We’ve been talking about friend and collaborator Anna Maria Horner all week, featuring a DIY A-line Tunic with her Little Flowers stencil, a Greek lunch in her honor, and a review of her new book, Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook, which we wrote about on Monday promising a giveaway later in the week. Details below on how to enter to win a copy of Anna Maria’s book, but first, a Q&A with the lady herself.
Anna Maria Horner’s Newest Book, Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook, is a beautiful addition to the library of anyone interested in embroidery, whether beginner or expert. We love all of Anna Maria’s work and feel a special kinship to her. So, while she is waiting patiently for the arrival of baby number 7, we took the opportunity to ask a few questions. Here’s what she had to say:
AC: You manage to balance a growing and impressive body of work with an equally growing and impressive family. We’re all looking for the secret to that work/life balance. Do you have any wisdom to pass along?
AMH: I like to joke that tackling what I try to tackle each day doesn’t come recommended, so I don’t know if you could consider any insight actual wisdom or just a recipe for a little chaos. In all seriousness though, it is a happy chaos that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I think so much of it boils down to personality. I have learned that I am happiest when I am busy and I just make better work when I am happy. My family and my work are very intertwined because of working from home but also because what I tend to be designing, making, teaching, or producing centers around the comforts of life: handwork, quilting, clothing, and so on. So the very nature of the work marries itself to family life well.
The larger challenge is running the business that has to be in place to facilitate the creative work that I do- which is about half the time. This all consists of lots of emails, phone calls, going over manufacturing contracts, planning time with my assistant, coordinating events and shows, etc. With the children ranging in age from not-born-yet to 21, I have different expectations of each of them in terms of how they are able to handle letting their mom get some work done. Most of them can be in my space when I work. Then some days there are certain tasks where I need complete solitude and concentration, so I think teaching your kids some boundaries to respect is so important and really beneficial to them as individuals. There is a bit of a payoff to there being a crowd of children… they tend to occupy each other quite well and do for one another very naturally. It’s more work for one of the older ones to march upstairs and tell me that Roman (3) wants some juice than it is for them to just get Roman some juice. I guess, in general, teaching kindness and helpfulness in your kids will encourage a smoother home life whether you work full-time or not. That, in conjunction with not expecting too much of myself in certain circumstances, is what helps me most. If I feel the household wilting without me, I try to switch to some work I can do in the midst and work in their space instead of my own.
AC: We think that so much of your brand is “you.” How would you describe your brand?
AMH: If I had to describe my brand on an aesthetic level I would say that it is modern but with a charmed memory. Everything that I make comes from someplace within me that has been stored for years, and it just gets changed and extracted with new experiences. It’s as though
‘s that it remains very relatable. I am really just the first step in someone else’s creative process and that feels like a privilege.
AC: What was the inspiration for writing Anna Maria’s Needleworks Notebook? It is written in such a warm, personal voice.
AMH: Thank you! Those kind words were exactly my goal! It was a book that I thought of self-publishing because I wanted to have a lot of control over how it felt in the end. (Though I am so glad I did not go that route, because I have no need to be in the publishing business right now.) I wanted to touch on the basics of four main types of needlework, but offer anything-but-basic patterns and projects. I think the first goal with a new stitcher is to arm them with confidence, so I wanted the book to be very approachable. This informed me to make it unlike an encyclopedia of stitching (and those already exist anyway!). I think the second goal is to make projects for the stitching that are interesting enough to keep the stitcher inspired. This informed me to think of unique ways to integrate handwork in to every type of sewing and crafting. When I am shopping I am always drawn to clothing that looks (or is) handmade- so why not arm the stitcher with the confidence to do that themselves? A final goal I wanted for the book was for it to honor tradition and encourage ignoring the rules in equal doses and with equal enthusiasm. Both are very rewarding and beneficial to the creative process.
AC: This book addresses a number of embroidery techniques. Do you have a favorite?
AMH: I have a favorite that constantly changes depending on my mood- so I guess the real answer is they are all my favorites.
AC: You have your hand in so many pots that it’s almost mind-boggling. How has your work changed since you first began making?
AMH: My first work out of college was a collection of clothing that I handmade myself. My work has taken many turns over the years but I think the single biggest change is that, for the most part, my creative process involves inspiring the same in others, rather than simply handing them a completely finished good.
AC: What are your biggest challenges as an artist? Designer? Mother?
AMH: As an artist involving oneself in the mass manufacture of goods, there is always the comparison to that “other way” of being an artist….. as in a fine artist selling only original works. While that is romantic, the shorter reach can be frustrating. The challenge is to continue to work in that fine art, in a very focused and dedicated way, but to allow a graceful reach of my work to extend to more than just gallery goers.
As a designer, the challenge is ALWAYS that the goods arrive on store shelves exactly as they first arrived in my mind. Making sure that there are as few road blocks as possible in the realization of a collection keeps me on my toes.
As a mother, what isn’t a challenge? Giving my children an equal dose of independence and nurturing is the daily balance that we try to maintain here, I suppose. In regards to being a working mother, my greatest hope is that they view my work in a positive light and that my dedication to it (and them) will inspire them to think anything is possible in their own lives.
AC: Given that you have so much to offer – books, fabric, housewares, and more – what are your plans for the future? Perhaps to relax?
AMH: Oh that sounds nice! And yes, I do plan to take a good bit of time with our new baby this summer. But beyond that, I am happy to continue following my notions of creating and sharing. I have tried to go about my business intuitively and only respond to new opportunities as they make sense and interest me. For instance that has been the beauty in working with Natalie and everyone at AC! A friendship blossomed into a collaboration and it was not something that I could have guessed or gone on the search for. It just happily arrived on my doorstep and soon in my heart.
AC: Early Bird or Night Owl?
AMH: Night Owl.
AC: What is most important to you as a business owner? As an artist?
AMH: As a business owner it’s important that the success return matches what I invest in terms of time and dedication. I could lead a very full life without work, so it has to be worth it. As an artist, it is important that I am being true to my own vision and that it remains entirely intact and unique among a sea of similarities in the industry.
AC: Whom in your industry do you most admire? And in life?
AMH: There is of course my friend Natalie; she always amazes me with her depth of focus. Specifically within the quilting & textiles industry I have such a love and respect for my friend Denyse Schimdt. She is the reason why so many have taken up the craft of patchwork and the whole industry owes her a debt. In life? My mama, Mary Lynn.
AC: Besides the obvious (and beautiful belly)… what are your plans for the next year?
AMH: Yes, if I could stop knitting for the baby I just might be able to get to some of my other plans!
I have lots to launch on the fabric horizon this year: next month I will be introducing my first collection of linen fabrics; in July I will re-introduce some favorite prints from my past Drawing Room & Garden Party collections in one collage of quilting cottons called HandDrawn Garden; in October I will be introducing Dowry which is all new and so lovely; also in October I will launch my first “basics” collection called True Colors which are more tonal prints in a spectrum range of 20 fabrics. The True Colors launch is a new concept with my partners at Free Spirit and the fabrics are designed to go with all of my collections and will stick around as in stock a lot longer than our regular collections.
I will also be rolling out some new projects, patterns, and kits in the Anna Maria Needleworks collection of goods which I’m thrilled about. And, I will be continuing my work with Creativebug video workshops and my friends at Janome.
Much of Anna Maria’s work and inspiration comes from her upbringing and early introduction to art and handcrafts, which brought beauty into her family’s life.
We will be giving away a copy of Needleworks Notebook next Monday, March 25th.
*Leave a comment on how needlework has brightened your life (or how you would like to learn the craft and why) for a chance to win a copy of Anna Maria’s new book.
We will put the best stories in a hat, draw a name randomly, and announce a winner next Monday, March 25th, 2012.
No previous winners, employees, friends and family of Alabama Chanin are eligible for this giveaway.
It was such a delight to speak with Anna Maria Horner today. If you aren’t yet familiar with her work, please visit her website and shop the pieces from our Anna Maria Horner @ Alabama Chanin collaboration. We think you will find her as enchanting as we do.
**Thanks to everyone who shared memories of how needlework has inspired you (or how you would like to learn the craft and why). It was wonderful to hear each of your stories.
And the winner- from the draw of a hat- is Wendy.
Congratulations Wendy on winning our extra copy of Anna Maria’s Needlework Notebook.
We hope you find the stories below as compelling as we did. Happy Reading!