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How Did You Do That?

1 Year of Stitches, Embroidery, How Did You Do That?

1 Year of Stitches’ Creator Talks About Embroidering Through 2016

Details from Hannah Claire Sommerville's 1 Year of Stitches project

I’m over­joyed (and pleas­ant­ly sur­prised!) with just how many have signed up for the 1 Year of Stitch­es project. It’s going to be a fun addi­tion to your 2017—I just know it!

As I’ve men­tioned before1 Year of Stitch­es is the brain­child of Han­nah Claire Somerville. She’s just about to fin­ish up her project and lived 2016 in embroidery—among oth­er things like com­plet­ing grad school! I spoke with her about 1 Year of Stitch­es, and hope her wis­dom and insight will help you know what to expect for your embroi­dered jour­ney.

And if you’re inter­est­ed in joining—or won­der­ing what the heck it is—learn more here. For those that have signed up, expect an email from me today!

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How Did You Do That?

How Did You Do That? Liz Payne’s Vibrant, Highly-Textured Embroideries

Liz Payne

Liz Payne is, hands down, one of my favorite embroi­dery artists. Her vibrant works are hand-paint­ed tex­tiles with embell­ish­ments like bead­ing, intri­cate stitch­es, and sequins. They’re a feast for the eyes—a col­li­sion of col­or, tex­tures, and shapes.

Liz is tak­ing part in How Did You Do That?, a series that focus­es on how mak­ers cre­ate the things that we love. So far, we’ve learned how Nan­cy Liang crafts her spooky GIFs and had a peak into Tinybop’s inten­sive app-mak­ing process. Irma Grue­holz also shared how she forms her whim­si­cal 3D cre­ations. Now, with­out fur­ther ado, here’s Liz!


Brown Paper Bag: What is your artis­tic back­ground? What was the most influ­en­tial part of your education—either for­mal­ly or infor­mal­ly?

Liz Payne: When I was younger, I was always sur­round­ed by piles of fab­ric, wool, thread and beads in every shape, size and col­or. I’m real­ly influ­enced by my mum — she can sew any­thing and every­thing and so I’ve always been sur­round­ed by it and loved every­thing to do with it — I guess it was nat­ur­al I would want to cre­ate things that com­bined my love of all those things! After school, I went on to com­plete a Bach­e­lor of Visu­al Arts degree at uni, fol­lowed by a Cer­tifi­cate IV in Graph­ic Design. But I think the ‘infor­mal’ hours of work and prac­tice was, and is, real­ly impor­tant- noth­ing hap­pens overnight!

Liz Payne

Liz Payne


BPB: You write that you use a “mix­ture of stitch­es to cre­ate a syn­er­gy of move­ment and dimen­sion with these threads so your eye dances around from one intri­cate detail to the next.” Who/what inspires this?

LP: I like my work to be inter­est­ing and intrigu­ing and to also grasp the view­er into all the intri­cate details of the stitch­ing, some­times sur­pris­ing them that it’s been embroi­dered. I think embroi­dery can have a stig­ma to it that it’s ‘grand­moth­er­ly’ or ‘old fash­ioned’. It’s my hope when peo­ple see my work that this old con­no­ta­tion is blown out of the water, and I hope to achieve this by draw­ing the viewer’s eye in and across the details of a work.



BPB: Give us an idea of your process. What’s the first step in start­ing a new piece, and what’s the final step?

LP: Some­times I have a plan in my head of a piece I want to cre­ate and I’ll sketch it first, some­times tak­ing it into Illus­tra­tor to fur­ther plan it out. Oth­er times I approach a piece with more free­dom and just pull out the paints and go for it. I see apply­ing the paint as a nec­es­sary lay­er — even if you don’t see the paint under­neath all the time. After the fab­ric is ready, then comes the fun bit of embroi­der­ing! This can be time con­sum­ing but it’s my favorite bit — slow­ly, slow­ly build­ing up the tex­ture and col­or. I try to keep the bead­ing aspect till last, but I don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly do this. Once it’s fin­ished I’ll decid­ed on the fram­ing options and more than like­ly frame it myself (as I’m a bit of a con­trol freak!)



BPB: Do you keep a sketch­book? If so, what does it look like?

LP: Yes, I have a cou­ple and I stash them every­where. They’re com­plete­ly dis­or­ga­nized, stuffed with receipts, things to remem­ber, but full of lit­tle sketch­es and ideas that if I didn’t write it down I’d be lost with­out.

BPB: How much plan­ning goes into your work before you begin? How much do you account for spon­tane­ity?

LP: It all depends — each piece is dif­fer­ent. For the piece I’m work­ing on at the moment for exam­ple, I’ll paint the fab­ric with a bit of plan in my head but I didn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly plan out the embroi­dery, as in what stitch where — I like to leave those deci­sions until I get to it, and it all depends on the work before it too of course, to cre­ate a nice har­mo­ny in col­or, tex­ture and detail.



BPB: Your work com­pris­es so many tiny mate­ri­als! What do you find the most dif­fi­cult to work with?

LP: Metal­lic thread! I don’t use it a lot even though I love it.

BPB: What is your favorite embroi­dery stitch? (Mine is the French knot.)

LP: I love the French knot — it gives great tex­ture and dimen­sion, and they’re total­ly addic­tive. It’s prob­a­bly the only stitch I do ‘prop­er­ly’ too — as my work isn’t real­ly ‘tra­di­tion­al’ embroi­dery!



BPB: Do you have any tips for work­ing with mixed media and tex­tiles? 

LP: Don’t be reg­i­ment­ed into think­ing some­thing has to be a par­tic­u­lar way — I think won­der­ful things can hap­pen through exper­i­ment­ing. And not being afraid of mak­ing mis­takes along the way either.

BPB: You’ve got a loy­al fol­low­ing on social media, specif­i­cal­ly your Insta­gram. How has that impact­ed your career?

LP: I love Insta­gram. I was nev­er inter­est­ed in any social media real­ly until I start­ed on Insta­gram, and I’m so grate­ful I did. Through Insta­gram I have been lucky enough to have my work been seen by peo­ple I myself admire and I’ve been giv­en oppor­tu­ni­ties to exhib­it and col­lab­o­rate that I might not have oth­er­wise had the oppor­tu­ni­ty.



Thanks, Liz! Be sure to check out her love­ly Etsy shop!

How Did You Do That?

How Did You Do That? Irma Gruenholz’s Whimsical 3D Works

Irma Gruenholz portrait3It’s anoth­er install­ment of How Did You Do That?, a series that focus­es on how mak­ers cre­ate the things that we love. So far, we’ve learned how Nan­cy Liang crafts her spooky GIFs and had a peak into Tinybop’s inten­sive app-mak­ing process. Now, Irma Gru­en­holz shares how she forms her whim­si­cal 3D illus­tra­tions.

Irma Gruenholz

Brown Paper Bag: How do you pre­pare to cre­ate your clay illus­tra­tions? Do you do a lot of sketch­ing before­hand or make any sort of mock-ups for how they’ll look?

Irma Gru­en­holz: I do not make sketch­es in detail, and I pre­fer to delve into the illus­tra­tion work­ing direct­ly in vol­ume so I begin to mod­el as soon as I have the path clear. My sketch­es are very schemat­ic draw­ings to help me direct the illus­tra­tion and spec­i­fy the mate­ri­als and a palette that I will use, rather than an action map.

Some­times I build quick sketch­es in three dimen­sions with foam board and plas­ticine to check dimen­sions, com­po­si­tion, and fram­ing.

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How Did You Do That?

How Did You Do That? ‘The Robot Factory’ App by Tinybop


You might recall the debut of How Did You Do That?, a series focused on how mak­ers cre­ate the things that we love. Nan­cy Liang kicked it off by shar­ing her GIF-mak­ing process. Now, I’m pleased to present some­thing total­ly dif­fer­ent — the mak­ing of an app! Brook­lyn-based com­pa­ny Tiny­bop just fin­ished their newest cre­ation called The Robot Fac­to­ry It’s an opened-end­ed build­ing app that lets kids make, test, and col­lect robots. How fun!

As with any app, there’s a lot of mov­ing parts. I spoke with three peo­ple involved in mak­ing The Robot Fac­to­ry hap­pen (although there were many oth­ers): Tiny­bop CEO Raul Gutier­rez came up with the con­cept; Owen Dav­ey illus­trat­ed the app; and Leah Feuer was the project man­ag­er. They all have tasks that were inte­gral to mak­ing the app hap­pen, and they’ll help give us some sense of how The Robot Fac­to­ry was cre­at­ed.

Coming up with the concept: Raul Gutierrez


Brown Paper Bag: What did you do before you found­ed Tiny­bop?

Raul Gutier­rez: I was work­ing in Hol­ly­wood on film and lat­er in the start­up world on the web, but always at the inter­sec­tion of art and tech.

BPB: After you had the ini­tial idea for The Robot Fac­to­ry, what was the first step towards mak­ing the project a real­i­ty?

RG: Prob­a­bly the orig­i­nal inspi­ra­tion for the app was an Apple ][ game called Pin­ball Con­struc­tion Set. I remem­ber think­ing back then, “Build­ing pin­ball machines is cool, but it would be so much cool­er to build robots.” I was part of the first Star Wars gen­er­a­tion. All the kids back then thought that when we reached the 2000’s the world would be full of robots. Maybe this app is my small attempt to make that imag­ined future a lit­tle more real.

The first step in actu­al­ly start­ing the project was build­ing a com­pa­ny and sur­round­ing myself with lots of smart cre­ative peo­ple.
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How Did You Do That?

How Did You Do That? Nancy Liang Shares Her GIF-Making Process

Nancy Liang1b

I’m excit­ed! It’s final­ly time to share my newest fea­ture called How Did You Do That? This series will revolve around mak­ers and how they cre­ate the things we love. It comes from both a curi­ous and self­ish place, because when I look at an illus­tra­tion, I often won­der how it was made. Don’t you?  For the first install­ment of  How Did You Do That?, illus­tra­tor Nan­cy Liang shares how she cre­ates her beau­ti­ful­ly spooky GIFs. She also gives some great advice for aspir­ing ani­ma­tors!

So, with­out fur­ther ado, here’s my inter­view with Nan­cy!

Brown Paper Bag: What’s the first step of cre­at­ing your GIFs? What type of draw­ing mate­ri­als do you use, and how do get your images on the screen?

Nan­cy Liang: I begin with sketch­es first. They start rather loose­ly but become more defined as I use them as a guide when I col­lage. Some­times my final work will not look exact­ly like my sketch­es — a few things may be miss­ing or changed.


Nancy’s ini­tial sketch (fin­ished piece below).

NL (answered con­tin­ued): If it is an ani­mat­ed piece I have to think about what I need to ani­mate before I start. I write a lot of notes and use a check­list. For me the ani­ma­tion process must be very orga­nized and con­trolled. The process is very close to that of tra­di­tion­al ani­ma­tion. The back­ground is usu­al­ly a sta­t­ic hand­made and/or hand drawn piece and what I choose to move is sep­a­rat­ed into lay­ers and placed over the back­ground. I will then scan all my lay­ers into my com­put­er, arrange them in Pho­to­shop and then start to ani­mate.

I use lots of kraft paper and dis­card­ed card. If I ever use col­or I make my own tex­tures by paint­ing, using mark­ers, pas­tels etc. I use a range of graphite pen­cils rang­ing from 9H to 9B.


Nancy’s fin­ished ani­ma­tion (sketch above).

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