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Stitching While Waiting for the Pasta to Boil
Ute Senkel-Weinberg was born in southern Germany. Ten years later her family settled in the north. When she was 17 the family relocated to Bielefeld, in the central part of the country. These moves were necessitated by her father's occupation as an engineer and self-employed statistic calculations expert who worked on erecting bridges. Her father, Helmut, being engrossed in technical studies, contributed the "modern touch" in the design of their home. Though her mother, Edith, didn't hold an "official" job, she acted as hostess for her husband's business functions, entertaining clients, took phone messages for the business, etc. Ute's brother, Helmut Jr., also became an engineer specializing in lighting systems on a worldwide scope. Ute remarks modestly, "He is very involved in new designs. I think he is the most creative person of the family."
Ute's father's fervent desire was for her to take over his business, which her brother had no interest in. Ute reminisces, "Maybe I would have pursued his wish, but my father died when I was 14. At that time I was very interested in architecture. But this direction changed with my first boyfriend. He studied mathematics and so did I (but only for four years.) The University of Bielefeld was very new and I was provided with the opportunity to study biology. I didn't know anything about it but I enjoy learning about anything new. There were only 40 students and the work was very fascinating. But then: what should I do with mathematics? I decided to teach in high school."
Petit Point on Linen and Ute's Best Seller
Ute enjoyed teaching and the process of educating young minds. Her intention was (like it is concerning embroidery now) to show that learning can be interesting and even funny. She has reservations however, "The German educational system is getting worse and closely packed, and the possibility to teach less conventional subjects keep diminishing. Besides money for education in this country, shrinks, all people (teachers too) have to work more, especially those who handle bureaucratic affairs."
Ute initially states that her upbringing and educational background are not related to her current career as a needlework designer, but then hastens to add, "My grandmother was a tailor and her sister was a professional needle worker." Upon further refection she continues, "Maybe my father had some influence on my graphic interests, concerning drawing lines and other geometric forms with his machines. I don't know. At times I have experimented with painting, but it was not successful. I cannot draw anything 'freely', all I do is graphical."
Stitched with Waterlilies Kelp and Cedar -
A surprisingly effective combination
At Ute's confirmation (religious celebration) she yearned for a piano, but her mother decided that, besides the "noise", it was not a practical gift! Ute was presented with a sewing machine. Instead of taking up music, she learned to sew. This did prove to be most practical as after Ute had children, she admits, "I designed nice but practical clothes for them and for myself. Everywhere I searched for interesting, nice fabrics and collected them. When I had a good idea I used those fabrics." Her daughter Tina-Mareen is now 18 and Martin is 16. Both help out at needlework fairs, when possible. At one fair Martin was stitching during the event, which was very good publicity! Ute exclaims, "People said to themselves, if a boy of 16 can do this, I can do it too!"
Macintosh Inspired Design
Example of "What Happens When Looking Too Much at 0ther Designers' Work"
Ute does not consider herself an "artist" in the traditional sense. She explains, "I like graphic designs and the effects of colors and forms as you can discover on some good websites or in museums of modern art." But what Ute did realize was that in all her previous jobs related to education, she had acquired much knowledge about computer programs, graphics, creating websites etc. She explains, "All that I now use for my creations as well as for my business. I do it all myself, even the website and printing the covers of the kits." What ultimately led her to needlework and designing was the need for a hobby. She elaborates, "For recreation I also like sailing (for relieving my brain), collecting old French stamps (just for fun) and needlework (for doing something with my fingers). So I have been stitching since I started my profession as a teacher. In 2002 I was on a vacation in Great Britain and there I discovered CARON Wildflowers in a very expensive shop. I bought a lot of skeins without knowing what to do with them! In fact I spent so much that my family was very angry and I had a really bad conscience."
Ute initially found working with the variegated threads difficult. All the charts she had just didn't work. She decided that she had to create some patterns on her own. They came out better than expected and she immediately wanted more of the threads. She e mailed CARON asking where to buy the threads in Germany. Alas, the nearest source was in Strasbourg, France. Guess where Ute's family decided to go for their next family holiday? You got it - Strasbourg! Ute was ecstatic, "In the shop of Mme Orrière, Fils Du Temps, I saw Waterlilies for the first time and bought lots of those fantastic threads. Mme Orrière was a little bit irritated about my chaotic shopping, so I sent her some photos of what I had done with the material. She, as well as my friends, told me, 'It's good; make some kits' and that's how my business got started. She named her business "Sticken & Staunen" which translates as "Stitching and Astonishment" (Ute's intention for the name is to stitch and be astonished at what you can create.)
Ute does not consider herself an "artist" in the traditional sense. She explains, "I like graphic designs and the effects of colors and forms as you can discover on some good websites or in museums of modern art." Ute derives inspiration for her designs from all she sees, especially from promotional photos and art. She quips, "The colors and names of CARON threads often are enough inspiration! And more and more I put the needle into some basic material and look what happens Sometimes I play with graphic computer programs like 'Photo Shop' or virtual landscapes made by computer. In this way I try to get new forms and combinations of them. I like looking what other people do too, but it's dangerous! When working on a new design I must not look too often in the magazines or books of other people or I might just adopt and imitate their ideas. So I have to be alone with my own thoughts for one or two weeks that way the new design is really mine."
When, as Ute Says, "You Put the Needle In"
Ute's artistic style is modern and, alternative. She emphasizes "No traditional work, no more 'wreaths of flowers.' I like traditional patterns, but I can't identify myself with them. But I like all that's small and colorful" Over time her work keeps getting smaller and more intricate. Initially she began by creating table cloths in cross stitch or, really new in German - half-cross stitch. When she discovered silk gauze in France, which is not available in Germany, she realized that this material was just perfect when used in combination with Waterlilies. She started with #32 gauze but is now employing #40 with Petit Point. She points out, "I think in English it's called 'continental' or 'basket weave'"
Ute's version of the Word Secret in 3 Languages
Secret (English), Mystere (French), Geheimnis (German)
When Ute first got the Caron threads, she wasn't sure what to do with them. None of her cross stitch patterns worked. She decided that the best way to work with them was just to put the needle in and see what happened. She elaborates, "It is really impossible to work with Wildflowers or Waterlilies as you know it from traditional cross stitch. You need simple silhouettes and forms and it's necessary to know the Caron threads very exactly how long does it last until a new color appears. After working with CARON I think other threads are boring. There are many customers in Germany who didn't know CARON but now they think like me."
Fils Du Temps, the needlework shop where Ute found her first Caron threads now sells Ute's designs in her store as well as exhibiting them at French Fairs. Ute began by selling her work at small exhibitions and then larger fairs in Germany. People learned to recognize the name "Sticken & Staunen" within just a year and they now check her internet calendar regularly to see when she will be exhibiting somewhere close to them. Many of her fans order by e mail or phone after looking at her website. As more and more small shops close, Ute believes the internet will be the shop of the future.
Ute's Version of the Alphabet
and Newest Design Kit worked on #40 Linen in Petit Point
In addition to her kits Ute sells the Caron threads and includes ideas of how to use them. She states, "At the fairs I can show people which possibilities of being creative, which are hidden in this material." Ute's latest project has been to cover buttons with embroidered silk gauze. They are truly very creative and unique items. This fall, Ute will begin teaching a class named "Create Buttons Yourself with Silk Gauze and Variegated Silk Threads" at an adult college.
Ute's priorities lie more with teaching than exhibiting her work. She says, "I don't want to exhibit myself. In my opinion it's more important to show people that creativity gives more fun and self confidence than 'painting by numbers'. One of my kits is called "Lust-und-Laune Decke'. In English I would call it 'As-you-like-it tablecloth.' With the kit I include several ideas (no charts) for working squares on a piece of grey linen. After they complete three squares, the tablecloth is 'ready' and you can use it. Maybe, when you are 90 years old, it's over and over filled with squares! If it's dirty, work a new square over the spot! Two things are important with this model; first there is no frustration about one other unfinished work and second, it doesn't matter whether the embroidery is complicated or simple, the CARON threads create the effect. For example: Waterlilies 'Java' or 'Café au Lait' on grey linen will give a very noble look. This unusual idea opened the way for me to be involved in the best fair of needlework in Germany. I'm very proud of that, because the waiting list is very long, and I got a booth there within one year!"
Ute's "As-You-Like-It Tablecloth"
("Always Completed" or "Forever "In Progress"!)
Ute admits that sometimes her work doesn't look so "good" on the back, "At one of my exhibitions, a woman turned a tablecloth round and asked me whether 'it's allowed' to work each cross separately and not in rows and then back. 'It's looking awful at the back!' she said. I answered, 'It doesn't matter how it looks on the back. I am doing it like this. You may do it, too. It's more important that you like the front of the embroidery more than the backside.'"
Mme Orrière's Fils Du Temps Shop in Strasbourg,
France has also been featured on the Caron Site. To read
about it go to:
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