Open interior view of "Acceptance" by Katherine Cowell: blue and green contour hand silk embroidery on white fine linen.
Copyright 1999 Katherine Colwell.
Hand Embroidered Book
Open: 8 1/2″ h x ~15″ w x ~4 1/2″ deep.
Each page: 8 1/2″ h x 5″ w.
Closed: 8 1/2″ h x 5″ w x 1/2″ thick.
"Silk on linen, with cotton, cyanotype (sunprint), ragboard, machine and hand sewing. Techniques: split stitch and backstitch; cyanotype printed cover-back. I created the aspen drawings on which the contour line images are based, on July 8, 1991, en plein air, on Grand Mesa, near Land’s End, in western Colorado. I created this embroidered book in early 1999, inspired by Philippians 4:11, in relation to decades of unidentified health problems. Upon completing “Acceptance”, a possible diagnosis appeared."
Two pages of MY WOMEN by Katherine Colwell. Hand-dyed and pieced silk; hand embroidery crazy stitching and shisha mirrors.
Copyright 2004 Katherine Colwell
Hand Embroidered Crazy Quilt Book
Open for Display: 6″ h x 22″ w x 22″ deep.
Book laid flat: 12″ x 18″ x 1/2″ thick.
Stored in self container: 3 1/2″ h x 7 1/2″ w x 6″ deep.
Each page: 5 3/4″ h by 4 1/2″ w.
"My Women is a crazy-quilted-pieced and embroidered book, to read and enjoy perusing — eight pages of photos of my women ancestors. The hand-cut shisha mirrors are embroidered to each page to reflect, include, and embrace into my family of women all the women who read the book. The outside or back of the book is pieced from hankies inherited from my late mother-in-law, and crazy-pieced to fill the entire back surface."
Front: Hand-dyed silk fabrics; hand embroidery and hand and machine sewing, piecing and hand quilting. Silk, cotton and metallic threads; shisha mirrors, beads, button and ink (photos).
Reverse (back): Crazy-quilted heirloom-legacy handkerchiefs: cotton, linen, rayon, mostly hand embroidered. Cotton batting, fusible web, and non woven stabilizer.
Title page of Katherine Colwell's embroidered book RED WHITE AND BLUE IN UTAH 1988. Fabric, paper, beads, charms, hand embroidery.
Copyright Katherine Colwell 2015
-- Folded for Vertical storage: Each Chapter ~ 5″ thick by 12″ h x 13″ w. Total folded is ~ 21″ thick.
-- Open full for display: Height: 12″ Depth: 25″ Length: 21 feet, 9 inches.
-- Largest dimension of a drawing is 9 ¾” . Smallest dimension of a drawing is 3 5/16″.
-- Forty-five sides of the 78 total sides in the 21′ 9″ length have drawings, embroidery, photos &/or other items.
-- Weight: Approximately 3 ½ pounds each Chapter.
Artist Mary Hotchkiss Farmer proof-read and reviewed RWBinU88 on May 20, 2015. She had this to say afterwards: Thank you for asking me to view your superbly creative creation. It was my pleasure! I tried to explain to Chuck just how creative you are, but he already thinks so since he saw your presentation at the museum. You are a first-class artist. I’m looking forward to the response that your work receives from others, especially those who understand stitchery and bead work, but painters, as well.
"The mélange nature of Red White and Blue (geologic variations, sky, clouds, and non-geologic views and thoughts) is all sewn and embellished with a complementary “crazy quilt” of harmonies and contrasts. The “space” of empty sides is for viewers to rest between experiences. The thirty-eight drawings in RWBinU88 have odd sizes, shapes and edges, and occasionally contain evidence from use in processes for other artworks. I consider all the embroidered books I have made to date as maquettes leading to the book I’ve always envisioned to document my life-long Health Odyssey."
Katherine Colwell's 3-D book: BEHOLD!, closed front view.
Copyright 2008. Katherine Colwell
Mixed Media Machine Sewn.
Open for display: 30″ wide by 24″ deep by 8″ high.
Closed: 8″ h x 11 3/4″ w x 2 3/4″ thick.
“Behold! was complete in four weeks — a “book-in-a-box” that emerges accordion-style in five directions from a creche-like container. The pages are cardstock, with the miscellany accumulated during my trip in 2008 to meet family for my mother’s ashes interment in Baltimore (family and cemetery photos, train tickets, the interment program, poetry, pressed flowers, a Baltimore map, my journal notes, etc.). The items are machine-sewn to each page, the pages machine zig-zagged, hand-laced together, then hand-sewn into the box, with more mementos hand-sewn to the fronts and back of the box.
"The compulsion to drop other projects and create Behold! was profound. The memories of the final journey for Mom needed to be made concrete — so that when my heirs open the box it won’t be stuff, but will draw them in to make their own discoveries, connections, meanings, and memories.
"Sharing Behold! — through the act of unfolding — with visitors to my studio has allowed me to see another aspect of closure for Mom’s passing: my mementos, and thus Mom’s momentos, go beyond the boxes, into the world. And, in the end, the day-in, day-out creative process for Behold! forced me to see and think about Mom and all the family connections and estrangements — and come to acceptance: ¡Así sea! After four weeks in the process I was bored with it all — how’s that for closure?"
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Katherine finished her embroidery with traditional framing techniques, either working with a framer she trusted to do museum-quality framing, or, after researching archival materials and learning techniques, doing the framing herself.
Given that Katherine lived most often in remote areas where framers and supplies were not easy to obtain, and that driving back and forth to framers for consultations was time-consuming, she started exploring frame-less presentation and finishing options for her embroidery.
Katherine began to go “frame-less” in 1995 and 1996 with her 3-dimensional embroidered book structure titled Bliss of Growth. It was exciting to discover that her lifetime of sewing and fabric skills merged beautifully with the embroidery to create a “book.” The book-format offers an intimate relationship with the viewer, and also connects with the importance of books and reading throughout Katherine's life.
Go to Katherine's BIG TREE COLLECTION page for photos and info on her current 3-D embroidery process.