I recently interviewed needlepoint artist Barbara Bergsten and here's what she had to say!
Needlepoint Line: Barbara Bergsten Designs
Hometown: Hunting Valley, OH
Canvas Types: Hand painted, stitch painted needlepoint
When did you start the line: 2006
What is the story of your business?
I worked in a needlepoint shop when I was in high school. This was during the needlepoint heyday of the mid '70's. Needlepoint was the rage! I also painted small canvases from an orignal that were sold as kits, back in the days when canvases were painted with oil paints and took days to dry. I preferred painting needlepoint canvases more than stitching. After high school I went away to college and gave up needlepoint. Three years ago I made some big changes in my life and was looking to do some kind of art I hadn't done recently. I thought maybe I would needlepoint a belt for my daughter. I went to a craft shop and bought some canvas and paint pens. I designed the canvas and it felt great! Then I needed some yarn. I'd heard there was a wonderful needlepoint shop nearly and went in to buy yarn. I couldn't believe the changes in the world of needlepoint from the mid 1970's! The threads were amazing!! I was chatting with the owner of Wool & Willow Needlepoint Shop
and Anne asked me who designed the belt. I said I did. She asked me if I would be interested in designing custom canvases for her shop. That was the beginning of my new line of needlepoint designs.
Have you had any other careers?
Several, everything from insurance to stay at home mom.
What are your favorite canvases?
I love anything that is colorful, fun, and functional.
Do you stitch or do you strictly paint now?
I do stitch. I need to stitch finished samples for the trade shows. I have become a much better stitcher and it has really helped my painting skill.
What is your inspiration for your line?
Color and design inspire me most. I'll look at something and say that would make a great needlepoint canvas! Then I stop and say, what will it be when it is finished? Can it be easily stitched? How can it be embellished with specialty stitches? I usually pull threads and then paint with the threads in front of me. I want my designs to be colorful, fun, practical, and whimsical. I like needlepoint to look like needlepoint, functional needlepoint for everyday use. Some design ideas just don't convert well to needlepoint.
What are your favorite pieces to paint?
Right now, I'm painting different size canvas with "painted stitches." I came up with this idea after teaching a class where the stitchers had to count out the stitch steps. It was very frustrating for some. Then I thought, I'm stitch painting so why not count out the stitches and paint them in two colors? I'm hoping this will help more people try different stitches.
How can we attract more people to needlepointing?
I think we need to get the stitchers who have stopped needlepointing by getting the word out about new threads. It's not just needlepointing with the old 3 ply wool. Then I think we need to get younger stitchers by showing them there is fun, functional needlepoint for everyday use. The "self finishing" items may really appeal to the younger crowd. Maybe an Open House for organizations like garden clubs, Junior League, community clubs, etc. then offering an open stitch day may work with some shops. If there is anything I can do as a designer to help shops I would love to do it!
What there a person in your career who really made a difference?
My mother was an avid stitcher in the '70's. She has really started stitching again! Both my parents are very supportive of my new business and have great ideas.
Anything else of intest you would like to add?
I try to think about colors, threads, stitches, and how the design will be finished while I am creating a new design. I carefully stitch paint each design. I want the stitcher to know what to needlepoint where. Uncomplicated, clear colors best describe my designs. I have a graphic designs style versus a painterly style. This works well for my line of needlepoint canvases. I aim for all stitching levels. Umcomplicated, clear colors are easy to stitch for the novice or creatively embellish for the verteran. A simple canvas can become a complicated finished piece by adding interesting stitches and threads. I strive for colorful, fun, functional, whimsical hand painted needlepoint. I'm all over the place with themes. One afternoon it's flowers and Latin names next it's Beach Girls. Whatever strikes my fancy!
Be sure to check out Barbara's fanastic canvases...her website and blog are terrific resources. I hope you are as inspired as I am!