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Archive for January 17th, 2011

Embellishment – An Artform

Monday, January 17th, 2011

This blog started when I found that folks around me did not honor and recognize the ways in which they were creative. I believe that art is much more than beautiful things in frames on walls, and this society seems to stop there.

Folks would meet me, find that I was both a singer and a knitter, and determine that “Lynn is Creative” and declare that they were not. Some of those people were excellent gardeners, cooks, teachers. Some put clothing together on themselves in a creative way… style, not necessarily fashion. Some tell great stories, some make others feel comfortable and at home.

I believe that these actions and skills are definitely artful. I would even go so far as to say they can be called art. I might even insist that they *should* be called art, if not Art with a capital “A.” I realize I am in a minority with that opinion.

One of the things I have always done, is embellish things around me. In high school I would embroider or find patches to sew on favorite things. I went to town on my army-green canvas backpack. Tthey were a new thing then, most kids did not have them and they were not made to carry the weight they do today, thus needed repair often.


I remember one girl in my school was a wonderful singer and actually “doodled” on her light-colored guitar with ballpoint pen. It had that deco-inspired 70’s look to it and was quite lovely. I was puzzled but fascinated. I was young enough to want my guitar pristine, but loved her boldness and her skill.

Nokia 2 Back

Nail Polish

I have an overflowing plastic shoebox full of fingernail polish in many colors. I only wear polish on my hands when I dance, but most of the colors I don’t like much on my hands. I use them to decorate/embellish everyday objects.

In the first photo here, you can see a project I did in December 2001. It’s a standard, heavy-duty Stanley Thermos in industrial green (a baked on finish).

One year the drab weather after Christmas got me down, and I painted this to improve my mood. At the time I was a computer trainer and went out of town to teach most days. I took tea in this, almost every day. I was not pleased with its bland look. The change delighted me.

Nokia2 Front

Fabric Paint

Second is a cell phone I decorated around the same time as the Thermos. This was a hard plastic case, and I wanted to be sure that if I needed warranty service I could remove the embellishment. I tried fabric paint, which scrapes off with a fingernail if needed. It stayed on that phone longer than the phone lasted.

Photos 3 and 4 are my current phone (I’ve tried 2 others recently and liked this one better… it still works, so I’m behind the times but happy). I embellished this one around 2003.

It was navy blue plastic (not as hard and shiny as the first one, but not rubbery). Nokia was selling fun, colorful plastic cover pieces to replace the  intentionally ugly navy. They were about $35. I decided to get out the fabric paint again.

It’s amazing to me how well this has stood up. The red bits are on a shinier surface, the teal is on the matte-finished navy. The one hot pink blob on top of the brand name was fingernail polish I tried later, and it did not cover up the lettering so I stopped right there.

But this phone has not been babied… it knocks around in my purse, my car, my pocket. The corners have worn through but the rest is remarkably untouched. It makes me quite happy, even now, to see those colors.


Once upon a time, I had a laptop stolen. I thought it was so pretty straight out of the box, I did not want to mar its surfaces with identifying marks. My husband, a banjo player, has put stickers on both banjo cases and laptops for a long time. It sure makes things clearly the property of only one person. My second laptop got Teletubby stickers. I was working at a community center, and Teletubbies were for “babies” so that made my stuff uncool. Score.

My current laptop is here. I got a great collection of wall stickers from the Dollar Tree store a few years ago, and they were the perfect size to embellish boldly.


Notice that I also embellished the house a bit. We have white aluminum siding, but the windows and trim are wood. I used purple on the porch floor and part of the windows. I used a salmon color on the horizontal details including the railing.

Our house has a red roof. I picked salmon that was a lighter version of our roof color, to unify the color scheme. It works pretty well. (By the way, the pillow here was made by Brian’s sister Jane, who is quite an amazing quilter. The chairs were that color when Brian got them, before he met me. Amazing, huh? The rocker is “my” turquoise I’ve painted in 3 houses, two before we met.)

daughter mitts half-embroidered


One can embellish knitting, as well. I knit a pair of mitts based on Kristin Nicholas’ Mother/Daughter Mittens in her Color by Kristin book. They called for a bit of embroidery once the knitting was finished. I love making French knots, so that was a fun process.

In the photo above, the left one is embellished and the right one is waiting for its turn. The pattern in the book actually is a true mitten, I altered these to peek out my fingers instead.

Kristin put out a great book on Embroidery called Colorful Stitchery, which is now out in paperback. She also has two knitting books: Kristin Knits and Color by Kristin. They are all inspiring and informative. You can buy them directly from her at her web page under books: http://KristinNicholas.com

I love all of her work. We’ve met, but I get nothing at all (but joy) for introducing her work to you.

If knitting embellishments is an interest of yours, you may also want to check out any of Nicki Epstein’s books, or Anna Zilboorg’s book “Magnificent Mittens” which has edgings of all sorts (such as those shown above). The Mitten book was just reissued this year with a section on socks added. Very inspiring.

What Have I Missed?

What do you embellish? What might you LIKE to embellish but haven’t tried yet? Did you know that fabric paint was so durable, even on non-fabric surfaces? (It’s also great on magnets for sticking on the car, and it doesn’t fade fast in sun.)

What does this idea bring up for you? A different color of shoelaces? More than just a cherry to decorate a dessert? A tattoo? Multicolored hair? I’d love to get your feedback.