Fiber artist Jean Ferlesch of Clothe My Soul creates a fascinating portfolio of work, one stitch at a time. We spoke with her about building a small business as an artist.
ABI: You call your fiber art “An Embroidered Garden.” Why does this describe your body of work?
JF: In order to conceive of a product that was truly mine, it had to come from my soul. I spent a period of time “playing” artistically. Initially, I experimented with many subjects as I honed my embroidery techniques, but I kept returning to the natural world.
After a while, it dawned on me that I was re-creating my childhood experiences in my father’s garden. I grew up on an acre of land in Connecticut that embodied my dad’s passion to grow flowers, trees, shrubs, etc. Apparently, these memories are deeply embedded in me and have become the fodder for my creative process.
ABI: What types of products do you make, and how do you sell them?
JF: My embroideries are sold as framed art in 10” x 10″ or 12” x 12″ wood frames. Galleries and museum gift shops are among my customers. I sell silk pillows with original embroidery designs to high end stores in New York City and direct to the customer on my website. I am about to launch embroidered flower sew-on patches to offer my embroideries at a lower price point.
I have done a series of trade shows that focus on wholesale handmade and fine craft, but although I have written orders and made many valuable connections, these shows are not as trafficked as they once were. Therefore, my current focus is developing my internet presence for wholesale and retail sales.
ABI: Tell us about your newest direction, and the markets you want to pursue.
JF: My embroideries are currently sold in a gallery in Wisconsin, and the owner and his assistant have taught me how to improve my framing and presentation techniques. They have encouraged me to do larger pieces.
Large embroideries require piecing together smaller embroideries due to hoop size restriction, but the effect will be beautiful and open up new markets in the interior design/architecture field. Currently, I am assembling a piece called “Red Sunflowers” that will be 24” x 24″ square.