I make stitched pictures using a technique of my own. First, I outline the design onto embroidery canvas. Next I stitch free form, filling in color and shading with cotton floss. I go over each area repeatedly, adding a new color with each pass, until the area is filled. This is a deliberate, meditative process, one that evolved over years of working with cloth. As a child, I watched grandmothers embroider, knit, crochet, quilt and sew for their families. I learned those skills as I grew up. I also learned that needlework can produce beautiful items from ordinary materials. While my professional career has taken me into teaching and librarianship, working with fibers has always been part of my life. Inspiration gained from studying art books, along with classes at regional craft schools, honed my skills as I sought new ways to combine color and imagery. The result is the embroidered work you now see.
About Laura Gaskin
When did you first start making your craft?
I learned needlework from the older women in my family. Their hands were never idle. They quilted, knitted, crocheted, and sewed clothing for their North Georgia families. I learned those skills from them. As an adult, I eventually settled into quilting. I dyed my own fabrics and found that playing with color was my favorite part of the process. My quilt designs were entirely abstract. After a time, I started wanting to use imagery in my work. I enjoyed mountain hikes, studying plant and animal life in different environments, collecting bits and pieces found along the way—things like flowers, feathers, perfect little rocks, seed pods, brightly colors leaves, anything that caught my eye. Those were the images I wanted to recall in fabric but I couldn’t find a way to do that in quilting that satisfied me. I also wanted work that would be more portable so that I could carry it with me when I was away from home, and it was important for me to continue to work with color. When I found two books on creative embroidery, each showcasing what different artists did with needle and thread, I saw that as a good possibility for me. I assembled some embroidery supplies and started experimenting to find my style and to develop my techniques. That led to the stitched pictures that I make now.
What mountain/state do you most identify with? How do you incorporate them into your work?
I live in rural Fairview, NC, and my home is my favorite place to be. I walk up an old farm road nearby that leads to an open pasture on top of the mountain. Since it has been cleared, i can see long range views that extend as far as Mount Pisgah on clear days. The rows of mountains fading into the distance appear as a backdrop in almost all of my embroidered pieces. And much of the imagery comes from the flora and fauna I’ve seen on my hikes up that mountain.
I use scenes from each season in my work and value the variety each provides. I especially love the transitional seasons because they put on the most dramatic shows. Spring is all about emergence and new growth, fall is dormancy and the end of life. Summer I love because I enjoy the heat and the long evenings. I also love to grow and cook vegetables from a garden. Winter is the difficult season for me. The cold temperatures and lack of light find me counting the days until spring.
When did you join the Guild Why?
Since I live just outside Asheville, I usually attended at least one of the Craft Fairs each year, and my favorite thing to do on a drab, rainy afternoon was to go wander through the Folk Art Center. It always cheered me up to see so many beautiful, handmade objects assembled together in that space. So when my stitched work reached the point where I thought its quality measured up, I applied to the Guild and was accepted. That was in 2008.
What is my favorite part of being a Guild Member? What is your participation in the Guild?
I have work in the galleries of the Guild’s shops and I demonstrate my stitchery in the lobby of the Folk Art Center. I especially enjoy that because my work is solitary and slow moving. It’s a pleasure for me to get out, meet people and talk to them about my work. I also serve on the Membership Committee.
Do you teach workshops?
In 2020, I am scheduled to teach at John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC and the Florence Thomas Art School in West Jefferson, NC.