The CARON Collection is pleased to feature one of the outstanding shops who so ably provide stitchers with not only supplies but guidance, technical expertise, and inspiration. We hope you'll support your local shops and browse through our extensive SHOP LISTINGS to find a shop near you.
This month we take you on a visit to
The Sampler in Plymouth, MA
The Sampler, located on the main street of historic Plymouth, opened in 1983 with the goal of presenting the very best in needlework. In making that goal a reality, Elizabeth Creeden has never flagged. The shop stands apart with respect to the quality and variety of work presented, the staff's intimate knowledge of embroidery techniques of all kinds and familiarity with all aspects of the needlework market, which have earned them the respect and loyalty of customers who span the globe. This clientele encompasses the gamut in experience and talent, from the neophyte just looking for a pleasurable hobby to the most dedicated, advanced stitchers and professional designers. All are justifiably impressed with both the shop and the sales personnel, consisting of Elizabeth Creeden (owner), Alice Taylor (tiny in stature, but the real "Boss!") and Beverly Wickson (invaluable part timer, who makes it possible for Elizabeth and Alice to have some semblance of a real life!) Elizabeth readily admits that Alice is the true the lynchpin in the day-to-day mechanics of the business, without whom it would be impossible for her to continue designing. She also points out, "There are many other invisible people whose contributions are necessary for the existence of the business from bookkeepers and stitchers, to the treasured friends who show up with ice cream on a bad day!"
Elizabeth Creeden was born in Boston and learned her first stitching and sewing skills in 4th grade. An avid reader and natural artistic talent, she attended the Massachusetts College of Art where she refined her drawing, painting and design skills, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. Immediately after college, Elizabeth worked at Remick's of Quincy (a unique department store) in the display department. Her job consisted of creating the store's window displays, which were changed on a regular basis year round, always featuring a particular theme. The highlight of the year was the extravagant Christmas windows, sophisticated automated scenes - quite high tech for the times! Elizabeth would toil in a frenzy from September to November, fashioning the figures by shaping, painting, dressing and arranging them, as well as building the background sets for each tableaux. When she was not thus occupied, Elizabeth filled in as an illustrator in the advertising department.
When Elizabeth married John Creeden in 1963, she continued her free lance artwork - illustrating a book, doing architectural renderings and working with museums. The couple moved to Plymouth, where Elizabeth developed a love of history and crewel through volunteer work at local museums, while raising her family. As the cradle of the new nation and repository for many of America's early artifacts and materials, Elizabeth was intrigued and fascinated by what she saw and learned there. She exhorts, "Plymouth is where America began...Since everything in Plymouth is related to history, it is natural to think in an historical context whether painting or embroidering - plus there is the other advantage of having 17th, 18th & 19th century materials available." At The Pilgrim Society, Elizabeth devoted time to organizing fund raising events. She also set up and managed a gift shop in 1976 for the show, "Remember the Ladies," a landmark Bicentennial show featuring women's historical achievements, which later toured nationally. The name of the show derived from an admonition given to President John Adams by his wife, Abigail, to enlighten him about a woman's precarious position in the society of the day. Elizabeth also served on the Board of Directors for the Richard Sparrow House, a 17th century House Museum and the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, again initiating and supervising fund raising events. She was a dedicated member of the Black and White Society in Plymouth, which originated in the late 1800's as an outgrowth of the Arts and Crafts movement in the U.S. Elizabeth's first formal encounter with needlework was studying with Mary Davidson, a designer, teacher and fellow member in the Black and White Society. She later continued her education at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill.
Her design career began when she was commissioned to recreate some period crewelwork for Constance Carol, a national curtain manufacturer and catalog retailer. Constance contracted Elizabeth to implement two needlework stores for her, which became successful ventures until the recession of the early 1980's, when Constance decided to downsize her operations. Daunted but determined, when Constance offered Elizabeth the existing store files, she decided to take the plunge into retail needlework. With a partner, Catherine Delano, Elizabeth opened modestly in a tiny space on a side street to an audience of needlework novices. With characteristic fortitude and patience, coupled with Elizabeth's stitching, teaching and business expertise, they were able within three years to move the shop to their present location in 1000 sq. ft. on the main thoroughfare. An added feature attraction is the sloping brick walkway leading to the shop and the invigorating view of the ocean afforded by these premises.
Elizabeth received the distinguished honor of being selected as one of Early American Homes Best 200 Crafts People in the U.S. over a ten-year period. This accolade led to one of her most challenging and prestigious commissions: the re-creation of the Hancock Bedhangings, the originals of which reside at Winterthur. (Cover of Fine Lines, Fall 1998 Issue) Just last year she was honored with an invitation to design an ornament for the 1999 White House Christmas Tree. Other designs have been featured in McCalls, Samplers and Antique Needlework and a subsequent issue of Fine Lines.
Many of Elizabeth's crewel designs are available as kits or as finished pieces through The Sampler. Custom designed commissions are her forte as she excels in marrying inventive, contemporary elements with traditional techniques and designs. Elizabeth relishes the challenge and is totally in her element when applying herself to a design project. She explains her approach; "I design to find solutions for the project presented to me. For instance the [Hancock] bedhangings had to be thought of by period, size and materials...After the selection of materials, then how will the stitching present the design most effectively, whether in surface embroidery, needlepoint or cross stitch." Elizabeth's method of teaching mirrors this strategy, "My classes at the shop are offered in the same manner on an individual basis to solve the student's needs, whether with beginning cross stitch or 17th century techniques." One such assignation was teaching 17th century stitching techniques to the interpreters at the Plimoth Plantation, a museum presenting 17th century life to the public.
The shop is a full service venue offering a vast array of needlework threads and fibers, fabrics, designs, kits, books, tools and accessories, as well as providing framing and finishing. There is an impressive display of vintage needlework to inspire and tempt and also an exclusive line of needlepoint kits inspired by the work of C.F.A. Voysey, an exponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which was developed by Elizabeth in collaboration with David Berman under Trustworth Art Needlework. Caron Collection products have been an integral part of the shop's inventory from its inception. Elizabeth remarks on satisfying the special needs of today's stitcher, "Our customer today is more sophisticated than 17 years ago, wanting varied stitching and good design. The Sampler is unique because of knowledge of needlework and of the commercial market...If we know the market, we can discover that odd item that is just what someone needs."
Whether it was coincidence or destiny that brought Elizabeth Creeden to Plymouth, it is certain that the town has been an ongoing source of inspiration, providing the raw materials, history, sensibility and opportunity to bring her exceptional talents to fruition in an equally exceptional manner. Elizabeth is indeed lucky to have found her muse in Plymouth. However, it is not only Plymouth, but also the rest of us, from all over the world, who are truly fortunate to have discovered her!
For more information on Elizabeth's rendition of the Hancock Bedhangings, please see this month's Gallery of Innovation.
- The Sampler
- 84 Court Street
- Plymouth, Massachusetts 02360
- Phone: (508) 746 7077
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hours: Mon. to Sat. 10 - 5, Thurs. 10- 8
© 1999 The Caron Collection / Voice: (203) 381-9999, Fax: 203 381-9003