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Angels in Embroidery

December 22, 2019

Angels don’t go out of style but you see more of them around the Holiday Season especially on ancient embroideries.

Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts

Seeing Angels in a New Light

I have been studying Opus Anglicanum for a number of years. That is English embroidery worked approximately between the 13th and 16th C.  I am intrigued with gold and silver threads in surface and underside couching and the use of exquisitely fine split stitch in silk threads.  Recently I have become enamored with embroidered angels and how stitches and materials portray them.  Although I have been looking at them for years, I have begun to see them with new eyes. Magnification has made these relics more understandable than in the past.

Art Angels Appeared Early

Art Angels have been depicted since early Christian art. You can find them in illuminated manuscripts, paintings, icons and sculptures.  They acted as warrior angels, defending and protective angels as well as angels with messages and hope. There seems to be an involvement or interaction of angels with those…

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Applique : 5th-4th Century BC Pazyryk Burials in Siberia – Guest Blogger: Penny Peters

November 30, 2019

On the lowest floor of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia are displayed items from prehistoric Central Asian burials, preserved in permafrost for more than two thousand years.  This blog is about the beautiful and astounding applique artifacts in the Iron-Age Tombs (5th-4th century BC) in the Pazyryk Valley in the Altai Mountains, Russia (known as the Pazyryk Burials).  The burial tombs or ‘kurgans’ were long ago robbed of anything considered valuable.  Lucky for us that the applique artifacts were not deemed valuable enough to take. The high status people buried in the kurgans were horse-riding, pastoral and nomadic so their horses, saddles and saddle blankets were important to them, and saddles and blankets were made to impress!  These are primarily made of felt and leather decorated with ferocious beasts, often in combat.  Intricate leather and felt cutouts were applied sometimes with a needle, sometimes simply “felted in” (inlay applique).  When you look at these amazing items try to imagine the riders and their tall horses all with elaborate and very tall head-dresses made mostly to replicate deer antlers.  They would have been imposing and awe-inspiring as they came forward, especially if you were standing on the ground.  If you search for Pazyryk Burials and images on the internet, you’ll find more visual and written information about the culture. A link to The Textiles of Pazyryk

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Carrickmacross Lace – Guest Blogger Christina Fairley Erickson

November 8, 2019

Prior to traveling to Ireland, I researched where I might find interesting Irish stitchwork. I discovered that Ireland has many different styles of lace, including Carrickmacross lace, Irish Crochet lace, Kenmare lace, Limerick lace, and Youghal lace.  

Lace making techniques include needle lace (hand made with a needle & thread), machine- made lace, bobbin lace made by manipulating bobbins of thread on a pillow.  Irish Carrickmacross is handmade using an ornate appliqué technique. Most famously in recent years, Carrickmacross  lace was used in Kate Middleton’s wedding  to Prince William.

I found the Lace Gallery of Carrickmacross, a cooperative of 15 lace workers founded in 1984 in the small town, about 60 miles northwest of Dublin, still keeping the tradition alive. The gallery exhibits vintage wedding veils and christening gowns and sells smaller items, as well as taking commissions.

Detail of stitching


The history of this lace making technique goes back to the 1820’s Margaret Grey Porter, the wife of a local rector, hoped to help young women make an income.  Mrs Porter had collected samples of Italian lace during their honeymoon. She copied the samples and used them to teach the local women with the assistance of her maid. The Italian influence quickly evolved into a distinct style of Carrickmacross lace. Characteristic motifs include flowers, leaves, hearts, bows and Celtic designs, as well as pops — small raised circles dotted around the larger pattern.

The lace, crafted in farmhouses, became popular with Queen Victoria and fashionable aristocrats of the day. During the famine years in the mid-1840’s, a lace school was set up by the managers of the Bath and Shirley estates at Carrickmacross as a means of helping their starving tenants, and the lace became known and found sales.  During the Great Famine of 1845-1849, local lacemakers were credited with keeping many families alive.

After the worst of the famine years, through the last half of the 19th century, the lacemaking declined. Then in the 1890’s, the Sisters of St Louis founded their own lace school to revive the craft, and this was quite profitable for several years. Although the outbreak of the 1914–18 war marked the virtual end of commercial production of hand-made lace in Europe, the lace school kept the technique alive throughout the 20th century. In 1984 the St Louis Sisters assisted in the formation of The Carrickmacross Lace Co-operative, which maintains the tradition to this day.

Although the convent closed in 1988, the area’s tradition lives on with the cooperative where lace makers use the exact same techniques as 200 years ago.

Christina with one of the Carrickmacross Co-op’s talented lace makers, looking at an antique wedding veil

The process of making Carrickmacross lace starts with laying a paper pattern onto a layer of organdy and  a base layer of cotton net (similar to tulle, but much softer and pliable).  A lightweight soft white muslin (sheer enough to see a pattern underneath) is appliquéd onto the net.   Designs are outlined with an appliqué technique, holding a cotton thread in place on the patterns and sewing tiny, close stitches across it, through the entire paper-fabric sandwich. Additional embroidery stitches create edgings, patterns and cutwork. Carrickmacross makers fill in the outlines using 15 different stitches .

The final step is to carefully cut away the paper pattern and any unwanted organdy, revealing the design on the net.

One of my favorite pieces shares the Irish motto “Cead Mile Failte” or a ‘Hundred Thousand Welcomes’.  Everywhere we traveled on the Emerald Isle, we were greeted warmly, and treated with such kindness and hospitality, including Carrickmacross, extending to us such warmth that the saying seems endeared upon the hearts of the Irish people.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at this lovely lace, the Lace Gallery in Carrickmacross has kits available online at:

Read more…

Grand Opening – Good Friends, Gratitude and Goldwork- Guest Blogger Christina Fairley Erickson

September 28, 2019

Special Note from Gail:

Gail Harker with some of the volunteers and guest artists-in-residence from the 2019 Grand Opening event.

Gail Harker with some of the volunteers and guest artists-in-residence from the 2019 Grand Opening event.

I’m so thankful for the support of everyone who helped with or attended our Grand Opening earlier this month.  The single thing that stood out to me during the 2 day event was the overwhelming atmosphere of camaraderie and kinship of students and friends. So many past and present students put in an appearance. Some of these people were with me at the beginning (1994) in N. America.  Some were new to the center and excited to be part of a new art adventure.  All part of a continuing growing force of textile/embroidery artists who have committed their time, enthusiasm and effort into excellence.  Please enjoy the comments from our guest blogger!

Well, it’s official!  The new Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts location was formally opened with a fabulous two-day event starting with the Mayor of La Conner, Ramon Hayes, joining Gail with a ribbon cutting ceremony in front of a sizable crowd of well-wishers.

Gail cutting the ribbon on the new venue with the Mayor.

With brightly colored as well as elegant Goldwork gracing the studio walls and tables, visitors feasted their eyes on the results of working as a student of Gails!  We had an incredible turn-out of friends, former and current students, family, community members, and even some walk-ins from off the street.

June Steegstra displaying her machine stitched artwork.

Visitors pouring over student sketchbooks and samples of their work/

The days were filled with artists demonstrating different techniques in art, design, hand and machine stitch.  Visitors were able to watch, ask questions and learn about the execution of numerous methods of art and stitch.

Penny Peters explaining about the many different styles of hand Goldwork embroidery.

Penny Peters explaining about the many different styles of hand Goldwork embroidery.

Gloria Shelton showing her hand stitching from Level 1 and her Goldwork embroidery.

Gloria Shelton showing her hand stitching from Level 1 and her Goldwork embroidery.

Marilyn Olsen demonstrated contemporary darning and kantha stitching techniques.

Marilyn Olsen demonstrating contemporary darning and kantha stitching techniques.

Susan Sasnett shares her experience and whimsical creatures.

Susan Sasnett shares her experience and whimsical creatures.

Christina Fairley Erickson demonstrating machine Goldwork stitching.

Christina Fairley Erickson demonstrating machine Goldwork stitching.

Barbara Fox describing her Level 3 Advanced Experimental Stitch work with trees and the forest floor.

Barbara Fox describing her Level 3 Advanced Experimental Stitch work with trees and the forest floor.

Tesi Vaara displaying and sharing Level 3 Art & Design.

Tesi Vaara displaying and sharing Level 3 Art & Design.

Nancy Drake exhibiting hand beading.

Nancy Drake exhibiting hand beading.

Jill Taylor shows her mastery of Goldwork embroidery.

Jill Taylor shows her mastery of Goldwork embroidery.

More to come soon on our great event!

Exhibitions and Artists-in-Residence at our Grand Opening

August 28, 2019

We hope you’ve put the Grand Opening of our new venue on your calendar for Friday September 13 and Saturday September 14!  We have lots of exciting events planned, as well as a spectacular display of artwork.  Here’s what you can look forward to!

Gold Work Embroidery by Patti Olds

Goldwork Gallery – a special exhibit of samples, artwork, and sketchbooks from Patti Olds, Moira Kloster, Gloria Shelton, Christina Fairley Erickson, Jill Taylor and Penny Peters.

Level 2 Studies in Design and Experimental Stitch Exhibition:  Maureen Goldsmith and Sheila Asdal’s coursework including artwork and sample books will be shown.

Gift Bags!  To the first 20 new guests each day!

Door Prize Drawing – Free Non-Mentored Online Color Course will be given as a Door Prize to one lucky winner!  Drawing to be held at 4 pm on Saturday.



Artists-in Residence

We will be hosting the following Artists-in Residence during our Grand Opening who will be working on the projects listed for you to watch and ask questions:

Friday September 13

Jill Taylor–Goldwork by Hand

Penny Peters – Hand Stitched Samples

Tesi Vaara – Art and Design

Christina Fairley Erickson – Goldwork by Machine

Machine Stitch Master June Steegstra will be displaying and talking about her work on Friday 9/13 from noon – 3 pm


Saturday September 14

Susan Sasnett – Hand Stitching

Marilyn Olsen (10:30 am – 1 pm) – Contemporary Darning

Nancy Drake (1 – 3 pm) – Beading

Barbara Fox – Manipulated Fabric & Hand Stitching

Penny Peters – Goldwork by Hand

Christina Fairley Erickson – Goldwork by Machine

Gloria Shelton – Woven Paper Designs & Goldwork

Also With Work on Display:

Sheila Asdal will be displaying Level 2 Studies and Design & Stitch

Moira Kloster’s Goldwork will be on display

Maureen Goldsmith will be displaying Level 2 Studies in Design & Stitch

Barbara Gilbert


A Little Bead Book Sampler

July 16, 2019

Recently, I travelled to Victoria, B.C. to teach at the yearly Seminar of the Victoria Embroiderers Guild in Canada. The students created a luxurious sampler bead book.  I embarked the ferry in Anacortes, Wa. with 18 sets of hand painted fabric book pages and the same number of custom dyed skeins of pearl cotton threads.  We arrived in Victoria a few hours later to check into our classroom and get it set up. My special Angel – Iris helped me with everything to arranging the room to bringing in extra supplies.    Our students flew and drove from all parts of Canada and U.S.  It was so much fun to meet up with past and new American and Canadian students and teachers.  At the end of 4 days each person created 6 tiny fabric pages using over 20 unique bead techniques on the pages with beads dripping off the edges. The spine was constructed using a composite stitch technique with the hand dyed threads.  It was wonderful to share these beautiful methods of stitch and bead application to create a small art object! I look forward to seeing photos of the finished items.  Here is another blog that feature beads. Gail Harker

Level 3 Studies in Art & Design Exhibition

June 30, 2019

Have a look at Ruth Lane’s summary of level 3 Art and Design at our center. There is a new class starting soon. Gail


I completed my course of Level 3 Studies in Art & Design at the Gail Harker Center for Creative Arts in March. Our class had an exhibit and I wanted to show you a portion of the exhibit. These photos included my work as well as work of my classmates with their permission. Hopefully, all of the photos are in the right orientation, sorry to my classmates if I made any errors.

Here we are after receiving our diplomas. From left to right, Ellen, Ruth, JP, Tesi and Gail.

Here is the new center in downtown La Conner, Washington. Our class had the first exhibit in this space.

Here is the set up of the entire space. We were just finishing up hanging all the artwork and getting everything cleaned up.

These are shots of one of the walls in the back where we had a variety of work hung…

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