Friday, April 12, 2013

Giveaway and Interview:Stephanie of the Knitty Gritty Homestead!

Today I'll be putting myself in the hot seat by answering the same questions I asked my other interviewees! 
Tell us a bit about yourself! What is your favourite book? Music? Food? Where would you love to travel? Anything to help us "know" you better...

My favourite childhood book was "The Root Cellar" by Janet Lunn. My favourite books as a teenager were a "collected works" of Tennyson's poetry, and "The Mists of Avalon" by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I have too many favourites now to list. I love books by Alice Hoffman, Diana Gabaldon, Adriana Trigiani, Anita Diamant...and on and on. These days I read a lot of magazines because of the pace of my life, and am really enjoying Taproot. Music is a bit like literature for me: a deep and passionate love. I love world music, especially traditional Irish music and Middle Eastern music. I love Blossom Dearie, and also the scores from Broadway musicals. We listen to a lot of folk/singer-songwriter stuff. My favourite singer is my husband, Robin! I love coffee, chocolate, red wine, pasta, potato know, the major food groups. I would love to travel to Greece, Rome, Germany, and Iceland. And then I would go somewhere hot and tropical where I could sleep in a hut by the ocean and drink beverages containing coconut milk, fruit juices, and booze.
Pink Roller Skate

What aspects of your childhood inspire your art? What did your parents do to foster artistic expression in your home, and to encourage your creativity and talent?

My mother and her mother (my nanny) were endlessly patient with me. I wanted to learn everything, and they taught everything they knew. I knit, embroider, cross-stitch, quilt, and paint because mom got me the things I needed, and showed me how. She still does that if a creative whim grabs me when I'm visiting her...goes up to her sewing room and finds me everything I need to create. Some of my earliest memories are of standing on a kitchen chair while my mother pinned up the hem on a homemade dress, the sound of her sewing machine, and always having scraps of fabric around. Mom and nanny didn't play with us per se, but always got us involved in what they were doing, whether it was making pickles, baking bread, crocheting, or whatever. 

I was also inspired by my mother's collections. Blue Willow-patterned dishes, old mismatched tea cups, quilts, wallpaper, fabric, antiques, jars of buttons and notions. I love bright colours, bird prints, floral patterns, vintage children's storybooks, pottery, and textiles of every kind. I'm also inspired by the everyday beauty of household objects: oil lamps, mason jars, footwear, utensils...
Margot's Owl Family

Did you have a teacher/mentor who inspired you?
In addition to my mother and nanny, I can remember many people who have inspired me over the years. Our local tourism board organizes a "rural ramble" every year where you get a map and can drive around the countryside, visiting working artists and farmers. I remember meeting Joanne Pratt, a local artist who created beautiful soft-sculpture dolls. I have always felt excited and inspired to see craftspeople making a living from their creations, but never felt that I could do the same. I often wonder what I might have done if I'd opted to go to art school instead of university. I was always passionate about creating things out of fibre/fabric, but never thought of doing it as a "real" job. 

Just before Jude was born, I met Agnes Klassen, a local woman who had been making and selling wool socks for years. She lived a true "back to the land" lifestyle, and until a few years ago worked on her little homestead, making soap, socks, sweaters, wine, beer, and all her own food. She was also a master gardener, and when she eventually moved "to town", she helped Robin and I get started on our own garden. She sold me her sock "auto knitter", and mentored me in their creation. My sock-knitter has been in the attic for a few years now but I still plan to dig it out and make socks when my life allows for it.

What were your favourite places to dream, read, create? And now?
My favourite roost when I was young was up in my neighbour's tree. It had been planted too close to the house, so several limbs grew horizontally. Two were perfectly placed: one to sit on, and the other placed just above and ahead of it: ideal for leaning my elbows on as I held my book! I always loved being outside and remember many happy hours imagining Wee Folk among the blades of grass, pretending that snowflakes were millions of fairies swirling around me, and that I could speak hidden languages (a variation of pig latin, if I recall) of people who lived underground. I also loved reading in bed, preferably with a feline friend.

Now, my creative bits sit all around the house, wherever I left off. Most of my creating happens either at the kitchen table while my children draw/colour/create themselves, or on the couch after they've gone to bed and I've settled in with some stitching and a British drama of some sort. 

I have great plans for our big, open attic. Right now, those dreams reside in lidded bins (in the shape of yarn, fabric, roving, felt, and so on). Some day I hope to have it all out and at my fingertips, in a creative space that is always at the ready.
What advice would you give parents about giving their children room to create? 

Avoid offering evaluative comments. My daughters always ask, "Do you like it?" I throw that one back at them, asking if they like it. When they say "Yes", I ask them if they had fun making it. If the answer is also yes, I tell them that I feel happy to see them creating. Children are so programmed to seek approval; as musicians and artists, my husband and I know all too well what it is like to be sucked into wanting to create art or music that others will like. It really muddies the creative process, doesn't it? So, it's better to ask your child questions such as, "Tell me about your picture!" or "How did you get the idea to give the elephant five legs?" rather than evaluating it as "good" or "nice".

Another important bit of advice: say yes. I know, it's so hard. I remember my mother always saying yes (although I'm sure she often said no), and try to do the same. If they want to get into my precious peg dolls, it takes a special effort to let them go at it. But I do, as often as I can. I cover the table with newspaper, get out the paints and brushes and water and rags, and let them create weird, messy creatures. Then I laugh at the stories they tell with their creations.

Violet's "alien elephant", dreaming of love. 

And now, for today's giveaway:

Today I am offering one winner a piece of custom-work: 
an embroidered rendition of a special child's artwork
a small embroidered piece of your choice (think of something you love: red shoes? hedgehogs? old bicycles?) 

This will obviously take time to create. Once I've randomly selected a winner, we'll work out the details (you can either email me a photo or a scan of a simple child's drawing, and I'll embroider and embellish it in colours of your choosing, then will mail it to you (unframed) when it's done!)
To enter, simply leave a comment in the comments section below! Comment now closed!

And the winner is: Margje-Margo! I'll be in touch to arrange the details of your original artwork!


  1. I lOVE these stitchings- the Owl Family and the Alien Elephant are just GORGEOUS. Great advice for helping your children be creative, too. I need to get our space in order at home so we can all create!

  2. As always, I love to 'hear' your view on various topics, and about how you navigate your journey. This time i was particularly touched by your advice on how to stimulate creativity in children- so true!!! I approached it somewhat similar with my kids and now two of them are going to art school next year. I remember it not being easy to give them this space and freedom to create (in the house...sigh...) also because other people would tell them things like : silly, the sun can't be purple/ you need to draw that with straight lines.
    We were lucky to find a house with large enough yard and a piece of wooded lot that the kids could explore outside with mud and sticks and all that good stuff that is important as well.
    Anyway- thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Oh please! Pick me! (I know it's random, but still.) I love your interview. The Root Cellar was also my favourite book, along with That Scatterbrain Booky. Separated at birth, indeed. If I win (please please), I would definitely choose a work of art from Alyce or Shira. Shira has just started drawing faces, the same face over and over again. I'd probably choose that.

    What a great blog birthday week!

  4. Lovely self interview! I too, dream of a creative space. While I have a small one in the basement for sewing and cutting, it it too dark to do much detailed work and I am constantly leaving little piles of works in progress for people to trip over all over the main floor. I dream of a light filled space that I can share with the girls now that their desire to craft seems to have no end.

  5. Okay, this is WONDERFUL. The whole post. What a delight to read your answers and gain insight into your creative inspiration. And your embroidery? Oh, I am swooning! I love all of it, and the children's artwork is just INCREDIBLE. What a beautiful way to celebrate their creativity.

    You rock! And what an awesome giveaway this would be to win.

    I like your advice about communicating with children around their artwork - it's a great strategy across the board, with everyone.

  6. What a perfect conclusion to your anniversary week :) I love your advice about fostering a child's room to create. I adore that owl family!

  7. I have a mermaid made with Meredith's hands......she would be lovely stitched :-) Great blog to read and wonderful advice on how to foster creativity in your children. Btw........I know where you live and since you are my sister, I can always get a stitched mermaid. Pick one of your dedicated followers for this one!! xo

  8. I love reading your blog posts. I also love to learn more about people and how they got to be! Thank you for sharing and I love the art pieces throughout!
    Thank you!

  9. What a wonderful interview on creativity on this cold and grey morning! We've begun a "mental health day" today instead of schoolwork -- meaning time to craft and create with colour. It's all about survival today, because these grey days can really make for drooping spirits! Thanks for this giveaway! What fun. Love those hand-stitched drawings!

  10. Keeping my "follower" fingers crossed...

  11. I agree with Lana - I love your idea of embroidering your kids' drawings! Great to read a little more about you today. :-)

  12. I love that you interviewed yourself!

    Saying "yes" can be hard, but so worth it.

  13. I follow your blog and would love to see one of my children's drawings put to embroidery!

  14. You're so inspiring! Sometimes I feel like the creative part of me died when I had children, but I know it's just gathering dust in a corner somewhere. All I need is a good dust cloth to get my groove back :) Hope I win! :)

  15. So lovely, especially the owls and of course the elephant!

  16. (*I'm posting for my friend, Helen Ann, who can't comment here for some reason...she sent her comment to my fb account and I've pasted it here for her...)
    When I was in elementary school I use to sit with that blank art page for ages and be afraid to start drawing in case I made a mistake. Thankfully I found quilting and the satisfaction it gives me to create something. You are very fortunate to have your music and your knitting and your children are very lucky to have you for a Mom.

  17. I love the idea of embroidering your children's art! Such a precious keepsake!

    I want say yes to budding creativity, but too often it's "maybe later" or "you do it like this!" It's so hard to relinquish the control of doing things "the right way". I need to get better at letting her just go at it! Thanks for the reminder and inspiration :)

  18. I love your advice about saying "yes."

    As for your give-away... pick me please!!

  19. there you go -- shared on facebook :-)

  20. What a great interview :). Love your blog and your artwork. Ummm and everything else you having going remind me so much of myself when my children were young. :). Now I am reliving those days with my grands! Off to Pin this now! Lol. If I can figure it out on my Nook!

  21. This is just wonderful, your interview and the giveaway. Since I have won already this week, no need to enter me. But thank you for a wonderful week of giveaways.

    Happy weekend!

  22. I've never seen something so precious as the cross-stitched children's pictures! And thankyou for that lovely post - so amazing to learn more about you in that way! LOVED it!

  23. I love your embroidery work -- so fun! Thank you so much for interviewing me and including it in your blog along with so many inspiring ideas and people. Making things by hand is one of my favorite things and your blog definitely gets the creative juices flowing.


This space is a creative outlet for a busy mama; I warmly embrace your comments and feedback, as well as questions/requests for details. I do check them daily and will respond where appropriate! Thank you for visiting the Knitty Gritty Homestead!