SAMANTHA PURDY GETS TO THE POINT
Story by Odessa Paloma Parker
Photos provided by Samantha Purdy
More and more, craft and traditional mediums of artwork and fashion are emerging from their cozy niche; as consumers and the style-conscious search for items with unique, personal touches, artists like Samantha Purdy of MaudStitch have the ability to bring their quirky, comforting designs to new eyes. Purdy, who resides in Montréal, worked as part of the Pin Pals duo alongside artist Sara Guindon; she’s now focusing on her solo projects – creating needlework pieces of patchwork and cross-stitched accessories and home décor.
Can you tell me a bit about how you started with needlepoint?
I have a substantial collection of vintage craft books, which was where I first saw instructions on cross-stitching. I decided to test my skills on a cross-stitch kit of a bird in a birdhouse for my grandma. It was a really elaborate pattern with lots of colour changes, in hindsight maybe not the best for a beginner. I started thinking I could probably draw my own, simpler patterns, and then the work took off. I would say I equally enjoy creating patterns and doing the actual stitching.
What are the inspirations behind your work?
Inspiration has changed over the years. My first source of inspiration was classical cross-stitch motifs inspired by early needlework, really decorative stuff. It sort of morphed into pixelated Japanese inspired characters and cats with wide eyes and smiles (or frowns), and know I’m drawing inspiration from interior spaces, and people, but also outer space, and the simplicity of shape and colour. So a bit all over the map, but I think I’m working it out into a style that’s been brewing for a while.
How long does it take you to complete a piece?
The larger pieces from start to finish really depend on size. I’ll start with a photocopy of graph paper that translates roughly to a 16-count piece of Aida cloth, just so I can get a sense of the finished piece. I’ll spend time filling in squares until I’m satisfied with the image, I usually see the colours in my head that each object will become (I often use the same DMC embroidery floss colours) and sometimes I’ll use markers to colour things in instead of leaving them blank. From there, I’ll find the middle of the pattern and mark it, and then fold the Aida cloth in four’s to find the middle, which is where I’ll start stitching. A project can take from between five and 25 hours, roughly. My goal is to make large-scale work using a bigger weaved fabric, so I can spend weeks making one piece.
You’re working with a very traditional medium, but in some pieces like the “Outer Space Pin”, you’ve incorporated a modern concept into the work. How do you feel your work fits in with contemporary design?
After experimenting with traditional motifs and design, I realized I wasn’t interested in cross-stitching as a pure extension of the past. I wanted to design my own images using cross-stitch as the medium. In a way, the stitches are like drawing, except they are limited to a grid. This works well for me, it means I can express an idea, but I give myself time to see it done thoroughly. I also absolutely love when images are transferred to textiles. Not necessarily in the ‘family photo on a sweater’ kind of way (although totally fun), but the re-interpretation of something into fibre art. It usually means the imagery is simplified and the meaning transfers from being solely about the subject into a mix of subject and medium (or time).
Two things that appear a lot in your work are cats and bows? Why?
That’s about to change. I love cats, no denying it, but I think I’ve expressed them out of my system. It doesn’t mean cats won’t appear in my work anymore, but I think they will take on a new role as my work changes. I wanted a fun image for accessory making, and I always came back to cats. As I move further from accessories, so too go the cats. The same could be said for bows, although I like the form of the bow, two symmetrical triangles joined together. I’ve been thinking about transferring bows to quilting patterns, I think bows might stay awhile.
When you create something, are you hoping to fill a particular niche or are you just making things you think people would like?
I usually make things that I would like to have. It sounds odd to constantly make things for yourself, but I think in doing so you keep a uniqueness to your work. Whenever I try to think about what other people would like I get overwhelmed because it just varies so much. The irony is that I derive much more pleasure seeing other people enjoy the work than myself.
How do you feel a site like Etsy has encouraged people to view an artist like yourself, working in a more traditional medium?
Etsy is a great venue to share new work. I think it acts as a platform for creators to advance their business and expose themselves to buyers. Overall, Etsy helps artists working in traditional mediums as it has re-introduced the importance of art and craft into our consumer choices. That being said, I would like to have my own website one day.
What sort of feedback do you get from your customers?
I’ve always felt very grateful for feedback from customers. I think they feel the time I put into the work, and I’m really rewarded when I hear good things.
In what other venues do you sell your work?
Right now my work is for sale at Distill in Toronto, Workshop in Ottawa, White Elephant in Hamilton and General 54 in Montréal. Along with these stores, I hope to do a craft fair or two in Montréal/Toronto this year.
What are you working on now?
I’ve been making patchwork potholders and pillowcases lately (I think as a sort of rest from always cross-stitching). When Sara (Guindon) and I met to form Pin Pals, we were working beside each other at a Montréal craft fair. At that time I was only making patchwork bags. As a Pin Pal, I mostly concentrated on cross-stitched accessories, so I think the circle has come back to patchwork. The similarity between patchwork and cross-stitch is not lost on me, in fact I’ve transferred some of my patterns between the two. I’ve been working on a sort of patchwork/cross-stitch hybrid. Along with this I’ve been creating new patterns and selling them as PDFs. I only have three so far, but I would like to make more. Also, that dream of large-scale cross-stitch work; like a wall hanging as big as the wall, of a room interior with a person sitting and cross-stitching.