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Featured Needlepoint Artist

Barbara Bergsten Designs,
Hunting Valley, Ohio

Beautiful Stitch-Painted Needlepoint Designs

Barbara Bergsten Designs

Barbara Bergsten began designing stitch-painted needlepoint canvases in early 2006. Since then, her company has grown rapidly as needlepoint aficionados everywhere discovered her clear, uncomplicated colors and easy-to-stitch designs. Both decorative and functional, Barbara's work has definitely turned heads around the country. Below are some excerpts from a recent conversation:


You'll find all of Barbara's beautiful hand-painted designs on her website: www.barbarabergstendesigns.com

Her needlepoint blog can be read by clicking: createneedlepoint.typepad.com

WoNP: Please tell us how you became involved in the needlepoint business.

Barbara: "During high school in the mid-70s, I worked in a local needlepoint shop. Needlepoint was all the rage at the time. I painted small canvases from an original that were sold as kits. In those days, canvases were done with oil-based paint that took days to dry. I quickly discovered I preferred painting needlepoint to stitching. After graduation, I gave up needlepoint and headed off to college.

Five years ago I decided a change of direction was in order. I began looking for a new form of art in which I could express myself. I designed a needlepoint belt as a present for my daughter. I'd heard about a wonderful needlepoint shop nearby so I went there to buy some yarn. It had been years since I'd been in a needlepoint store so I was amazed with the advances and innovations that had been made in the world of needlepoint; the variety of thread and all new stitches were truly amazing!

The shop owner, Anne Forquer of Wool & Willow Needlepoint in Cleveland, asked who had designed the belt. When I told her I had done it, she immediately asked if I'd be interested in designing canvases for her store. This is how my needlepoint designing career began.
After two years designing for Anne, I introduced my own wholesale line in June 2008 at the TNNA trade show in Columbus. I can't say enough about my "show buddy," Juli Poitras of JP Needlepoint, who guided me through my first show. She showed me the ropes as it were, helping with all the little details. From drapes to how many catalogs to bring, Juli filled me in on everything a first time exhibitor needs to know and then some. Thanks again, Juli!"

WoNP: Have you had any other jobs?

Barbara: "I was an insurance adjuster for ten years and then a stay-at-home mom until I returned to college to complete my bachelor's degree in art from Ursiline College in Cleveland, Ohio.


WoNP: What are your favorite canvases?

Barbara: "I love things that are colorful, fun and functional. I'm crazy for color."

WoNP: We know you love to design needlepoint, but do you stitch as well?

Barbara: "I stitch finished samples of my designs for display at trade shows. I've become much better at stitching over time and this has really improved my painting skills. Everything I design is carefully stitch-painted."

WoNP: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

Barbara: "Color and design inspire me most. I'll look at something and say, 'That would make a great needlepoint canvas!' Then I stop and think, 'What will it be when it is finished? Can it be easily stitched? How can it be embellished with specialty stitches?' I usually pull threads and then paint with the threads in front of me. I want my designs to be colorful, fun, practical and whimsical. I like needlepoint to look like needlepoint, functional needlepoint for everyday use. Some design ideas just don't convert well to needlepoint."

WoNP: What are your favorite pieces to paint?

Barbara: "Right now I'm doing different sized canvases with 'painted stitches'. I came up with this idea after teaching a class where the stitchers had to count out the stitch steps. Some found it very frustrating so I thought, 'I'm stitch painting so why not count out the stitches and paint them in two colors?' I'm hoping this will help more people try different stitches."

Barbara Bergsten

WoNP: How can we attract more people to the World of Needlepoint?

Barbara: "I think we need to rekindle interest in needlepoint among those who have stopped. There a whole new world of threads available, making the hobby much more interesting and fun. We need to get the word out that this is not your mother's needlepoint.

I also feel we need to grab the attention of younger stitchers, showing them fun and functional needlepoint items for everyday use. The recent innovation, 'self finishing' needlepoint, may appeal to the younger crowd. Perhaps a series of Open Houses for garden clubs, Junior Leagues and other community organizations offering an 'Open Stitch Day' may help generate interest. If there is anything I can do as a designer to help grow the industry, I'm happy to do it!"

WoNP: Is there anyone in particular from whom you drew inspiration for your new venture?

Barbara: "My parents are both very supportive of my new business. My mother was an avid stitcher in the 70's, and has recently begun stitching again!"

WoNP: Is there anything else you would like to say?

Barbara's studio

Barbara: "Regarding designing, I try to think about colors, threads and stitches; how the piece will be finished as I'm creating a new design. I carefully stitch-paint each canvas to ensure that stitchers know exactly where to place each thread. Uncomplicated, clear colors best describe my designs. In general, I believe my style is more graphic design than a 'painterly' style, which works well for my line of needlepoint.

I try to design canvases for stitchers at all levels. My designs are easy to stitch for the novice, and can be creatively embellished for the more experienced veteran. A simple canvas can become an intricate finished piece utilizing interesting stitches and unusual threads. I strive to produce colorful, fun, functional and whimsical hand-painted needlepoint. I'm all over the place with themes. One day it's a Waddle of Penguins, the next it's Beach Girls. I do whatever strikes my fancy!

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