Mary Delano returns to Fiber College this year (Yay!) and she’s a gem. Her eye for color and for embroidering and embellishing wool is delightful. You won’t want to miss her rainbow! Mary is teaching two classes, “Embroidering and Embellishing Your Wool Applique” on Saturday from 9 AM to 1 PM, and then she’ll co-teach “Standing Wool Rugs, 1790-2016” with Rose Ann Hunter on Sunday, 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Here’s Mary!
Who are you? Tell us about your fiber journey.Until recently, I was a weekend fiber artist – accomplishing as much as I possibly could while still working. Now that I have retired, I am able to work on projects nearly every day. I first encountered fiber when I took a class in high school that taught me how to knit, crochet, embroider, and do needlepoint. After that, I always had a small project going. As my children grew up and I had more time for my own interests, I found myself taking more classes and tackling larger projects. Now I have numerous projects going at all times – most of them incorporate wool in some way – either yarn or fabric. I enjoy creating new designs, teaching classes, and spending time with fellow fiber addicts.
What’s integral to your work as an artist?
Learning new skills is integral to my work as a fiber artist. I frequently take classes to learn new techniques and read as many books about fiber arts as I can get my hands on. I never know how a class or book may influence my work. Some classes have sent me in whole new directions; others have provided a specific skill that I can incorporate into my projects; most importantly many classes fuel my creative fires and give me lots of ideas for new projects. Spending time with like-minded people in a class setting is always enjoyable and stimulating.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given a student?
Don’t evaluate your work up close; step back from it and see it as a whole. Students frequently feel that their work doesn’t look as neat and professional as they wish it did. When they say that my stitching seems perfect, I encourage them to examine it closely. My work is far from perfect but the imperfections disappear in the overall piece. When students step back and evaluate their work from a distance, they tend to find the results far more pleasing than they thought.
What’s your favorite piece of work that you’ve created?
My favorite project is my rainbow rug. I took a three hour workshop on making standing wool rugs and quickly became addicted. After finishing a small coaster, I set out to make a long runner with all of the colors of the rainbow. The runner is approximately 11 feet long and 30 inches wide. I enjoyed every minute I spent making the rug, from finding old clothes to recycle, to using my crock pot to dye more colors, to making the individual “flowers,” and combining them into the rainbow. The only part of the process I didn’t like was sewing on the border, because I had to sit on the floor. I smile every time I see my rug and love sharing it with the visitors to our home.
My second favorite project is a queen size wool quilt that I started almost four years ago and just finished. This is the first quilt I have ever made. It is based on Sue Spargo’s Magnolia pattern. I added enough extra design elements to turn a twin size quilt into a queen size. When I look at the quilt closely, I see a record of my journey as a stitcher and embellisher. While many of my early block incorporate only a handful of embroidery stitches worked with a few types of thread, my later blocks use many different threads and stitches. My favorite block on the quilt is the house block in the center. I used buttons from my grandmother’s collection to create a neat little flower garden in front of the house.
What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
My hands are my most important tool. I do most of my sewing by hand and also knit many pieces. I always worry that my hands will give out before I have executed all of the projects I have dreamed up and/or before I exhaust my stash. I’m hoping one day in the not too distance future, doctors will find a way to replace thumb joints so that I can keep on sewing.
What would your FC students be surprised to know about you?
I have six brothers and two sons. My mom was a tomboy who was not interested in needlecrafts. So I didn’t really grow up in an environment that nurtured crafting. Despite living in households that didn’t share my fascination with fiber, I have returned to the fiber arts over and over as a place to find pleasure and a creative outlet. I have made many friends in the fiber arts community and enjoy sharing my journey with them.