Thursday, January 20, 2011

Interview with Beth Rice

Beth Rice's "Sewn Stories", an exhibition of hand embroidery and textiles, will be at the gallery from January 18 to February 13, 2011. A reception for the artist is on Friday, January 21 from 6-9pm.

Why did you choose to create artwork using fabric and embroidery?

I always really like seeing embroidery. I like how it looks. It can be art, which it is, but it's not the traditional painting. I enjoy doing it because it's relaxing. You don't have to worry "oh, did I paint that right?", whereas with stitching you can just rip it out if it doesn't look right. I always liked fabric, old fabric and vintage fabric. I think fabric and thread can tell a good little story.

When did you learn to sew and embroider? Was this something passed down to you?

It was not passed down to me. My mother cannot sew at all. I learned a little bit in home ec in school. My husband Kinsey actually taught me how to sew right when we started dating. So, I’ve been sewing since 2004. With embroidery, I first learned in my crafts class in high school. My teacher saw an article on embroidery and said “Oh! We should all start stitching!” So, I started stitching and I really enjoyed the process of doing it.

How has nature inspired your work?

In a lot of ways ….I’m more of an outdoors person. I like the outside. I like being in the woods and by the coast. That’s always something I’ve liked doing. I’m inspired by the shapes in nature. You can draw a tree just by thinking of a tree, but a tree that you draw will never look like a tree that you see. There are so many different directions the branches go and how it all looks. I just love trees.

I know you and Kinsey go to Maine a lot. When did you start going to Maine and why did you decide to go there?

We went to Maine for the first time on our honeymoon in 2007. We never really thought about going to Maine, but Kinsey’s friend and his wife went to Maine about a year before we did and they said, “Oh! You should go to Acadia! It’s really nice!”. We thought, “oh, maybe we will someday!”. We looked it up and saw that it was everything we like in life. So, we went there and we’ve been going back every year since. We love it … a lot!

Your artwork is very nostalgic for the past. You use handmade techniques that are traditionally passed from generation to generation; you incorporate imagery from children’s books that perhaps remind of you of your youth; and you are illustrating, through embroidery, hand-drawn maps whereas most people have GPS devices now. Can you elaborate on the use of nostalgia in your artwork?

I tend to be drawn towards older types of things. I’m not big on technology. I don’t really like computers. I certainly don’t have a GPS. For me, I would never do an art piece that involved computers. I tend to do things more nature-oriented because that’s who I am. That’s what I enjoy.

As far as the childrens’ books, I can’t really remember certain childrens’ books I had as a child. I remember I’d read the Berenstain Bears, things like that. The drawings in those books, especially in the ones that are a bit older, they seem to be more simple. Simple lines, simple colors. That’s the type of stuff I enjoy, the simple line drawings. It’s kind of similar to what I do when I stitch. It’s a simple line and I’m just adding a little color to it. I’ve always liked simplicity and things that look like they’re hand-crafted, handmade or passed down. A lot of the fabrics I use are fabrics that I buy at a second-hand store or they’re my grandma’s old curtain material, which, I just cut and use that. I like using things that may have had a past life or things that are a little bit older and not just a brand new thing.

What were you like when you were growing up? What sort of things were you into?

Growing up…..umm…..when I was very young I was kind of a shy person. Then when I hit 6th grade I was a very talkative person. I always enjoyed art. I always took the drawing classes. During the summer they would have special art classes that I would take, so I was always doing stuff. I was very interested in nature back then. I was in Girl Scouts for a few years. I went on the camp outs, learned how to tell the difference between trees, how to make a fire… I’ve kind of always done the nature thing. Art was a major part too. I read a lot, which might be why I like the older childrens’ books. I remember reading them in my room. I played with Legos a lot, which explains the making part. We had a big tub of those and I would build all kinds of ships. Ships are actually a thing I do a lot of now. I don’t know if there’s a connection….

How is your artwork presented here in the show different from your craft business, Tributary ?

I think it has the same feeling to it. If you would see my craft and my art, you could tell it’s the same person. I like doing the show here because I can work on a bigger scale whereas before I’ve been restricted to a smaller area. I use [embroidery] hoops and the biggest I’ve ever used is 10 inches. So, when you’re working in a 10 inch round circle, you can’t quite go into as much detail as you can with a 16 by 20 inch piece of fabric.

At first I wasn’t sure what direction it was going to go into, but then I started to do a lot of things with people in them, mainly kids and girls. In my craft I don’t really have people in it too much. But, for the show I wanted to make a narrative. So, there are people and silhouettes of people. I think it’s different in that aspect, but it’s very much the same style, the same nature; sea, Maine, cabin in the woods…

How did Tributary start?

It started just because I was making a lot of stuff. After a while there’s only so many bags and clutches that one person needs and all of your family is sick of getting the same things. So, Kinsey introduced me to Etsy. It was really, really excited and I couldn’t think of a name. We just though of Tributary for some reason. I’m not sure how. We started selling on there and then I started doing shows. I started just so I could see if people would buy my stuff. I remember I first I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to buy anything. I think it took about two months before my first sale on Etsy, which was a pair of earrings. I started out making earrings and necklaces. I kept with it and then I neglected it and then started it up again. I think it’s been good for me. I prefer doing craft shows, though, and actually seeing the people who buy my stuff. It has been fun.

Where does the line between art and craft blur for you?

I really think they are the same. I don’t really think that I do just craft and I don’t think I do just art. I know some people thing craft is all about selling your goods and it’s not really art. With my work for the show, it’s meant to be hung on a wall, whereas in my craft, I make coasters. It’s not really a piece of art but it kind of is. You’re still choosing the fabrics, putting them together, you’re sewing them….not everybody can make coasters. So, I think art and craft really, to me, are the same thing. It just depends on how you present something. Doing crafts is just as difficult as doing art. It’s the same process, just different tools you use to accomplish it. I’m using fabric and thread instead of a paintbrush and paints.

What music are you listening to now? What books are you reading? Are you following any craft blogs or websites?

Music… I listen to a pretty wide range of music. I like Sigur Rós, Matt Pond PA. I also like different Christian music too… Tenthavenuenorth and Chris Tomlin. I can listen to classical music too. It depends on my mood.

Reading…. I’m reading a biography on the coast of Maine. It’s by Louise Dickinson Rich. She lived in Maine all her life, so she writes a lot about Maine. It’s an informal history about the coastal towns, which I enjoy because I’ve been to most of the one’s she’s talking about.

Blogs and websites…. I spend time online, but I try not to get too involved with certain websites just because I’m afraid I’d waste time. But, I do enjoy looking at DesignSponge and also a website called It’s about a husband and wife who live in Richmond and they do renovations on their house such as install a new bathroom or other household projects. Kinsey and I are kind of like that too. We like doing things around the house.

How does Kinsey, your husband of three and a half years, influence your artwork? He’s an artist, as well, and a musician. Does he help with your projects?

He does for some of them. He’s more into photography, does collages and pen and ink drawings. He’s more of a flat-based artist whereas I do functional things. He does help me with ideas. We are both very alike. We both like the same exact things practically. We like being outside a lot, we like nature, we like Maine. We have a lot of the same things in our work.

In fact, just the other day, he was in his room drawing a picture and I was in my room drawing sketches. Then I walked into his room and realized we both had drawn almost the same exact thing. It was a stack of logs. His logs were being pulled by a truck and mine were being pulled by a horse. It was the exact same thing but we never had talked about it. We both do very similar types of work, but the style is very different. He does inspire me for different designs. He’ll show me different websites or books that he thinks might be something that I like. He’s very helpful.

Gardening is a big part of your life. How did you get into that? Is there a favorite part of the process for you?

I got into gardening through my father. He always used to have a big garden at our house. I always remember him having a garden and picking sugar peas. When I grew up, I would still have a garden at my dad’s hose, but it got hard because it was a 20 minute drive to get there. When Kinsey and I bought our house in 2009, it was nice because it was the first time we had a garden of our own. But, it didn’t turn out that well. Our plants contracted diseases. It was still fun to do.

My favorite part of the process is at the beginning of the season when I get to pick out seeds. When I was living in our apartment, I had every windowsill covered with seeds. I think the most seeds I started were 60 pots at once. Yeah, we take it pretty seriously. We start them and then plant them. I like going through and picking out what kinds of things to plant. There’s so much more than just orange carrots. You can get purple carrots! My second favorite part is the harvesting of the fruit. I enjoy eating it too.

How about cooking? Who did you learn that from? Do you have any favorite recipes to share?

I guess I learned a little bit from my mom. I was never really a good student. She would try to show me how to cook, but I never really paid too much attention. So, I think for the most part I’ve learned just through practicing and doing. I just picked different recipes that I liked and learned how to do it.

I enjoy cooking a lot. I’m more of a baker. I like making fruit bread and zucchini bread. I recently got into making candy. I make chocolate, truffles, carmels and toffee. I just got a plastic mold set to make candy bars. I’ve been trying that out….melting dark chocolate and adding cranberries, almonds and salt on top.

Do you have any samples here [at the bookstore]?

I don’t have samples here. But I will make sure you, Lisa, do get some.

But, I’m into making candy right now. It’s nice to make it instead of running to the store to buy it.

Do you have any upcoming craft shows?

Not scheduled. I usually do one in Richmond, Virginia. It’s the third weekend in April. It’s called Spring Bada-Bing. I’ve been doing that for the past three or four years. I’m looking forward to doing that again this year. It’s the only one coming up. I’m just kind of taking a break to work on my stock before I start doing more craft shows.


  1. Wow, this artist really reflects her passion for nature through her sewing. She must be a very sensitive artist to be able to express her love of nature so elegantly.

  2. I'm glad to learn more about you and your work!
    Rachel Campbell