De­signer Q&A

De Selby

Just Cross Stitch - - Contents -

Q. When did you be­gin cross stitch­ing?

A. I be­gan cross stitch­ing af­ter I be­gan de­sign­ing be­cause my model stitcher and good friend said, “De, my cross stitch won't do what you're telling me to do.” As for de­sign­ing, I went to a craft trade show with my hus­band, Greg, who was a sales man­ager for a large whole­saler, and was fas­ci­nated by what I thought peo­ple were call­ing “county cross stitch.” The book buyer for his em­ployer knew I was an artist. He said that if I de­signed some pat­terns, he'd buy them. With that, Hick­ory Hol­low was born. “Hick­ory Nut” was my fa­ther-in-law's CB han­dle, and we had just moved to Lex­ing­ton from a part of East­ern Ken­tucky that had many hol­lows. Q. When did you be­gin de­sign­ing cross stitch?

A. Our son, Zach, was a tod­dler when I be­gan, and he is now 35, so it was a life­time ago. It was at the height of the res­ur­rec­tion of what was then called “The Dan­ish Stitch.” I've also de­signed and taught silk rib­bon em­broi­dery, cre­ated quilt pat­terns, and in­tro­duced du­pli­cate stitch to an un­sus­pect­ing cross-stitch in­dus­try. I've taught weav­ing and veg­etable dye­ing, but I do not knit or cro­chet. I would love to. Maybe in my next life! Q. How did you learn to stitch?

A. While model stitch­ing, friends taught me the ba­sics of counted cross stitch. I had been em­broi­der­ing and work­ing with tex­tiles for years. As a pub­lic-school art teacher, I al­ways tried to do a needle­work project with my stu­dents and found that my mid­dle-school guys fared bet­ter with the me­chan­ics and the gals en­joyed color and de­sign a bit more. My mother made doll clothes for me each Christ­mas and taught me

to sew. She and my grand­mother were great quil­ters. Q. How did you learn to de­sign?

A. I learned with graph pa­per, a sharp­ened pen­cil and a DMC color board. I love DMC, and they ce­mented that love with a lovely trip to their fac­tory in France. The de­sign­ers in the group be­came fast friends, and those friend­ships have stood the test of time. Q. What was the first thing you de­signed?

A. My first two pub­li­ca­tions were for even­weave bas­kets! I re­mem­ber that en­cour­ag­ing buyer who worked for a whole­sale craft com­pany. When the bas­ket trend came and quickly went, I de­signed a leaflet of cow de­signs. I didn't like be­ing known at the next trade show as the “Cow Lady,” so I de­signed a se­ries of an­gels called “An­gels Descend­ing.” “An­gel Lady” was much pre­ferred. Soon af­ter, Just CrossStitch mag­a­zine in­ter­viewed me for an early is­sue. In the fol­low­ing years, I de­signed over 100 ti­tles, man­u­fac­tured ac­ces­sories and gar­ments, and free­lanced for man­u­fac­tur­ers. My hus­band had the op­por­tu­nity to man­age a fac­tory in Wales for his em­ployer, so I sold Hick­ory Hol­low and turned to free­lance full-time. I worked for Bet­ter Homes and Gar­dens, Leisure Arts, and The Amer­i­can School of Needle­work, and I even de­signed Christ­mas sweaters for Lands' End. The thing about cross-stitch de­sign­ers I have loved best is that com­pe­ti­tion comes af­ter friend­ship. We saw each other only a few times a year, but the bond was tight. One of those de­sign­ing friends, Donna Gal­lagher Saiia, went on to work for the Longaberger Com­pany. When The Home­stead, the com­pany's re­tail lo­ca­tion, came about, she and I de­signed the needle­work de­part­ment. That was

fun. Bas­ket col­lec­tors are com­mit­ted! As are cross stitch­ers. Q. What is your fa­vorite type of de­sign to cre­ate?

A. Needle­work has evolved. I used to en­joy de­sign­ing for a spe­cific prod­uct, such as tow­els, bibs or afghans. The de­vel­op­ment of per­sonal com­put­ers and soft­ware has made our job as de­sign­ers eas­ier (as op­posed to hand-draw­ing sym­bols), but it killed our busi­nesses. Af­ter spend­ing hun­dreds of hours de­sign­ing, stitch­ing and pro­duc­ing ti­tles of counted cross-stitch de­signs, it took only a hand­ful of un­scrupu­lous stitch­ers to scan de­signs and share them with a few thou­sand of their dear­est friends. Sales plum­meted, com­pa­nies died. Now, my pas­sion is paint­ing, so I love to con­vert my orig­i­nal works of art into de­signs for Just CrossStitch. Q. What are your fa­vorite col­ors to use?

A. All of them! I re­cently did two paint­ings for Brian Pa­trick Flynn, the de­signer who does the Ur­ban Oa­sis give­away homes for HGTV. He gave me the Sher­win–Wil­liams paint col­ors of the mas­ter bed­room and the din­ing room, and a rough idea of what he wanted. I rarely paint “to spec,” and it was nice to have a pay­ing col­lec­tor up front! You can see these paint­ings on my web­site https://www.dselby.com/ about-cjg9. Q. Who or what in­spires you?

A. At present, it's painters. From De­gas, Bon­nard and Matisse to cur­rent painters, I strive to im­prove my skills ev­ery day. I have a stu­dio right in the cen­ter of down­town Lex­ing­ton that is a co­op­er­a­tive of about 20 painters called Artists' At­tic. The or­ga­ni­za­tion

will celebrate its 30th an­niver­sary this year at its cur­rent lo­ca­tion, the ac­tual at­tic of for­mer fur­ni­ture stores con­verted in the 1980s into an ur­ban re­tail and restau­rant des­ti­na­tion. We gather for lunch in the com­mon gallery at noon each day and talk about what we're work­ing on. It's a dif­fer­ent mix of mem­ber artists each day, but we re­spect and learn from each other. The gallery area is also a great lo­ca­tion for classes. I'm cur­rently teach­ing a one-day Ex­pres­sion­ist Paint­ing for Be­gin­ners class each month and a class on gouache. Once a teacher, al­ways a teacher. I truly en­joyed teach­ing in var­i­ous cities for Spirit of Cross Stitch and Heart of Cross Stitch Fes­ti­vals. The same stu­dents came back an­nu­ally, so the an­tic­i­pa­tion for each city grew each year. Q. What is your idea of a per­fect crossstitch/de­sign day?

A. A per­fect day is one when I can fo­cus, un­in­ter­rupted by my own ideas! The only per­son I know more eas­ily dis­tracted is my daugh­ter, Carey. She is the em­bod­i­ment of “Ooh! A squir­rel! Is some­one mak­ing cof­fee? Look at this cat on YouTube!” She is an art di­rec­tor work­ing as Cel­ery Jones, and has some prints avail­able on Way­fair.com. Q. What is your fa­vorite snack while de­sign­ing? A. Cof­fee, cof­fee, and—OK, I con­fess— left­over Hal­loween candy. Q. What do you do when you aren’t de­sign­ing or stitch­ing?

A. I'm an avid reader of fic­tion, prefer­ably WWII era. Any­thing on PBS Mas­ter­piece Theater is fine with me. On Sun­day nights, the re­mote is mine. If I'm stream­ing, it's BritBox or Acorn—although The Hand­maid’s Tale on Hulu made me sit up and get scared. Q. If you couldn’t cross stitch or de­sign, what would you do?

A. I would walk more with our dog, a res­cue choco­late caramel-and-cof­fee (what else) cocker spaniel named Bud Brown. He res­cued us. My hus­band, Greg, is bat­tling non-Hodgkin's lym­phoma, and he needed a chemo buddy be­fore his stem-cell trans­plant three years ago. Can­cer has re­turned, and he goes to Bos­ton for a clin­i­cal trial soon. We are feel­ing so for­tu­nate to have an­other op­por­tu­nity for a cure. Our 50th an­niver­sary is in four years, and by golly, he plans to be present at the party! f

Stitch De's fresh-as­sum­mer Daisy! Find chart and in­struc­tions on pages 46 and 47.

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