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The Last Art Taboo: Identity Politics of Motherhood by Kate Kretz

October 29, 2012

I was honored to have one of my Motherhood pieces  included in this powerful presentation by Kate Kretz — “The Last Art Taboo: Identity Politics of Motherhood”, paper and powerpoint presentation delivered at The National Textile Society Symposium in Washington, D.C. on September 20, 2012.

Kretz describes motherhood as subject matter in contemporary textile-based art.


Call for Artists // Stitching ID

October 25, 2012

Attn: Contemporary fiber artists that are exploring issues of identity in their work.

I am putting together an exhibition proposal for Stitching ID. This show would consist of contemporary fiber art that focuses on issues of identity and how this manifests itself in artist’s work.

Example: My current series is Motherhood: Snapshots & Sanctuaries, which highlights the struggles I often face while juggling the roles of ‘artist’ and ‘mother’. In my work, I rely heavily on my unconscious and intuition as I stitch. The Sanctuary pieces illustrate the part of my identity that is somewhat lost and I’m searching for, while the Snapshots reveal the harsh realities of how complicated everyday life can be for moms.

I would like to select a group of professional fiber/textile artists that are currently working within this construct, and put together an exhibition proposal that I will then present to possible venues. I will be inviting several fiber artists and accepting submissions. I have several gallery and museum spaces in mind across the U.S. that are currently accepting proposals.

A little background about myself: I am Sarah Hemm, a contemporary fiber artist and curator (see my work here). Currently, I create hand-embroidery that highlights the struggle of balance that mothers often face — raising issues of identity, domesticity, and societal expectations. I studied fiber art and gallery/museum practices at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and previously curated The Eclipse Gallery (2009-2011). I closed the gallery in order to concentrate on my artwork and have the flexibility to curate independently. Feel free to email me at with any questions or inquiries.

The Sewing Studio (Snapshot), hand embroidery and photography, 8″ x 10″

If you think that your artwork would be a good fit with this exhibition concept, please email me asap — Include images of your work or a link to your images, a short blurb about yourself/your work, and your contact details. I look forward to your submission!

I would like to get this organized and send out proposals for 2013. If you are interested in submitting, please do so as soon as possible. Thanks!

A Day with Art is a Day Worth Living

October 11, 2012

Today I had a perfect day in Madison with my husband Brandon and little Fiona.

First, I dropped in and had a chat with one of my dearest friends, Brittany, who filled me in on her recent ArtBike Project. She is the Arts Coordinator at the Dane County Boys and Girls Club and she chose several kids to paint bikes that were then used in the B-Cycle system in Madison and also put on display. What a great way to get the kids involved and excited about art in the community.


Next up was breakfast at The Froth House, a wonderful cafe and music/art venue right off of Regent St. near the stadium. I would highly recommend — their food was AMAZING (I had the Formaggio). The art on display this month are monoprints by Mark Evans. So definitely go there. I was checking out the space because I am the artist for November, so I wanted to get an idea of how I would be installing my embroideries. So if you are in the Madison area, mark your calendar for my reception on November 13, between 5-7 at this great little space and come see all the new pieces I’ve been working on!

Of course, we had to stop by Hatch Art House, where I have a large selection of embroideries on display. The featured artist this month is Juliet Darken, and I’m a big fan of her work. I bought this print, Mythic Music, which I’ve had my eye on for a while!


I also stopped by Absolutely Art, another great gallery on the East side. I was happy to see Jennie Nuese’s ABC Prints! I followed her blog posts on the Library as Incubator website, and then I was a guest-blogger there for awhile there too.  So I just had to purchase Curtain as it was my favorite of the series.


I ran out of time and wish I could’ve stopped by the other great places to see art in Madison. But I really kicked myself when I got home and remembered that Glitter just moved to Atwood Ave. so I could’ve dropped in to see their new home quick. Well, it’s only about a half-hour drive to Madison for us so I will be up again soon!

Even a small purchase from a local gallery makes a huge impact. If there is a space that you appreciate, make sure to spend a little money there to keep them up and running! The next time you spend $5 on a card from a big box store, remember that you can spend the same amount of money on a handmade card and support a local artist.

Now, it’s kid-time and then hopefully I will get some stitching in tonight!

Freeform Embroidery Process // How I Create Imagery

October 10, 2012

Hey everybody, here’s a blog about my process of stitching freehand from my imagination. I’ve had people ask me what goes on in my head while I’m working and how I develop my compositions. Here’s a glimpse…

Starting — it’s not so hard. I just pick a fabric and a hoop, then I pick a floss color and just start stitching with no plan in my head. It’s important not to be scared of the result. It’s exactly like drawing for me. Trust the line. Trust your brain. Trust your hand.

This is the very first line of my new piece. I think it looks like a stem and a leaf, so I keep going…

I’m not sure where I want to go with the leaves, so I start doodling some cloud-like shapes (as seen in the upper right). Right now I’m thinking — landscape.

I often set pieces down for awhile if I’m not feeling inspired to work on them. This time, about a week goes by and then I pick it back up. That day, I was fairly depressed. I felt trapped and weighted down with all the responsibilities of being a mom, and honestly I felt like I lost part of myself along the way somewhere, and I just wanted to run away, and be alone. It is insanely hard to focus on my artwork with a toddler that requires constant attention!

So right before I picked back up this piece I thought, I should stitch a sanctuary. An imaginary place where I would want to go and hide for awhile when I feel this way. I was about to get a new hoop and fabric when I looked over at this unfinished piece hanging on the wall and thought — this is a cave-like image. A perfect place to hide. Now I have something integral to all artwork, and that is content. The concept of the Sanctuary series meshes well with my current Motherhood series. I’m excited now. I will definitely be developing this further.

Now, I took some time to really look at the piece and figure out what I wanted to do with the composition. I stitched the brown line, thinking of a path, but then realized that water would work better flowing from the mouth of the cave. There was such a huge area of space in the lower, right-hand corner and I wanted to add something, so I thought- an island. I wanted to do some foliage on the island, so at this point I drew in a sketch of what I wanted with a fabric marker. Most of the work I do is freehand, but sometimes I use a marker to mark out a particular line or to get a component exactly right.

I work into it for a couple hours. I stitch the island and some water. I’m not convinced that the addition of the island was a good choice. I’m doubting the whole composition. So I hang it on the wall and stare at it on and off for awhile. Ideas pop into my head — add another cave, make sure the water swirls around the island, and I make notes in my sketchbook to  make sure I remember these ideas. I sleep on it. Fresh eyes are good.

This next day I stitch on and off for about 4 hours, mostly filling in the water. This hoop is 14″, so that gives you an idea of how long it takes to create my work. By the end of the day, I have a solid plan about how to finish the composition and all I need to do is put the time in for the stitching. One thought I had during working today was, “Artwork is creating a problem and then solving it”.

There were many technical and compositional problems that were created and solved as I was stitching the rest of the piece. I had a particular roadblock near the end. I wasn’t sure if I wanted so much negative space on the left side. I conversed with my husband, who often plays a key role in my work. His insight and interpretation is usually the exact opposite of what I’m thinking and therefore proves to be very helpful.

At any rate, I decide to keep the negative space because this is is the place where I imagine that I would be sitting if I were in the picture. I decide that I will not put my figure in the piece, because I want the viewer to imagine themselves in this place.

I put in about 6 more hours of work to finish the piece, Twin Caves. 

To see more of my Motherhood series and read my artist statement, click here.

Comments and critiques welcome. Thanks!

Resources for Artists-Mothers trying to find the magical balance

October 4, 2012

My Motherhood series deals with the struggle and balance of being both an artist and a mother. The process of my work often involves a lot of research, both on and off-line. I thought I would share with you some of the amazing resources that I’ve found that have connected me with other artist-mothers around the globe. Enjoy!

The Sewing Studio, embroidery and photography, 8″ x 10″

The International Museum of Women: An online, interactive community for women across the globe. Their mission is to inspire creativity, awareness and action on vital global issues for women. Make a profile, contribute, and discover a plethora of women doing amazing things worldwide.

Studio Mothers: An encouraging blog for artist/mothers — honestly dealing with the stress and challenge of being both a mom and an artist (definitely something I can relate to!)

Neo-Maternalism: Contemporary Artists’ Approach to Motherhood: A well-written essay by Sharon Butler. Worth a read!

A Question of Balance: Artists and Writers on Motherhood: A book by Judith Pierce Rosenberg. Artists and writers candidly share how they organize and nurture both their children and their craft, illuminating how their challenging and renewing experiences as mothers have shaped their creative work.

Who Does She Think She Is? – A documentary film by Pamela T. Boll featuring five women who refuse to choose between mothering and working.

Museum of Motherhood: “A living, breathing art, media, and social change museum, pioneering new areas of academe in ‘Mother Studies’ with ongoing exhibits, programming, and conferences”

The Family Business: Real thoughts from real women who juggle creative lives and motherhood.

Art of Motherhood – Sitting Still: Some good thoughts…

How We Do Both: Art and Motherhood: A book comprised of a “diverse collection of honest responses from contemporary artists who have walked—and are still walking—the tenuous tight rope of motherhood and making art”

The Divided Heart, Art and Motherhood: An long, descriptive excerpt from the book


Anybody else know of any additional resources along these lines?



New Newsie News

April 19, 2012

We had an awesome Spring Break in Florida and Georgia! I love the ocean! This about sums it up:

Fiona turned one year old while we were down there, on April 1st! So it was her Golden Birthday as well!

Now we’re back to reality and I’m uber busy — still catching up on my daily embroideries, which is hard to do between chasing after Fiona, the two older kids, the work I’m doing with my Vintage shop, and helping my husband fix up our rental properties.

Mostly, I’ve been gearing up for a new Vintage show that’s happening in Madison THIS SATURDAY at the East Side Club on Monona Drive! I’m bringing a ton of unique items priced to sell! Other vendors will also have handmade goods made from vintage supplies. So stop by and check it out if you can. Here’s the info. And if you like that sort of thing, check out my Pinky’s Vintage FB page.

This is a little late, but I forgot to plug my last guest blog post over on the Library as Incubator Project. I was influenced last month by Poetry, and lo and behold, this month is Poetry Month! So that worked out well without me even intending it :)

Other things that are working out well — I now have work at The Waxwing gallery in Milwaukee!!! It’s a great new space in Shorewood. I have some small embroideries, sketchbooks, jewelry, and note cards there. I’ve already sold one necklace and a handful of note cards, so that’s great!

And today I finally listed a few new things on my Etsy shop. I really need to post more listings, but I’ve been so busy getting work out to galleries I haven’t had time to post things online!

And it’s going to be hard to find time for online stuff, since I have to make a ton of new work for the Sturgeon Bay Fine Art Fair which I’m doing on Memorial Day weekend in Door County! Hey things could be worse, right? I would much rather have too much on my plate than nothing at all.

Oh yeah and we just bought a house and are moving in June! Good thing I thrive under pressure!!

psstt….I post a lot more often on my Facebook page — so please LIKE it to get all my updates. Thanks!

Vacay time! See you in a week…

March 29, 2012

I am in desperate need of this vacation. I’ve literally not had a proper vacation with my husband — ever. We’ve been together almost 7 years! Of course we’ve done lots of long weekends in Door County and such but that’s it. We even cancelled our honeymoon (because I got pregnant too quickly and was very sick, oops!). So I am very much looking forward to a week off. Even though we will have the kids with us! (Next up, Romantic Vacay without kids….maybe in 7 more years from now???!!)

I’ve actually taken a bit of a vacation from my daily embroideries too. We’ve had such unseasonably warm weather here in Wisconsin, and while I’ve been stitching a lot outside, I haven’t felt like sitting on my computer posting pictures. So I will be catching up on my embroideries during the drive, and will be posting tons of new work when I get back! Stay updated by liking my Facebook page.

ALSO — Look for my next guest blog post on the Library as Incubator Project next week!

Here’s to vacations, experiencing new things, and feeding the soul! It’s so important to take breaks to revive yourself — and never force your imagination. Such a thing just cannot be forced. Know yourself well enough to know when you need a break. You deserve it!


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