Some works of art are made quickly, with a click of a button or a few brush strokes. Others take time.
At least that’s what Jennifer Paperman has found through decades of embroidering.
The Niskayuna resident has created countless pieces, many of which she poured hours into and one that she worked at for the better part of seven years.
“At some point, I’d gotten so far along and so many people [were] asking me about it, I had to keep going,” Paperman said.
There are 18 women in the piece, which is 2 and a half by 6 and a half feet of stitching and contains 102 colors. Each figure is working with their hands in some way, playing an instrument, writing calligraphy, playing Go, or painting.
The piece, called “Qin Qi Shu Hua” or The Four Arts of the Chinese Scholar, is just one of the hundreds in “Artistry in Stitches,” an exhibition organized by the New York Capital District Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America.
“We’ve got about 45 artists,” said Kathy Kuhrt, the exhibit chair.
She’s been a member of the group for around seven years. The local chapter of the EGA is going on 52 years and has around 75 members. With several meetings around the Capital Region each month, including Clifton Park, Slingerlands and Defreestville, it’s an active chapter. On top of their usual meetings and workshops, they also run mentoring programs for kids who want to learn how to embroider. The exhibitions, however, only come around every other year.
“It’s a lot of work to finish these pieces,” Kuhrt said.
This year, she’s expecting around 350 pieces in the show, which runs from May 16-19 at the Carondelet Hospitality Center in Latham.
From classic embroidered pillows to large scenes to embroidered jewelry, there’s going to be quite a variety at “Artistry in Stitches.”
While many of them are intricately made and took hours, none came close to Paperman’s piece.
“The biggest problem I had was for the show, for insurance purposes, you need to calculate the value of the piece. Part of that is the labor cost. So it took me 88 months of stitching and I estimate about 40 hours a month and at minimum wage that’s around $40,000,” Paperman said, “But the fact of the matter is I never thought of it that way. I enjoy doing it.”
She started embroidering in college while studying political science at the University at Albany.
“Sitting in a 200 or 400 person lecture center, I just started doing cross stitch pieces,” Paperman said. She found that it kept her mind from wandering during the lectures and it was a cheap way to make gifts for people. It grew from there. She would mostly work on different pieces while on lunch at work and it was her co-workers who really encouraged her to stick with the “The Four Arts of the Chinese Scholar” that she started in 2011.
“My co-workers were actually very supportive and questioning my sanity for doing this. So what I was doing was taking a picture of it every month and putting it up in my cube so that they could keep track of where things were because I couldn’t bring it in easily,” Paperman said.
The work itself mostly required care counting.
“That particular style of needlework is known as counted cross stitch,” Paperman said. The cloth itself doesn’t have a pattern, instead, the pattern is drawn out on a grid, which embroiderers follow.
“This particular pattern is . . . complicated is not the right word. I mean, it’s just big,” Paperman said.
Besides the large-scale work, Paperman has two other entries in the exhibit. One is a small piece of Wiley Coyote and the other is a shirt that she embroidered the back of with galactic designs.
“Artistry in Stitches” also features works from 45 other embroiderers, including pillows, jewelry, blankets, knitwear and others. There will be new and gently used needlework supplies for sale as well.
“Artistry in Stitches”
WHEN: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 16, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 17-19
WHERE: Carondelet Hospitality Center, 385 Watervliet-Shaker Road, Latham
ADMISSION: Suggested donation of $5
MORE INFO: nycapega.org