Anyone can sketch with colored pencils and note pad; Kristin Loffer Theiss draws with a sewing machine. A darning tool to be exact— used specifically for free motion sewing on canvas.
Trained as an artist with an MFA in Fine Art from The School of Visual Arts in New York City, Theiss began experimenting in 2005 with a handful of little canvas drawings, appreciating the lack of control the machine would allow. “The drawings in thread pull from my knowledge of drawing rather than my very limited knowledge of sewing,” Theiss says. Her canvas drawings are screen printed on to tee shirts, pillows, and other products available on her etsy site.
Click! Design that Fits hosts Theiss on November 29 from 6 to 9; the artist, who normally works in the studio by herself, is looking forward to demonstrating her freeform craft, answering questions, and soaking in some inspiration from others. (That means you.)
We couldn't wait til next week, so we asked Theiss some questions in advance of Click!'s studio day.
How long does each sketch take?
It depends. If it is a sketch or image directly from my imagination, it will take anywhere from ten to 30 minutes. For images you see on my tees, letterpress prints, mobiles, and pillows, I usually take up to 45 minutes. Sometimes I sew so fast, the table and sewing machine starts to shimmy.
Do you sew the image in its entirety without stopping?
As a rule, I don’t stop when I’m working on a drawing. I like the idea of using one continuous thread or line all the way through the drawing. The only time I do stop is if the machine jams up.
What is the most difficult thing about the drawings?
The interesting thing about the process is it uses all parts of my brain—the left side for the mechanics, making sure I don't run over my fingers with the needle and to pull the fabric as I go, and the right side to come up with the image and how I'm going to go about it. It is a tremendous strain on my eyes as well.
What are your brewing ideas for future projects?
I've thought about how to draw in a larger scale. I usually keep things smaller because of needing to be able to manage the fabric in the machine. But it would be interesting to draw a larger narrative. I have also been showing my almost 5-year-old son how to draw. He sits on my lap and we draw together. I think it would be fun to do some collaborative pieces.