"In Stitches" Visits The Art of Embroidery

Lola Bee and Nickie Fixx Discuss The "Granny Medium"

Premiering this Friday at Hibbleton Gallery is a collection of embroidered art from Fullerton locals. Featured artists include Virginia Sandfer, Nickie Fixx, Lola Bee, Shawn Sandfer, Monica Johnson, and Jesse La Tour. Newlywed couple Nickie Fixx (Nick Balderas) and Lola Bee (Lydia Valdez) gave us some insight on working with embroidery as an artistic medium, and what to expect at this month's featured exhibit at Hibbleton Gallery: 

Nickie, How long have you and Lola both been embroidering together? How did each of you get interested in doing this kind of art and what do you like about this medium?
Nickie Fixx: We've been embroidering since last year. Lydia got involved because she claims she can't paint or draw. She likes using her hands. I got involved because I love all mediums of art. Lydia likes this medium because it's like sculpting. You can manipulate it, play with it. It's layered. It's like an underdog of art. It's kind of forgotten, but it takes a lot of dedication. It can be as beautiful as a painting, if you take the time.
I'd like to know more about the process. Do you create some sort of outline before you begin stitching? Do you visualize what the finished product will be before you start, or figure it out as you go? 
Nickie Fixx: It depends on the piece. We both do a general sketch of what we want to do and then redraw it on tracing paper. Then we outline the traced picture on whatever cloth or canvas we've chosen. During the stitching, ideas will pop up here and there and when the piece begins to take shape, we'll add our own unique embellishments
Nickie, Tell me about your Star Wars pieces. How did you decide to recreate characters from that franchise into children's toys? Was there any reason why you made the toys regional (For instance, embroidering R2D2 as a Russian Matryoshka doll)?
Nickie Fixx: The star wars theme was born from the Matryoshka. Lydia wanted everyone to do their own version of the doll so she sent everyone a template. I decided I wanted to do something different and for some reason R2D2 came to mind. After I made the piece, I decided that Star Wars would be my theme and Star Wars characters as dolls would be interesting. So far, I've done Chewbacca as a voodoo doll, C3PO as a marionette, a storm trooper as a teddy bear and, of course, R2D2. The regionality of the dolls has nothing to do with the actual character. That was a personal choice. Storm troopers scared me as a kid. So, a teddy bear seemed perfect. C3PO is so stiff and robotic, and a marionette doll reminds of those non-fluid motions.
Lola, why did you choose the Matryoshka as a symbol for the show? Do your other pieces follow a similar motif, like how nick incorporated Star Wars?
Lola Bee: I know that I wanted to do a collective piece, because it would really show off the artist's creativity and style. They do this in workshops, where they give you a template, and everyone’s work turns out uniquely from the same pattern. The Matryoshka was the first sketch I did for the show, and I really liked the idea of her being displayed in many ways. I sketched the outline of the body and hair, and left the rest up to the artists to create. I had been calling it a babushka, until Nick did some research, which happens to be a very commonly misused word. 
I have a variety of different pieces for the show, from Lego Batman to a hot air balloon.  I wish I would have thought of a theme, like Nick’s Star Wars Series, because it would look more cohesive. On the other hand it has been fun creating them on a whim, because one piece can give you another idea and take you in a whole new direction. I only wish I had more time to incorporate all the ideas that I have had while preparing for this show. I will say that I have used a lot of the same colors throughout my work. I love bright colors and contrasting fabrics, I think they add another level of character to the piece.

I like the clean lines and use of negative space in your portrait of the native American girl. Tell me more about how you created this. When did you decide to incorporate turquoise jewelry? What's your connection with the subject?
Lola Bee: Well, this is the only piece that I did not draw myself. My sister has a stash of old iron on embroidery patterns, and I was just fascinated by this one. I love that she was a simple line drawing. Whoever gave all those patterns to my sister, took the time to enlarge this one specifically. Although I don’t know if the pattern was ever completed by the original owner, I thought she deserved to be seen. In the image, she had 2 rows of beads, and I chose to omit them so that I could incorporate real beads, to add another element. I waited until the piece was complete, and I almost didn’t add them, because I didn’t want to over-do it.
I decided that I wanted to leave her hair with minimal embroidery and focus on the rest of the detail. I saved the border around her to finish last, I wanted to make sure that it didn’t draw focus from her, but I also didn’t want to make it too plain. I thought about the different Native American patterns, I love the use of symmetrical lines, and tried to incorporate that.
Since your sister is also interested in the medium, I'm curious to know whether embroidery has roots in your family lineage. When did you get interested in it, and do you see yourself passing it on to other friends or family members in the future?
Lola Bee: Not really, this was my sister’s first time embroidering, and I knew she would do well because she is very creative. My grandma taught me how to cross-stitch and crochet when I was young, but I think I only made one of each thing.
I started knitting and crocheting 6 or 7 years ago to make gifts for friends and family, I guess that’s how I got in to the “granny mediums”. I like the idea of making something personal, and unique. My brother in law is always trying to market my work, but most of what I do is very labor intensive.
I started embroidering last year because I was going to be selling at a local craft show and I wanted to display something different. As for passing it on, I started a Quilting circle with my family last year, it was really fun because we are on all different levels of sewing, so it was nice learning and teaching as we went. I will definitely be doing something like that for embroidery as well, my aunt and I were just talking about all the different stitch types, and how intricate some of them are.
In Stitches: An Embroidery Show!
Premier on Friday, August 2nd @ 6 PM 
Hibbleton Gallery
223 W Santa Fe Ave, Fullerton, California 92832


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