Nurse and creative stitcher Hannah Bentley of Hannah B. Creative designs and hand embroiders all sorts of original and fun hand embroidered art work from her Christchurch home. Her modern, quirky take on traditional hoop embroidery is at times beautiful, at times humorous, and sometimes fantastically surreal.
How did you get into your craft?
I have loved trying out all sorts of crafts over the years but hand embroidery has become my true passion. I was inspired by my Nana’s embroidery that was handed down to me and I wanted to try and make it more modern. I bought a pattern online about three years ago to try it out and see if it was something I could do, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I am completely self taught in embroidery. I have learned new stitches by researching online and through reading embroidery books. I have improved my drawing skills and photography skills also as I have progressed along the way and I would love to eventually take a class on photoshop.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I learned very quickly that if you want a great finished product, then you need to be using the best materials. I only use linen fabric with top quality embroidery threads for all art works. I have a pair of vintage scissors that are still razor sharp that I use for cutting my fabric, and I couldn’t get by without my iPad Pro which is where I draw up my designs.
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
Every piece starts from an idea in my head which I then try to reproduce on paper or my iPad. Some ideas really work, and others flop. Once I’m happy with a design I print it out and then trace the design on to the fabric. Depending on the detail involved, a hoop can take from as little as an hour to finish, to several days. All pieces are washed and dried, secured in the bamboo hoop and covered with card on the back for a tidy presentation.
What inspires you?
By day I am a registered nurse, so a lot of my inspiration comes from that. I love stitching anatomical pieces, but I also love embroidered flowers so I often will mix the two together which has a really lovely effect.
Describe your creative process:
Inspiration can strike anywhere at anytime. I keep a notebook full of drawings and ideas ready to be tested out when I have the time. Sometimes my head is buzzing with hundreds of ideas, and then other times I hit a wall.
Describe your workspace:
I am lucky enough to have a sleepout attached to the garage which I have converted in to my studio. The majority of the designing, putting the design on fabric, and the finishing process is done in there, but the good thing with embroidery is that it can be taken with you can done anywhere. Usually for me it involves sitting in front of the TV watching Netflix with my hubby while stitching away.
What are you currently listening to?
I am a massive Amy Winehouse fan. I find I can go back to her albums time and time again and never tire from them. Apart from that I love listening to throwback hits on Spotify.
What are you reading now?
I am currently reading The Binding by Bridget Collins. I’m not a huge reader and it takes a lot to get me hooked on a book, but this one so far has captured my attention and I can’t put it down.
Tell us about your pets:
I am a huge animal lover. I currently have two cats, Benny and Izzy who are 11 and 12 years old. I also have a two year old Swedish Vallhund dog called Tommy. Swedish Vallhunds are relatively unheard of (think Corgi crossed with a husky) but are starting to grow in popularity. He is such a smart wee boy and a great family dog, if only he didn’t bark quite so much!
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Just do it! When I first started out I had no idea what I was really doing but you will learn so much along the way. My embroidery has improved over time, my photography skills have improved and I know so much more now about selling my embroidery online compared to even a year ago. You learn through your failures and you begin to understand what works and what doesn’t. You will also grow to new heights with your work and be taken in new directions that you never expected when
you first started out.
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
To me, handmade items just have so much more meaning. There is a story behind them. You just know a lot of time and effort has gone in to creating it, compared to mass produced items.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A beautiful abstract painting from The Encraftment Market. The mix of bright colours drew me in. I love bright, happy, pops of colour.
What’s in store for 2019?
I have new designs being released all the time and I have recently started creating patterns for those who like my designs but want to have a go at stitching them themselves, which is very exciting. I am also planning on releasing embroidered necklaces and key rings later in the year and may also release complete embroidery kits. I’d love to add more Kiwiana pieces to my shop so watch this space!
Hannah has generously offered an awesome prize for one lucky Felt reader of her featured anatomical heart embroidery (see above). This hand stitched anatomical heart hoop art has been hand drawn and then carefully stitched using top quality black threads. It is presented in a classic five inch embroidery hoop, ready to hang. If you would like a chance to win this great prize, just leave a comment below, telling us what you like about Hannah’s story and her embroidered creations. The draw closes at 5pm on Monday 18 March and is open to New Zealand residents only.