, be sure to check out our store and our new partnership with Simplicity Sewing Patterns

Tags: Summer Camp, Summer, Fashion & Machine Sewing, The Handwork Stories, Inspiration