This artists in the spotlight, we are looking at the beautiful art of Sheena. She lives in the UK in Kent, known as the Garden of England. We asked her about the Tudor related cross stitch mini cushions which she makes.
When did you start making art?
“I have always been a creative/arty person since I was little, always painting, drawing or making things and in my teenage years I came upon the hobby of cross stitch after buying a needlework magazine and found that I could use my creative streak to design my own cross stitch patterns from my artwork. This love of combining my designing with cross stitching eventually grew into a full time business and I now sell my kits all over the world.”
Where does your interest in the Tudors come from? When did that start?
“Whilst running my cross stitch design business I am always looking for new themes to design mini cushions around and having picked up a history magazine for some inspiration a few years ago, I found an article on King Henry VIII and his wives. The majority of my mini cushions are designed around a ‘quatrefoil’ template, with four petals and four corners and I thought Henry and his six wives would fit into that template perfectly. That first Tudor mini cushion was a hit and spurred me on to look into the Tudor family tree a bit more, and from then I was hooked!”
What inspired you to make cross stitch mini cushions related to the Tudors?
“There are so many paintings showing each of the members of the Tudor dynasty dressed in their finery that there was plenty of inspiration to be gleaned from examining them. My first design only featured the heads of the Tudors and as I love designing with a wide palette of colours and using detailed patterns within such small areas of my mini cushion designs, I thought of expanding each person into a full length portrait design which would then offer the opportunity to include their glorious costumes.
I always love to research the subjects and themes that I base my designs on and when looking into the Tudors I discovered Henry VIII and each of his wives had their own sigil, or badge, which would be used to denote the property of the individual and worn as an allegiance by the followers, retainers, dependants and partisans of those powerful personages so these were ideal images for converting to cross stitch and I produced a range of pincushion kits featuring these badges.”
Cross stitch mini cushion of Elizabeth I
Do you have a favourite Tudor monarch? Who and why?
“I have two favourites, for two different reasons! Anne Boleyn fascinates me through her story as I find it intriguing that she was so beguiling to a King to the extent that he wrote her such heart-felt love letters, and yet within just a few years her fortunes had reversed so drastically. And of course, Elizabeth I is my other favourite, simply for her wardrobe! She had a great many portraits painted of herself so that all of her subjects would be able to see her in some form, and each painting would feature the Queen clothed in such magnificent dresses, many with hidden, (or not so hidden!), messages worked into them. I even designed a mini cushion based on the symbolism featured in the Armada portraits. In each of the three portraits, Elizabeth I’s dresses differed slightly but united in their symbolism, with Pearls representing virginity, the white dress for purity and the black gown meaning constancy.”
What is your favourite cross stitch mini cushion you have made?
“I find it difficult to choose a favourite design, as I always feel the one I currently work on is the best yet! But I have to say I do enjoy designing and stitching my Tudor designs for their intricate patterns and opulent colours.”
How long does it take you to make a cross stitch mini cushion? And how do you make your art? What is the process?
“I first draw out a rough sketch of my idea, then I either embellish it with coloured pencils or I go direct to my computer and draw out the design onto what looks like graph paper on the screen! I then print out my design and start stitching it. I always stitch my designs before releasing them as kits because I often find I need to change parts of the design as I go along, or tweak some of the colours which may look fine on paper, but once stitched don’t appear the same. I need to make sure the design is enjoyable to stitch too – if I don’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t expect my customers to! Plus, I need to have a stitched model for the photograph to use on the kit cover and to advertise the product. I really enjoy setting up little scenes with props such as goblets or flowers to help set off the finished design in the photo. A design can take anything from a morning to produce from start to finish if I’m really on a roll, or a few weeks until I can picture it properly in my head! It usually then takes around a week to stitch each mini cushion, stitching in the evenings and weekends around processing orders and running the admin side of the business.”
Are you currently working on any cross stitch mini cushions of the Tudors?
“I’m currently half way through my new Tudor Miniature Portraits Collection of mini cushions, as miniatures were favoured by wealthy Tudors to give as gifts and used like the Tudor version of ‘selfies’, so they were an ideal fit for my mini sized cushions. I feel quite proud of this Collection and they sit well with my triptych portraits too. There will also be a range of matching Miniature Portrait hanging decoration kits later in the year, which will be a wonderful Tudor addition to any Christmas tree over the festive period.”
Want to see more or Sheena's gorgeous art? You can follow her on Facebook.
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Click here to read about and see Erica's beautiful Tudor clay figures!