lisa solomon : artists who blog

Lisa Solomon is a multi-talented artist friend, who I first interviewed way back in 2008 here. She continues to amaze me with her productivity and her kind, generous spirit! 

Lisa is an art professor, freelance graphic designer, and author of a beautiful recently published book called Knot Thread Stitch, which explores creativity through mixed media and embroidery. She also runs a crafty business called MODIfy/d with a friend, and her first online class called INTERWOVEN (featuring a very cool variety of art + sewing techniques) begins soon - on February 4th.

Lisa has shown her artwork internationally in the US, Italy, and Japan. See more of Lisa's artwork on her website and read more about her studio practice and poetic musings on her blog.

Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and your personal connection between sewing and making art.

Hi ! I'm Lisa - I live in Oakland, California with my husband, my 4 year old daughter, a pit bull, deaf french bulldog, 2- 3 legged cats and a stumpy tail kitty. I'm a half Japanese half Caucasian/Jewish American not very tall lady. 

I mention my heritage because I have always felt like a "hybrid" [culturally] and have come to realize that this hybridity is really central to how I work and what I make. In many ways I liken it to being "in between" – I float between different familial and cultural rituals/routines/expectations and my work floats between media/subject matter/scale. 

I tend to make work that is either small or really big [like room size]. Most of my work has some sort of personal quotient – either it's directly about me/my family, or the subject matter is influenced by something or someone close to me. I tend to use painting, crochet, embroidery, drawing, paper, felt, pins – the implications of using craft materials in a fine art setting is something I like to flirt with. 

My grandmother was an avid maker. She knitted and crocheted and embroidered. She was particularly great at hardangar embroidery [which baffles my mind, but it stunningly beautiful]. 

When I was in grad school I discovered embroidery. And once I did it simply became another means for me to draw. 

We'd love to hear more about your beautiful new book Knot Thread Stitch. What inspired you to write this book?

I actually wasn't sure I could do it. A book wasn't really in my plans. But then my editor really spurred me on. I also decided that I wanted to approach it differently. In the end I really just wanted to make a book that had cool projects that used embroidery in an interesting and hopefully retro/contemporary way. I thought a lot about how I use my own EXTENSIVE craft book library -- I tend to look at the pretty pictures and then figure out a way to incorporate a technique or idea in my own way. 

I dreamed about handing off my projects to a bunch of my über talented friends - and just seeing what they did with simple parameters. So I gave them project titles and a few ideas but very little other direction. I thought it would be fun to see our wildly different and personal takes side by side - and indeed it really was a treat to see the gorgeous work my friends and colleagues made. 

How did you come up with so many unique ideas for creative mixed media projects in your book?

I tried to think about how traditional embroidery was utilized – what decorative purposes did it serve? And then I tried to think about how to contemporize  these basic project ideas. Honestly this book gave me permission to make things that I've had in my mind for a long time, but didn't have the free time to pursue. 

I also really wanted to push the boundaries of what you could embroider on and with – paper, shrink plastic, felt balls…. I spent some time looking around my house and a lot of time looking at the craft books out there and trying to do things with my own twist [and hunting down contributors who would provide THEIR own twists].

Many interesting variations for your projects are featured in your book - as "Artist Versions." How did you choose the artists for your book, and how was your experience with collaborating with so many fellow artists?

That was so fun ! I basically approached all my online craft buddies. Back when we all started blogs [what 7 years ago?] internet land was much smaller and I really feel as though I forged some strong friendships. After I had a list of the projects for the book I just racked my brain for people who fit into the project – and I wanted people whose takes would be really different from mine. 

I realized during this that I'm a pretty good project manager ;) and it was really really fun to have an excuse to work with all these people that I admire so much. Luckily all the contributors are incredibly organized and hard workers so they made it really easy on me. I didn't have to hound them or follow up for paperwork/releases. 

What were some of the biggest challenges and highlights of having your book published? 

For me it was really hard to wrap my head around how much content would = how many pages. I had no idea really how to translate that. Also I knew that I had to write the whole thing – but REALLY – I had to write the whole thing ! At some point I struggled with how much to include in the basics section – what fabrics did I really have to write about and what did I want to say???

Also even though I knew it was going to be a lot of work – it really was A LOT OF WORK ! From idea development to actually making all the pieces for the book, to getting them photographed [and I styled all the photos too]… But… in the end I have a BOOK. Something I never dreamed I'd have. And I love books. With a passion. So it's a thrill to look at my book – it's MINE. 

Highlights? Hearing from readers and makers about the book and what they've made. I'm going to NY to do a workshop at Purl Soho in March – I've loved their store forever so it's a real treat to get to do something with them. 

Do you have tips for someone who would love to write and publish their own creative book? For instance, how to develop a successful book proposal and working together with a publisher?

I was SO lucky in that my publisher approached me and pretty much cajoled me into making my book. I had the best editor who really walked me through the whole process and answered any and all questions. In terms of developing a successful proposal – I think the key is really figuring out how your book is going to be different from what is already on the market. 

How is your book different from what is already in their stable and what has already been made? What my publisher wanted was a Table of Contents and a short description of what I would do. That was what got the ball rolling. They were already familiar with my work, so I didn't have to provide images, but if you are pitching from "scratch" I would make sample projects and photograph them so that there is really a sense of what your aesthetic and point of view are. I would also research publishers. Different ones are known for different things. Find the one that suits your ideas/talents. 

From my experience your editor is KEY. That is a relationship that you really want to feel comfortable with. You want someone who will be able to be your middle person, someone who will support you and back you up [with the powers that be and designers] when you need it. 

Please tell us about your creative dreams for 2013 and beyond. What are some of the future projects would you love to work on?

Creative dreams? Hmmm. I have a solo show in November so I am frantically working on that. I had this crazy idea and asked for help and was so overwhelmed with the response. I have been managing that since the beginning of the year ;)  

I'm also really excited about the online class I'm about to teach with my friend Katrina called INTERWOVEN - it's the first time trying an e-course and I'm excited to see how that will work. 

Otherwise really I have been missing my studio. I need to carve out some time to play and figure out what needs to happen next. I need to just sit and drink some tea and simmer – but as we all know – that is much easier said than done – especially with a kid!

That sounds great Lisa, and you know I can relate :)

I love your Knot Thread Stitch book and I'm sure that your new INTERWOVEN online course is going to be a hit! Thank you for sharing your time and thoughts with us today! xo