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   Teresa Wentzler
   Leisure Arts
   Janlynn Corporation




Hello!  I'm Teresa Wentzler, and this is where I tell you a bit about myself...not too much, though ...because my life is pretty ordinary and calm for the most part, and not very exciting reading.  Of more interest, no doubt, will be the information I'll be sharing in this section about my designing process: from idea to finished product.  Many times over the years I've been asked by fans and by people interested in trying their hand at designing *how* it's done.  I can't speak for all designers, but I'll try to give a (hopefully) clear picture of my process...


I've always enjoyed doing artwork. In fact, my earliest memories are of crayons and paper, and of my mom (an artist in her own right) hanging my newly completed "masterpieces" on the refrigerator door.  I was always encouraged to try drawing new things, even when my subject matter was "strange abstract winged things".  Since I was a rather solitary child, I expanded my horizons by reading fairy tales, listening to music (my sister and I weren't permitted to watch too much television, and personal computers hadn't been invented yet!), and imagining worlds inhabited by wizards, princesses, castles and dragons.  Small wonder my favorite song was "Puff the Magic Dragon"!

Throughout school, I was fortunate to have lots of encouragement and support.  My high school art teacher, especially, made me believe I could possibly "do" something with my talent, and challenged me at every opportunity to push myself and learn new techniques.  Under his guidance I tried everything from pen and ink drawing to painting on various surfaces to working with clay.  One particularly encouraging event in my early "artistic" life was my acceptance into the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts during the summer between my junior and senior years.  Talented kids from all over the state came together at an area university for several weeks.  We polished our skills and experimented in various disciplines including Art, Music, Dance, and Theater.  It was an inspiring summer! And one that helped solidify my choice of art as my preferred college major.

I enjoyed school, and good grades came pretty easily.  I was also involved with the school band program, and began playing the tenor saxophone when I was in the 4th grade: it was almost bigger than I was!  I also took up the bassoon, and played it for several years.  I was fairly proficient with both instruments, participating in numerous competitions and band festivals. I also briefly performed with the local symphony orchestra.  Unfortunately, I no longer play either instrument; and I miss the music very much.  However, music remains one of my passions, and one of my greatest sources of inspiration. I hope to someday fit piano lessons into my busy schedule.  We'll see!

After graduating from high school, I went on to college, which turned out to be rather sporadic undertaking!  I attended Penn State University for a year, and then withdrew.  Like many 19 year-olds, I was clueless about what I really wanted to do with my life.  I worked for a couple of years and during that time, met my husband-to-be (Carl).  Soon after that, I decided to give college another try, and was accepted at Kutztown State College.  I lasted for a semester, again withdrawing.  I was unsatisfied with my course of study, and unwilling to waste any more time and money when I wasn't sure what I really wanted.  The motivation just wasn't there!  After withdrawing, I came home, got a job in a sewing factory and shortly thereafter, married Carl.  Well, let me tell you, after 4 years of doing piece work in that factory, I BECAME MOTIVATED to go back to school!  It was my good fortune to be able to attend a local community college, which had an excellent and very challenging Advertising Art program.  I rounded out my 2 year degree with as many humanities credits as I could, diving into various history, sociology, and philosophy courses; it had come back to me just how much I loved learning.  I seriously considered continuing my education beyond the Associate Degree level, but opted instead to put the technical education I had received thus far to practical use.

The Beginning of a Designing Career:

It was during my sojourn at community college more than 15 years ago that I began to design for counted cross stitch, (I had learned the technique at a Creative Circle party).  With colored pencils and graph paper, I struggled with the "Mysteries of the Grid", at first confounded totally by how one could possible get something to look realistic from little squares.  But I gradually caught on.  My first two pieces were designed and stitched as gifts for my best friends.  I took photographs of the finished products, and filed them away.  Encouraged by my friends' positive reactions to the gifts, I submitted the photos I had taken to a design scouting firm.  Within a couple weeks, I received a call from Just CrossStitch magazine, and a designing career was born.  I designed part-time for the next several years, eventually giving up my part-time job selling vitamins at a local mall to work at my new career full-time. For the next 10 years, I worked with publishers, and polished my skills.

In late 1998, I launched TW Designworks.  In this new venture, I hoped to continue designing cross stitch, and to branch out into other types of needlework.   My first foray into new materials was called "Wool-Cross", which is actually a twist on "Berlin work".  The technique is also known as "Victorian Cross Stitch": cross stitch done with wool on canvas. I also briefly sold fine art prints of my pen and ink drawings.

Unfortunately, for many reasons, I had to close TW Designworks almost exactly 10 years later. I no longer design full-time, but, due to the growth of the Internet, and its acceptance as a new vehicle for purchasing needlework patterns, I am still able to make many of my designs available to stitchers: via PatternsOnLine.com. , a forward-looking company which offers high quality needlework patterns in downloadable format.

I have been very fortunate during my designing career to have met and worked with so many wonderful people.  These include the people at Just CrossStitch magazine, Stitcher's World magazine, Leisure Arts, Inc., and with the great folks at the Janlynn Corporation.  I've found the needlework industry overall to be a wonderful group full of talented, dynamic people who truly love what they do.  It's very hard to believe that I've designed for more than 20 years; the time has simply flown by!

I'm also very grateful to the stitchers out there who continue to support my designing efforts, and and who never fail to inspire me! Thanks to you, I had one of the best jobs on earth for many years!

The Designing Process:

First, I must emphasize that every designer approaches that process differently; there are no hard-and-fast rules governing it. Sometimes, the "steps" are arranged slightly differently, but the following is generally how I proceed.

First, I must have some inspiration!  For me, this comes from countless sources: art and art history, books (fantasy and otherwise), music (my favorites are celtic, new age and classical), places I've visited, suggestions from stitchers,...the list goes on and on!  Inspiration is everywhere.  The difficult part is narrowing the choices down to just a few "design-able" ideas, as I certainly will not be able to translate everything I might like into a charted pattern.  Also, I must truly be "taken by" an idea in order to chart it successfully...if I don't have a strong affinity for the idea, I probably won't attempt to translate it into a cross stitch pattern.  Note: This is a definite handicap when doing "work for hire"!

Next, the chosen Idea is placed on paper as a sketch.  For me, this is the most enjoyable stage of designing.  Manipulating the compositional elements until I get exactly what I'm looking for can happen almost instantly... and other times it can take years!  Honestly, certain designs have been put on hold because I simply wasn't satisfied with how they looked.  Eventually, however, I can usually get things sorted out to my satisfaction.  How do I know when a design is going to "work"? I can't really explain it... it just "looks" right somehow. I know that if I'm waffling at all, then something's wrong with it. Sometimes, I use a trick I learned from a drawing teacher years ago: I turn the drawing upside down (top to bottom that is, not flipped front to back).  Seen from this perspective, inconsistencies in scale, composition, proportion, etc. (usually) show up quite readily.  Try it sometime! Apparently (and this is a totally unscientific explanation), it has something to do with forcing the side of your brain that isn't working as hard while you're doing the actual drawing, to "see" that image in essence, for the first time. It's amazing how "analytical" the other side of your brain can be!

So, now the sketch is finished.  When I worked with publishers, this is the stage at which I submitted ideas for approval before continuing any further.  After approval, the sketch is transferred directly to graph paper or to computer screen.  Unless I transfer the design at this stage, and finalize the size, chances are that it will continue to grow until it is too large to be a marketable design.  (Yes, I said marketable! The cold, hard reality of designing cross stitch is that designs must sell to the widest possible audience.)  I should also note that at this point, everything is still in black and white . I may make notations of possible colors (especially for publishers), but I rarely actually add color to a sketch.

Because of the interest in computer designing, I will attempt to describe the process by which I work.  I have used a Mac and a CAD (computer-aided drafting) program now called Vectorworks for many years.  For a short period of time, I tried working on a Windows machine.  However, I decided to go back to my CAD program (and my Mac!); it simply serves my designing needs better.  In case you're interested, you can try out a free download of PatternMaker from HobbyWare. Another program I've experimented with is PC Stitch, which also has many great features; you can try out this program as well.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand!

First, a grid with 10 X 10 markings is configured.  Then the backstitch lines are placed/drawn on the grid.  (I use a digitizing tablet: using a mouse drives me nuts!)  Sometimes I scan my sketch/drawing, and then place the scanned image on a layer under the grid, and work out my backstitch lines that way.  But most often, I prefer the freedom of my drafting table and pencils, and I work out the backstitch lines before attempting to place them on the computer-generated grid.

After the backstitching is nearly completed, I start adding color to the design.  In the CAD program, I create blocks of color as symbols, which I organize into a color library.  The symbols are all named and systematically placed so that I may access them when I need to use them.  I have been building my color library for years, constantly adding new symbols as I use new blended floss colors.

With PatternMaker and PCStitch, all of these steps are written into the software's programming: symbols are automatically created using colors chosen from pre-set palettes. (Which is very cool!)  I don't depend on a program which translates scanned color images to symbols; the Windows programs I've mentioned have this capability.  My preference is to select and place each symbol on the grid myself.  I make the judgement calls depending on my vision of how I want the design to look.  There is no easy way to do this; there is lots of trial and error. Sometimes, things go smoothly, and sometimes they don't.  Since I try in my designs for the most "naturalistic" color I can, I use a lot of blended floss colors.

Speaking of blended floss colors... the question I'm asked most frequently is: "How do you go about choosing the colors to blend together?" Here is a brief explanation of how I apply basic "Color Theory" to the design process: the color blending is a combination of instinct and training.  Color Theory is fascinating stuff, and I learned some of it in both high school and college.

To understand it in a very general way:

There are three colors from which all other colors are mixed: red, yellow and blue.

These are primary colors. Mix the primary colors and you get secondary colors:

yellow + red = orange
red + blue = purple
blue + yellow = green

Mix the secondary colors together and you get tertiary colors...and on and on... I'm sure you get the idea.

The human eye can discern up to 7 million colors, by the way.  This includes all the individual intensities and values of colors as well: how much white or black is added to the different hues.  That said, the rationale behind blending floss colors becomes pretty simple: I blend when I want colors between available shades.  For example, if I want a blue green, but not turquoise, I might blend the 500 family of DMC greens with the 930 family of DMC blues.  This yields a very muted and understated blue green.  If I want a blue green with more kick, I might use brighter greens and blues to get the color I want.  I experiment a lot!

Also, to understand some of my blends, you need to know that it is sometimes necessary to mix seemingly totally unrelated colors called "complimentary" colors. These are colors which appear across from each other on the traditional color wheel.  Yellow is the compliment of purple.  Red is the compliment of green.  Blue is the compliment of orange...etc.  In painting, when these colors are mixed together, you get wonderful transitional colors which are "grays" but still retain characteristics of both colors, without becoming flat and chalky like black (which, by the way, is a non-color) watered down with white (gray).  When complimentary floss colors are "mixed" in the needle and stitched, the eye sees them as transitional tones...and they become invaluable in shading, especially when color intensity is still required, and true gray would "deaden" things.  As I said at the beginning, there is some instinct involved too...but mostly, my blended colors are pretty logical.  An excellent website reference about color is: www.colormatters.com.

When picking colors for a design I sometimes use the following method:  I choose the colors I think I'd like to use and place the skeins (or the floss wound onto bobbins) onto a flat surface, preferably under an "Ott-Lite" or a "Day Light" light source, and toss them together (like a salad).  If colors harmonize, I keep them.  If they jar my eye, they go.  After so many years of designing, I really don't need to do things this way anymore, but the technique did serve me well, especially at the beginning of my designing career!

Back to the process:

After a color palette for the design has been chosen, I begin placing colors into the design.  This for me is usually a very painstaking process, and rarely can I place all colors before stitching begins.  Normally, I must stitch part of the design to see how the colors are working before I finish this stage of designing.  If I'm working with a stitcher, I will design in "installments" if possible.  Also, sometimes a break from the design will give me a fresh perspective, making finishing this segment of the design process easier.  Normally, all embellishment to a design is done after all stitching has been completed.

After the design is completed to my satisfaction, it's finished by framing or other means, photographs are taken, the directions are written, the layout is done, and off it goes to the printer.  The last steps I mentioned, which I call "production", are totally removed from actual designing and are mostly "technical" in nature.   Usually, by the time a large design is finished, I am very ready to concentrate on something that doesn't require too much "creative" energy, and the production process fits the bill quite nicely!

After printing, the design is submitted to various distributors, and hopefully, orders will be placed with me for the design.  Then, finally, the design makes it to the shelf in your favorite needlework shop.  The process takes approximately one year from design sketch to finished product.


© 2000-2013, Teresa Wentzler.  All images and information on this website owned and copyrighted by Teresa Wentzler, PO Box 176, Montoursville, PA 17754, USA. All rights reserved.