Sarah K Benning

March 21, 2016 80 Comments

If there is one thing I feel is lacking in the handmade community, it is empowerment and support from others. So, to help fill that gap, I’ve decided to begin a monthly series called, “Artist of the Month” where I feature handmade artists in multiple fields and host a fun giveaway with them to help spread the word about their gift and their mission within this community. 

I've had the pleasure of following the work of Sarah K Benning for years now. Her talent has always been an inspiration for me and now I have the pleasure of introducing her to you (if you haven't already been aware of this talented artist, that is). Read to learn more about her process, what inspires her the most, and where she sees herself in the next five years. 

++ Also, don't forget to enter our giveaway below in the comments! One winner will receive a subscription to BOTH of our Pattern of the Month Clubs. ++

 

When did you start doing hand embroidery and what was the inspiration behind it? 

I have dabbled in textile arts for most of my life.  My earliest sewing memory is of making a quilt with my mom when I was 7 for my newborn cousin.  Much later I studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received my BFA in 2013, with an emphasis in Fiber and Material Studies and Arts Administration.  SAIC has a huge weaving program and offers a number of surface embellishment classes, though I never took them specifically.  At the time I was making large scale abstract paper works, where I manipulated the surface with accumulations of pinholes and stitched patterns. 

It wasn’t until after I left school that I took up more traditional hand-embroidery.  I opened my Etsy shop in the summer of 2013 with a modest offering of hand-stitched greeting cards.  My collection quickly grew to include simple and modern text-based embroidery hoops, basically updated versions of “Home Sweet Home.” My originalintention for my shop was to bring in a little extra cash while I figured out what to do with my life.  I was 22, a recent art school grad, and was working as a full-time nanny with no clue how to break into the ‘art world’ or find (paid) gallery/museum work.  As my shop gained traction and demand for my work grew, I was able to leave my day job and sew full-time.

What currently inspires your work the most? 

I will always be inspired by nature.  It’s no secret that I turn to plants as a main focus in my pieces and that love extends beyond the hoop.  I do my best to keep a thriving garden of houseplants wherever I go, though it’s a bit difficult since I don’t seem to live in any one place for too long.  The infinite variety of pattern, shape, color, and texture found in plants (and nature at large) is endlessly fascinating to me.

I’m currently working on some ideas focussing on the incredible colors of the Mediterranean.  Menorca (where I am currently located) is incredibly beautiful and home to a crystal clear watersand white porous cliffs.  Since embroidery is such a slow medium, it may be a little while before these ideas are translated into thread.  For the time being these new works exist only in y sketchbooks, but it has been a lot of fun playing with watercolors and pencil.

What is your favorite piece you have made and how did you develop the idea for it? 

I think every new piece I finish ends up being my favorite, at least for a little while until I finish something else.  I am very excited about the new direction in my work that involves people and plants.  Mainly I am having a blast stitching the patterns in my girls’ sweaters.  I am a sucker for a good sweater in any medium and have been trying to figure out a way to incorporate those knit patterns into my work for awhile. 

Has there ever been a part of your work that was a disaster? If so, what happened and how did you remedy it? 

I think I experience minor disasters and failures (along with successes and breakthroughs) everyday, but one memory definitely stands out.  Back when I was making text-based work, I took on a custom order with the phrase, “Home is where the pants aren’t.”  It was a longer phrase than I usually worked with and I got very involved in the star pattern surrounding the words. I didn’t realise I had stitched are’tinstead of aren’t. I didn’t always write out the text before sewing.  I wrapped up the piece, popped it in the mail and went on about my business.  About a week later I heard from the recipient, who sent a very polite message pointing out my mistake.  I immediately set to work on a replacement.  Instead of learning from my mistake, I skipped writing out the phrase and proceeded to spell are’nt instead of aren’t. I wrapped it up and sent it out.  About a week later I heard back, again very politely, that I had made another mistake on the same word.  At that point the customer just wanted a refund, which I totally understood.  I was completely mortified and humiliated!  I swear I know how to spell aren’t, which is what I told her in a handwritten apology letter complete with her refund and one of my best-sellers at the time (something I knew beyond a doubt I could get right!).  That incident is definitely the closest I’ve come to a disaster in my work, though now I can laugh about it and it has even ended up being one of the most positive interactions I’ve had on Etsy. 

Is it tough being your own boss or is it the easiest job you’ve ever had? 

As with anything, it comes in waves.  When you work for someone else there is always a figure, your boss, to complain about or blame when things aren’t running smoothly.  When you work for yourself, you are responsible for all of it, good times and bad. I am a one woman show, single handedly managing every aspect of my business.  It’s basically two jobs:  the business side and the creative side.  My strengths definitely lie on the creative side and that’s the part I love.  I could (and sometime do) spend all day creating sketches and drawings and stitching.  The other side of things, the business side, is much more difficult for me.  It’s a chore and I have to constantly remind myself to see to all the boring details of accounting, managing supplies, drafting emails, labelling orders, etc.  I am also my harshest critic and have a very hard time giving myself a break every once and while.  This leads to very long working days and often little sleep. (I know it’s cliché, but I really couldn’t function without coffee.)  It’s not always fun, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I love the freedom and flexibility self-employment allows me.  It’s a wonderful feeling knowing I am working towards my own goals, rather than realising someone else's. 

What is your one piece of advice for beginner embroiderers? 

Be patient with yourself.  Embroidery isn’t difficult, but it takes time for your fingers and hands to familiarise themselves with the movements and materials.  I know it’s easy and sometimes discouraging to look at someone else’s work and wonder why yours doesn’t look the same (I know I’m guilty of stitch envy!), but the more you practice the better you will be. I definitely didn’t start out stitching wild piles of plants and rugs, but after years of hard work, countless tangles and a million finger pricks my skill set has grown.  I still can’t make a french knot to save my life though!

Where do you see yourself in five years? Do you have any major goals for your work? 

It’s hard to say.  I work very intuitively, so I don’t always know what is coming next.  I do know the next couple years are going to be a bit hectic, with a more or less nomadic studio.  I hope in 5 years I will have settled down a bit, at least with a more permanent home-base!  As far as my work goes, I will continue to follow it wherever it takes me.  My philosophy has always been to make things that I love and feel excited about and cross my fingers that other folks like them too.  It’s been working so far.

Any advice to those out there wishing to take their art/work to another level by either sharing it with the world or selling it? 

My first piece of advice is to be open to criticism.  It’s always wonderful to receive a compliment, but responding to thoughtful and constructive criticism is what drives artists forward.  Building yourself a community of fellow makers, whether it’s in real life or online, is essential for getting this kind of critique of your work.  It can be tough not to be defensive, but approaching your work from an objective space and a different perspective can help you determine what is working and what isn’t.  Then you can make the necessary changes and move forward.

My second piece of advice is to learn how to take good images of your work.  These days, everything is so visual that is it so important to develop a visual brand for yourself.  It’s not as hard as it sounds! I take all my photos, for my social media accounts and my product photography, on a piece of white paper on the floor.

And my third and final piece of advice: don’t rip off other people’s work.  Copying a popular style/maker/product may gain you some followers or sales in the short term, but in the long run it will hurt your brand.  No one wants the ‘copycat’ label and in the worst case scenario you could have to deal with legal ramifications due to copyright infringement.  There is room for all of us out there and we shouldn’t purposefully step on each other’s toes.

Who is your favorite handmade artist/maker at the moment? 

What a question!  There are so many amazing artists and makers out there right now.  I really love the textile work of Christy Matson.  She was a teacher of mine while I was in school and her weavings have really been speaking to me lately.

Describe yourself as an artist in five words or less. 

Inuitive, Patient (as an artist, though not always in my life), Playful, Receptive, Graphic. 

-------------

Sarah K Benning & Gulush Thread are both giving away a three month subscription to their Pattern of the Month Club. 

To enter, leave a comment below letting us know your favorite kind of plants/florals, then head on over to Gulush Threads IG and like the giveaway photo. Don’t forget to follow both @gulushthreads and @sarahkbenning to be entered!

Giveaway will run for 24 hours and ends Tuesday, March 22 at midnight CT with winner announced on Wednesday, March 23 right here on the Gulush Blog.  

GIVEAWAY WINNER: STEPH YATES (Thanks to everyone else for playing!) 

Much love and Good Luck,
Kristen 



80 Responses

Gwynne
Gwynne

March 22, 2016

I love ranunculus and I’m so happy they are in season right now. I’m also looking to get a fiddle leaf fig and a split leaf philodendron.

Clorinda
Clorinda

March 22, 2016

Your work is so inspirational. I have struggled for many years to find my creative side. Still have not found it yet, maybe I will some day. Right now I do what I have to to pay the bills.

Serena Martinez
Serena Martinez

March 22, 2016

I love the intricate design and the colors that are used in Sarah’s work! My favorite flowers are poppies because of their paper like look, they are so delicate and beautiful. I think they are just unique in how they stand as well with their long stems.

Alyssa Curran
Alyssa Curran

March 22, 2016

I adore hydrangea and bromeliads. I’ve also got a soft spot for spider plants. So basic but so pretty :) thanks for the give away!

Erica Sharpe
Erica Sharpe

March 22, 2016

Sarah’s work is amazing and so inspiring! Right now now I can’t get enough succulents and large tropical leaves…I guess I have summer on the brain. :)

Marriah Mabe
Marriah Mabe

March 22, 2016

Such amazing work!! Orchids have long been my favorite flower. Lady Slippers are particularly intriguing to me!

Claire M
Claire M

March 22, 2016

Adore her work! Fave plants are soft freesias and spiky cacti

Spencer
Spencer

March 22, 2016

Great work, great human.

Ellie
Ellie

March 22, 2016

I’ve always been a big fan of sunflowers and poppies. I’ve got bunches sat on my side table in an old ww1 shell casing

Anna
Anna

March 22, 2016

Lately I’ve been loving orchids! But mostly succulents since that’s all I can keep alive!

Kate Facey
Kate Facey

March 22, 2016

I know this may sound silly, but I think all plants are just so beautiful in there own way! Whether it be through colour, scent, texture, or overall appearance, they all have something about them that makes them beautiful, just like people! And I guess that is why I don’t really have a favourite as such, because I couldn’t possibly choose between any of them when each and every plant has a different kind of beauty to them.

An Nguyen
An Nguyen

March 22, 2016

My most favorite flowers are magnolias. As a child my dad would always “pick” fallen magnolias for me and my sister. Seeing these flowers make me nostalgic. Also, thank you for sharing your journey and I love your seeing work!

Namrita
Namrita

March 22, 2016

I’m loving the succulents!! And peonies :)

Bethany Montgomery
Bethany Montgomery

March 21, 2016

I love the look of ivy!

Janice
Janice

March 21, 2016

I fell in love with passionflowers the first time I encountered them in a community garden, but sunflowers and dahlias make me the happiest!

A huge thanks to you and Sarah for filling my IG feed with inspiration and beauty every day!!!

Lina
Lina

March 21, 2016

I love orchids.

Karen Evans
Karen Evans

March 21, 2016

After more than 40 years I’ve started to embroidery again. Much love and thanks for the Internet and sites like gulush and everyone sharing their wonderful talents. The posts are truly beautiful and inspiring. Happy stitching to all!!!!❤️

Deborah Pereira
Deborah Pereira

March 21, 2016

I love all plants. My house is full! Succulents are my current obsession.

Sophia Law
Sophia Law

March 21, 2016

You are such an inspiration!! I NEED-le to start trying your patterns!

Ariel
Ariel

March 21, 2016

Daffodils and dandelions

zann lee
zann lee

March 21, 2016

I really like cacti, peonies and daisies!!!

Christin
Christin

March 21, 2016

Thank you so much for sharing your journey and tips! I’m a teacher who has been trying to work up the courage to cut back on my working hours and start selling my hand-made felt decorations. I was really encouraged and inspired by what you had to say. I’m also a big fan of your work – they are amazing! I’ve love Irises and Proteas.

Frankie LaGrone
Frankie LaGrone

March 21, 2016

I loooove Passion flowers and their vines!

Mallory Sanders
Mallory Sanders

March 21, 2016

I love my Cacti babies! You both are amaze-balls! Keep on making!! ???

Emma Waterman
Emma Waterman

March 21, 2016

For embroidering I love lavender bunches and am planning to try stitching some herbs next… In real life I can’t go wrong with a vase of tulips on my kitchen table :)

Heather
Heather

March 21, 2016

I’m obsessed with cacti lately!

Erin
Erin

March 21, 2016

I love all of them! Flowers with lots of petals are my favorite (ranunculus, peony, etc) and lilacs are one of my favorite parts of spring. I love my more colorful/textured houseplants….like my snake plant, for example!

Mita Saldana
Mita Saldana

March 21, 2016

I love gerber daisies, ivy and ferns the best! I love both of your work. So inspiring!

Rachel Parker
Rachel Parker

March 21, 2016

I only recently discovered Sarah’s work and I’ve become a little bit obsessed! Isn’t it funny when an artist seems to call out to you at a particular time in your life. Thanks so much for sharing. As for my favourite plant…I have a little aloe plant on my windowsill that was a gift from a dear friend. I love its spikey appearance and healing properties. It’s survived for some years with very little input from me, so I’d say it’s a keeper!

Naga Madhavapeddi
Naga Madhavapeddi

March 21, 2016

I love ferns, hostas and more recently the indoor fig plant. The pops of green in Sarah’s work are amazing!

sunji
sunji

March 21, 2016

jonquils, for sure! that smell fills a room and i love it!

Dee Dee
Dee Dee

March 21, 2016

Tulips are my all time favorite, but recently I’ve been really feeling cacti and succulents. You guys are so inspiring, keep up the great work!

pgjuli
pgjuli

March 21, 2016

I love tulips – especially this time of the year!
And succulents!!
Love both of your work!

Steph Yates
Steph Yates

March 21, 2016

My favourite plants change with the season! When all the leaves fall to the ground, my favourite are huge evergreen bushes that add some much needed colour. Snowdrops herald the beginning of the end for winter which is always a cheerful time for me. And in summer I love the personality of the cornflower – so spikey!

Liv
Liv

March 21, 2016

I don’t have a favorite plant / floral because I do love all of them… Too hard to choose! But I do love both of your work! I did the first monthly pattern from Sarah s my first project and although it’s not done I love doing it!!! Thank you for sharing your work with us. Very inspiring.

Nina
Nina

March 21, 2016

I love Sarah’s work! And she seems to be a very nice person! Hum, choosing my favourite plant is hard, I’m a real plant lover even though I have very few at home… But I really love the mimosa flower, it’s the first to bloom in spring and it smells heavenly! I love the saucer magnolia and the camelia trees as well! But also peonies, anemones, ranunculus, white tulips, honeysuckle (the smell is divine!), lilac, poppies, nasturtium, and so much more! As for plants, I really love succulent, mainly because they’re very hard to kill which akes them perfect for me, but also because some of them are very cute with their soft shapes!

Pececito
Pececito

March 21, 2016

Sarah’s embroidery is amazing. The colours, the trace, the questions it leaves in you while looking at it…Art.

MichalD
MichalD

March 21, 2016

I adore the shapes of succulents, and I find myself buying eucalyptus branches more often than fresh cut flowers!

Avery Chase
Avery Chase

March 21, 2016

I adore snapdragons. I have found memories of my dad showing me how they can “talk” when you squeeze them. Currently dabbling in figuring out how to translate them to thread! Love your work! And your patterns!

Julie
Julie

March 21, 2016

I’m an admirer of cacti (and Monstera, the plant du jour). Thanks, you two, for inspiring me as a beginning embroiderist—the pattern of the month idea is super motivating!

Sarah Guevara
Sarah Guevara

March 21, 2016

This was such a fun interview to read. I love Sarah’s work. It’s so inspiring and makes me just want to embroider all the things. I have a soft spot for Texas bluebonnets and all kinds of trees.

tab
tab

March 21, 2016

Thank you for sharing and starting AOTM.

Sonia
Sonia

March 21, 2016

I love aloe plants! They are very good at staying alive no matter what you do to them, plus they are medicinal!

Jade Kelly
Jade Kelly

March 21, 2016

Dahlias! They’re fun to stitch too. I love both your IG feeds and they have inspired me to get out the old embroidery hoop. Many thanks!

Catalina
Catalina

March 21, 2016

I love orchids, cacti, and succulents! I also love reading about Sarah and her work!

Caleena
Caleena

March 21, 2016

Oh and I love embroidered ferns?

Caleena edkins
Caleena edkins

March 21, 2016

Hi so loved reading about your process,I love all crafty mediums and float between painting,crochet and sewing as well as embroidery,I must say the time it takes can be frustrating compared to drawing but the depth is comparable ?

Mel Scott
Mel Scott

March 21, 2016

hit post accidentally! So PS love the interview and the work you both do! Love seeing them pop up in my Insta feed. So inspiring!

Mel Scott
Mel Scott

March 21, 2016

I’m a fan of succulents and geraniums at the moment.

Jessica
Jessica

March 21, 2016

Succulents and dahlias!

Jana J
Jana J

March 21, 2016

Love your work! Been a seamstress & costume designer for years and have recently started teaching myself embroidery, but feeling motivated while looking at beautiful work compared to my semi-decent work can be a challenge. Here’s to keeping myself inspired and working hard!

Fernanda
Fernanda

March 21, 2016

Would die to see you do some hanging plants :) love your work Sarah!

Dara Lipovac
Dara Lipovac

March 21, 2016

I love the patterns you make Sarah. My biggest issue starting embroidery has been the very outdated looking patterns available but ever since finding your Instagram I’ve been inspired by your very modern looking embroidery and have even designed some of my own patterns.

Jennifer
Jennifer

March 21, 2016

I love the minerals

Bree Crocetti
Bree Crocetti

March 21, 2016

I live in dry Los Angeles and I love my succulents!

lili liu
lili liu

March 21, 2016

Thank you for the interview, have been following Sarah for some time and it’s great to find out a bit more about her.

Anemones! Delicate but full of life.

Sam
Sam

March 21, 2016

That “are’t” story cracks me up. Also, I appreciate the words of advice to beginning stitchers!

Do trees count? Big fan of the bodhi and weeping willows!

Robin Barson
Robin Barson

March 21, 2016

I’m in love with how lush her work is! And not just the plants – the rugs and furniture just have so much depth and texture to them. It’s a constant inspiration.

(also definitely entering for the pattern programs!)

Leticia
Leticia

March 21, 2016

Loved reading about Sarah’s process! I am a stitcher myself, and her work has inspired me to try and stitch my own projects.

As for plants, I love tropical plants: all kinds pf palm trees, monstera, orchids, giant elephamt ear…

Thank you for the interview!

Nicole
Nicole

March 21, 2016

Very cool interview series! And lavender all the way!

Katie
Katie

March 21, 2016

I love plants that are easy to care for but look great too. Like snake plants or dracaenas.

Melissa K
Melissa K

March 21, 2016

I’m a sucker for succulents and luv a good elephant ear ???

Nancy
Nancy

March 21, 2016

I’m big fan of succulents and cacti. That’s what actually drew me to Sarah’s work! Other than those, i love the look of peonies. They remind me of big soft scoops of ice cream. ?

Katie
Katie

March 21, 2016

Windflowers and succulents.

Rachel Nagel
Rachel Nagel

March 21, 2016

Oh wow, how to choose! I love every flower- I’m particularity fond of a variety of windflowers all bunched together..

Lauren S
Lauren S

March 21, 2016

I’ve always been a sucker for peonies and ranunculus. Lilacs are also a favorite. My parents planted some outside my window when I was a kid, and so every time I smell them, I think of springtime.

Megan L
Megan L

March 21, 2016

I have always loved hydrangea and all their varieties of colors!

Samantha Wilkin
Samantha Wilkin

March 21, 2016

Wow what a fab giveaway! I love all kinds of cacti and succulents and these feature quite heavily in my own embroidery work. Flower wise I love ranunculus – so many petals!

Kim
Kim

March 21, 2016

I really loved reading about Sarah, I am a huge fan of hers and am just getting into embroidery myself. I’ve always loved cacti and succulents, but lately I’m loving the tropical foliage plants with large leaves such as the split leaf philodendron, and I also love the fiddle leaf fig tree.

Lindsey Meister
Lindsey Meister

March 21, 2016

I love the leafy green ferns and the cacti. All the shades of different greens!

Sierra
Sierra

March 21, 2016

My favorite flowers are sunflowers and daisies

Raychel
Raychel

March 21, 2016

I’m really digging the pilea plants that are so popular right now. (Also a question: I follow you both on Insta already but my account is private- do I need to switch it to public for a little bit?)

Lillie Faye Purser
Lillie Faye Purser

March 21, 2016

I am a little bit obsessed with cacti and succulents (to the point where I’m currently trying to propagate and grow my own tiny babies!) However, being a biology student, there are so many more plants that fascinate me, but mostly the Venus fly trap! I’m so proud to have kept mine alive for so long, because my dad killed his within a week! In terms of florals, I love wild flowers. I don’t really care much ‘showy’ flowers like roses, but wild flowers seem to bring a little bit of happiness and nature into my tiny uni room☺️

Lucy
Lucy

March 21, 2016

I love sunflowers & any form of succulents ?

Kate
Kate

March 21, 2016

Loved reading more about Sarah’s intuitive process! Lately, I’ve been loving cacti – I found a split rock cactus that I love! But it’s also daffodil season, which makes me very happy :)

Emily
Emily

March 21, 2016

Individually most orchids look amazing. In groups fields of any little yellow or little pink flowers are nice.

michele vesci
michele vesci

March 21, 2016

I love ranunculus! They ate my favorite flower!

Seyma T
Seyma T

March 21, 2016

Hello, your works are just so beautiful and inspiring that as a person who has never done any embroidery before, I want to learn it too! My favorite flowers are calla lilies, especially the burgundy/dark purple colored ones :) Thank you !

Annie
Annie

March 21, 2016

I really am a sucker for a good sunflower field or lilac bush.

Holly Adkison
Holly Adkison

March 21, 2016

I’m in love with the Monstera Deliciosa

Leave a comment


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