Designer Q&A Eileen Gurak
Q. What do you do when you’re not designing or stitching?
A. Read—I like to do that a lot. I visit with friends and family. I watch the birds and squirrels at the feeders. I daydream. Daydreaming is an especially important activity for me as it is where sometimes designs begin, problems are solved and decisions are made.
Q. When did you begin stitching?
A. I first learned how to stitch when I was very young. My family did needlework. At that time, we only had stamped embroidery designs on pillowcases and dresser scarves. We mostly did the stem stitch. Cross stitches were stamped on cloth and you followed that. You couldn’t get a nice even look that way. Years later, counted cross stitch came along. It was neat looking. You knew where to put your needle—it was great!
A little side note: Before my husband, Ron, and I were married, we worked together on a big tablecloth for my mother. Now we work together creating cross-stitch patterns all the time. Little did we know how prophetic that tablecloth would be!
Q. When did you first start designing?
A. I have designed all my life. It probably began when my eye-hand coordination was good enough to create recognizable shapes with my crayons or pencil. If there is something in front of me, I arrange it in a pleasant order.
Much of my work life outside the home has been church work in the area of art and environment. My book Using
Art in Sunday Worship is out of print now, but it did serve its purpose in the 1980s and ’90s. I designed vestments and seasonal church environments until I retired early about 18 years ago. I also did clay sculptures of people until I retired. So, the big question at the time was, “Now what am I going to do?” I looked at the things I loved and could do, which included cross stitch, needlepoint and design. With that, Handblessings Patterns was born.
Q. How would you describe your design style?
A. My design style is very eclectic; in other words, it’s all over the place from geometric to realistic. I design what I like to stitch. The designs are simple with not a lot of shading or outline stitching. Lately I’ve been doing silhouettes. You can see my background in sculpture in those designs.
Q. What are your favorite designs?
A. My favorite piece is the one I’m working on at any given time. However, my all-time favorites are the Halloween silhouettes I’ve designed, especially the five Scary Night designs. Each is a drawing done from a different perspective. Drawing with a bunch of little squares is a challenge. Deer in the Winter Mist and Deer in the Spring Wood are similar. They all tell a story, capture feelings and engage your imagination. That is something I’m proud of. I think the magic of all of my silhouettes is that the viewer fills in the details. They are all one color—no facial features, hair or eye color—so the mind fills in the details. The mind makes it yours.
Q. What are your words of wisdom to stitchers?
A. Enjoy what you’re working on. Pick styles that you like to stitch. Stitching is a joy, not a job.