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Erik Shipley, who lives in Ogden, Utah, began stitching at 7, when his mother taught him and his two brothers to stitch on plastic canvas with small kits. He remembers going into a stitch store with his mother, looking for a kit to do. “Mom, look at this!” he said.
A woman said to his mother: “Why don’t you come back when you can have more time to look without your son bothering you?”
“It made me sad,” Erik said.
He has dealt with prejudice, he said, “from everybody, to some degree.” The bank assumed that his occupation as needlework designer meant he was a tattoo artist, and women in needlework stores usually think he’s lost. None of the gender biases he’s encountered have kept him from enjoying his work. “As a male in this industry, some people think it’s unique,” Erik said. “But cross stitch isn’t necessarily gender specific, it is just art. Art shouldn’t be male or female, and so I try to pass that message on, too. There are some people that think this is only for women. I think that men can do cross stitch just as well as women. There are female woodworkers and men needle artists.” He started offering his designs through Hoffman Distributing Co. four years ago as Ship’s Manor Designs. “I wanted the name of my business to be somewhat masculine,” he said. “I like the idea of the old manor. I didn’t want it to be too dainty.”
Erik describes his design style as eclectic. “I do whatever is fun,” he said. “If something is fun and popular, I’ll do that, but I do what I think is fun to do and what I think people will enjoy stitching.”
For needles, Erik uses John James petites. “I have really long fingers, so I thought it would be pretty awkward using a little tiny needle, but I like them because I can use the entire length of the thread,” he said.
He likes like hand-dyed threads, such as Gentle Arts, Crescent Colours and Dinky-Dyes. He likes fabrics that have a variation. To Erik, fabric is art when it’s hand-dyed. He thinks the variations make the piece more interesting.
Erik stitches on his couch in front of his computer. He does his designing on the computer. This enables him to change things as he stitches and designs. “I am very visual, so I actually have to see it on the fabric as I’m designing,” he said. “I design in Photoshop. I make my own squares and change colors. There are more color choices on Photoshop. They may not necessarily match the threads I have, but I can get close to it.”
What does Erik want people to know about his work?
“I really enjoy every design that I have done,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed the process. The choosing of colors and even the simplest of designs has something personal in them. A lot more goes into a piece than just threads and fabrics. I do believe I am starting to feel more comfortable in doing the things I want to do. Getting over the fear of revealing yourself in your art is hard. You have to do that and be true to yourself and true to your design.
“I’m finally getting there, and I really like it.”