Combining the art of machine embroidery with the making of fabric to create new dimension and designs
by Jill Abeloe Mead
If you haven’t been introduced to the amazing thread works of Stephen Wilson through fine art galleries or his atelier in Charlotte, North Carolina, you’ll soon be seeing his work in the Chrysalis collection for FreeSpirit Fabrics. Stephen is well known through the art world for his use of fabric and thread.
As an artist he uses thread like paint. His intricately digitized thread works of Stephen Wilson through fine designs evolve into works of art through the application of custom machine-stitched designs on his uniquely crafted and curated backgrounds. The new FreeSpirit line maintains the plethora of color and rich detail of the myriad of butterflies within Stephen’s art as the collection is digitally printed.
In addition to the fabrics, FreeSpirit is offering a 20-piece Fat Quarter collection featuring Chrysalis and FreeSpirit Designer Essential Solids. Inside the box of fat quarters are instructions for quilters and sewists to visit AnitaGoodesign.com to purchase eight multi-format embroidery designs including beautiful butterflies and in-hoop quilt block designs. To accompany the designs, quilters can also download four fat-quarter-friendly projects using the designs and Chrysalis fabric. The Chrysalis collection from FreeSpirit ships in January 2020.
The butterfly, a symbol of beauty and freedom, is one of Stephen’s iconic motifs. He searched through thousands of breeds and regional varieties of butterflies prior to carefully selecting the ones used in the series Shine a Light When it’s Gray Out, the basis of the Chrysalis collection. Ultimately, he selected more than 50 butterflies each with exceptional color and pattern but without regard to geography; the butterflies stitched in dozens of luminous thread colors appear to fly off the canvas. Each butterfly was hand-digitized, stitch by stitch, to achieve a realistic look. On the background, they are mounted at different heights to achieve a dimensional effect.
As an artist, Stephen has a backstory on the evolution of the Shine a Light series; he states, “It’s about hope and love —a light in the dark and how we should strive to endure and succeed—for ourselves, for our children…”
Stephen is a pioneer in the computer digitizing world. He purchased his first personal computer in 1994 and taught himself graphic design and then machine embroidery. Marrying the two sets of divergent skills, he began to digitize designs and later to create custom-digitized designs. Drawing on his mid of left brain/right brain strengths, Stephen turned his computer talents, savvy business skills and fine art abilities into a highly marketable product. Entering the digitizing field in the pre-internet days he worked to put together a digitizing company, AnitaGoodesign (which is currently celebrating its 15th anniversary). The mission is to create beautifully coordinated embroidery designs for home embroidery enthusiasts. The collaboration between FreeSpirit and AnitaGoodesign is the perfect marriage of fabric, thread, notions and machine embroidery, giving retailers plenty to talk about and to sell.
For more information on Stephen Wilson’s art read Stephen Wilson Luscious Threads, curated and edited by Ghia Truesdale, published by Scala Arts Publishers, ©2018.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2019 Quilt Market Recap Issue of American Quilt Retailer. Download your free copy today!