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Sarah Wiley launched Huger Embroidery with her daughter last year. Beth Furgurson photo
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Beth Furgurson photo
A kid's watercolor painting of her family, an old letter from a grandmother, a wedding invitation. This is the stuff of memories that usually gets stashed away and lost forever. But Sarah Wiley has found a way to celebrate and preserve such mementos through her embroidered designs. A veteran interior designer and Richmond native, Wiley and her daughter (also named Sarah) launched Huger Embroidery last year. They started monogramming home accessories, but inspiration has a funny way of taking you down new paths, and her stitched Memory Pillows were born. We sat down with Wiley to talk about her process and vision, and why kid's art is so darn fun.
R•Home: So how did you jump from interior design to embroidered mementoes?
Sarah Wiley: My youngest daughter wanted to make some money during the summer, and somehow embroidery came up — monogramming towels and sheets — and we thought, "That's fun." So she started, and I got into it, too. Then I talked to a friend who needlepoints children's drawings on jumpers, and she suggested I try that in an embroidered design.
R•Home: It's the perfect fit. And what is it about kid's drawings that is so alluring?
Wiley: Children's art is so beautiful … that immaturity. Look at the eyes on this raccoon [she points to a painting in her shop]. They're too close together. A trained artist would never draw a raccoon with the eyes that close together. It's childlike; I think that's really fun. It's art!
R•Home: You seem to be focused on pillows. Why?
Wiley: Pillows are a good decorative item that a lot of people like. But it doesn't have to be just pillows. There are other applications. It would be cool to do dining-chair seat covers or even wall hangings.
R•Home: Do you hand-stitch each item?
Wiley: I convert the drawing or painting to an embroidery stitch file through MasterWorks digitizing software. I scan the image, redraw and edit it in the program, and then choose the stitches and colors — tons of stitches. Designing takes a long time. Once that's complete, I resize it and take the file over to the Baby Lock [sewing machine] to stitch it out, which can take anywhere from 35 minutes to two or more hours.
R•Home: It sounds very artistic, re-interpreting images in this medium. Do you have an art or graphic design background?
Wiley: Well, I've been an interior designer for 25 years, and I started sewing when I was 14. When most people did sports in school, I took art classes and spent some time in the Fine Arts program at VCU. I come from a very artistic family, too. My grandfather is Charles Dana Gibson, who was an illustrator back in the early '20s. He came up with the Gibson Girl, and he did political and social cartoons. My mom is an artist. My sister [Dana Gibson] has a collection of home accessories, and my great aunt was Nancy Lancaster, who ran [what is now known as] Colefax and Fowler, the interior design company
R•Home: If you were to guide someone in choosing what to memorialize in thread, what would you suggest?
Wiley: It's interesting what people give me to make into a pillow. There've been houses. There've been flowers and animals. What do children draw? They draw the house they live in, and their family.
For more info, visit hugerembroidery.com.