I recently had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with Eelco Stoffers and Roxana Popescu-Stoffers in their glass shop and studio, Gekleurd Glas. Both Eelco and Roxana are friendly, warm, and very easy to talk with. Eelco was eager to share his story and talk about his work. I’ve been by the shop a few times now, and I always leave feeling like we haven’t yet finished our conversation. It’s nice to have so much to talk about. Eelco comes from a family of artists; his mother a visual artist, training first in painting and transitioning over time to textile work and tapestries, and his father, whose early work included machine fabrication and later shifted to stained glass. When his mother studied at Groningen’s Academia Minerva, her education in painting was quite comprehensive – it even included fire painting! Eelco’s father is something of a Renaissance man. He was a machine fabricator, and produced, among other things, spinning wheels for wool and etching presses for lithographs. He worked with the Academia Minerva and provided machines to students studying here in Groningen. He observed a need for students to have access to smaller, more portable machines, as many students needed to be able to produce work from home to support themselves. So, he made some.
I’ll never forget the first time I was genuinely impressed by a stained glass window. I travelled alone to France in 2003 on a sort of soul-searching mission, and while in Paris, I couldn’t possibly pass up the opportunity to see the Notre-Dame cathedral. I went in on a quiet Sunday morning, and although there were a lot of people in line outside and walking around inside, visitors seemed quiet and respectful of the worshipping parishioners. All I really heard was a tap-tapping of shoes on the floor and the soothing sound of voices singing.
The second of my Marigold devotions is yet another stitchery. After printing my embroidery pattern on a sheet of transfer paper, I machine-sewed a simple muslin pouch and spoon-filled it with dried Mexican Marigold flowers. I didn’t fuss too much about the sizes of things; I didn’t even measure the rotary-cut muslin or Osnaburg fabric swatches. I whip-stitched the small opening of the pouch and got straight to the embroidery work, which, after all, is what I was most looking forward to. I chose three colors of silk thread by French maker Au Ver à Soie, which I’d been wanting to try for some time. The colors are vibrant and I like the shiny sheen of the silk thread. I’ll definitely use it again.
Just a few days ago, I discovered the Nederlands Openlucht Musuem, the Dutch Open-air Museum. It’s located in Arnhem, just under two hours south of where I live, waaay up north. Today I was able to go for a visit, and it was just as cool as I’d hoped it would be. The territory this outdoor museum occupies is vast and impressive. It’s densely dotted with many types of historic buildings and activities. What’s more, though, is that these historic buildings and activities are brought from all parts of the Netherlands. There are farmhouses from hundreds of years ago that have either been relocated or rebuilt from all over the country, so you can observe differences in style, techniques and building materials.
On a piece of hardy yet soft oatmeal-colored linen, I’m stitching a multicolored Marigold. I selected the Merry Gold pattern by Cozyblue Handmade. I printed the pattern onto a sheet of Transfer-Eze and placed it directly on the linen. This was my first experience with Transfer-Eze, and I found it very easy to work with. While, over time, the stabilizer became a little bit wrinkly while working on my stitching, it never lifted away from the fabric. Usually I use a water soluble pen to trace or draw my patterns, and I found it easier to follow this pattern with precision with the printed outlines on the Transfer-Eze.
Any novice or experienced stitcher learned their craft from someone at some point. Maybe you learned from a family member or friend, a book, or video tutorial. I learned from my mom. I don’t remember quite how old I was; maybe around seven or eight. My sisters and I each had a wicker basket which contained needles, threaders and various threads and linens. I wish I could remember the projects I worked on, but I don’t. It’s not important. What has remained, significantly, are the associations I make between the trinkets, the handling and experimenting with my trinkets, the shared experience and how much I enjoyed the process and simple act of pulling a needle and thread through fabric.