logo design

Embroidery: a medium often overlooked by artists

Like most artists, I sprouted my skills and talents early in life at home, honed them in school, and explored them out in the world. I’ve worked with a lot of media both traditional and. . . not so traditional; from oil paint to plaster, from water balloons to charcoal straight from the fireplace. I rarely say “no” to trying a new medium and although I don’t expect every artist to be as gun-ho about trying everything they can get their hands on, there is one medium I’ve worked with that I feel shouldn’t be overlooked by artists, especially graphic designers. That medium is embroidery, or “painting with thread” if I may.

Contrary to a lot of logo designers and graphic artists I have spent a lot of time working in embroidery shops learning the ins and outs of embroidery; from digitizing to mass machine running. I spent several years creating meticulous custom designs (my most notable piece being the rendition of Gram Parson’s Nudie Suit) and a year working in a high-production facility pumping out as many as 500 garments in a day by myself. It’s this combination that has taught me how to create a truly unique piece of embroidered art, and how to recognize a well-digitized design.

What IS Embroidery? And what the HECK is digitizing?

Embroidery is a type of decoration that, today, can be done using computerized embroidery machines to stitch on a fabric surface with a needle and thread and can be done using a wide variety of thread colors. Modern machine embroidery involves digitizing the design first in order for the machines to know what to do. (They’re not self aware yet!)

Back in the days before machine embroidery existed, and hand embroidery was the method used, people followed patterns or made up the design themselves. Machine embroidery is kind of like following a pattern, but the pattern has to be created and that’s where digitizing comes in. The digitizer creates shapes in various colors to make up the design/logo and essentially programs each and every stitch that goes into a design because the machine needs to know what to do and what sequence to do it in. Digitizing is an often tedious task and involves a lot of knowledge of not only the digitizing software, but the variations to expect and plan for when working on different types of fabric (stitching on a knit fabric is far different from stitching on a woven fabric) and not to mention the machine tensions, speeds, hooping specs. . . the list goes on.

Embroidery and digitizing are their own unique species from graphic design, but embroidered items are very common marketing and design tools. People don’t give it enough consideration and I think that’s mostly because they don’t know enough about the process. I don’t think everyone should go out and learn all there is to know about it, but as a graphic designer it’s important to know some basics. I believe it’ll make you all the more well-rounded in your knowledge and insight into your clients’ potential needs.

Art Projects Potpourri!

It seems like ages since I last blogged! Well, maybe not ages, but it has been about 4 months. Much too long! I’ll just have to summarize all the latest Kerrminator projects to catch you up!

Gifts Galore!

Wind chime made of metal disks, copper pipes, hemp, and leather.As much as I’d like to make all my gifts for everyone, I just don’t have the time. However, I do try to make something for at least a couple people for either birthdays or Christmas. I had been planning on making some sort of wind chime using some metal disks I purchased from Doyle Hardware in Utica, NY before it closed a few years ago. They were practically giving stuff away to clear out the store and my mom and I scoured the back rooms for interesting things to use in art projects. Needless to say, we came across tons of interesting metal bits and bobs, but that’s a hole other story entirely.

The point is, I finally made a wind chime with my brother in mind. He records a lot of random sounds to create music with and each year I find it simpler to make him a gift. So far I’ve made him a ceramic ocarina, gave him a collection of weird sounds, made woven fabric canvases that make an interesting drum sound when wet and now the wind chime. I still have no idea what the metal disks are actually for, but I think they got put to good use and I still have plenty more to make another.

Ryan Noel logoIn addition to my brother’s gift, I also made my ‘manfriend’ a gift for Christmas in the form of a website. Ryan is an aspiring actor and had mentioned previously that it would be nice to have his own website. So, I created a site for him to display his acting resume, past and current head shots, modeling portfolio, and other miscellaneous skills. You can view his acting website, ryannoel.com, to have a look at his skills and [obviously] see the site I designed. My web building skills are improving as we speak, and I’d like to eventually update his to be more modern and fresh, but it’ll do for now.

Colored pencil portrait of three women.A few other gifts I’ve made in the past year include a frame and custom matting for Ryan’s most current head-shot, a portrait of a bald eagle for my dad and a portrait of three friends for their birthdays. The bald eagle portrait is actually an interesting piece because I painted it on a cross section of a tree my dad cut down at the Bronx Zoo over 30 years ago. I don’t have a photo of it yet, but I’ll update this post once I get one.


In my last blog post I mentioned joining a site called Thumbtack.com. I got one project through them so far, which is more than I expected since I was given a lead shortly after joining. A woman contacted me wanting a memorial pet portrait of a dog named Missie. Missie had died and the woman ordering the drawing was having it made for a friend of hers who the dog belonged to. I posted a few updates of the drawing on my facebook page as I was working on it. Friend me on facebook and be in touch when I have updates on new art projects and blog posts!


Ryan Noel wearing P.A.N.T.S. t-shirt printed with pants logo designed by Sara Kerr.P.A.N.T.S. is an acronym for People Acting Not Too Seriously. P.A.N.T.S. is the improv comedy group of Portland Community College and Ryan, is a member of the group. “What does this have to do with anything,” you ask? Well, I’ll tell you! I have been practicing my stage photography at their performances and recording clips occasionally so that the members can watch it to improve themselves as well as for them to post on their facebook page to attract potential patrons. In addition to the photography I do for the group I also created a logo for them which they use on their handbills and had printed on t-shirts.

Art For Sale!

Pastel drawing of a man playing the piano by Sara Kerr.It’s a little disappointing to have art sitting around, not being seen by people. Ideally, I would like to have my art in galleries, but personally I don’t feel that I have many pieces worth displaying to the general public. However, there are some pieces that I’m especially proud of.

It wasn’t until the end of my senior year and about a year after graduation that I started to create some really great works. I have to admit though, not having a ‘destination’ for a piece makes me rather unmotivated. What I mean is, when I was in high school I was creating not only for grades, but local competitions. Now it seems like I only get really involved in a piece if it’s FOR someone else or it’s a commission. I haven’t created something entirely for myself in a long time. I want to keep growing as an artist, but motivation is key.

Hand crafted clay whistle by Sara Kerr.One of those drawings I did [after high school] was a commissioned colored pencil drawing of four Harley Davidson Motorcycles which I have featured on my website. I have giclee prints of the motorcycle drawing available for purchase. [I had them up on ebay for a while, but you can contact me directly if you’re interested.]

In addition to the motorcycle prints, I also have several dozen hand crafted ceramic whistles looking for homes. I made them a few years ago and just haven’t done much with them. My intentions were to sell them at craft fairs, but I simply haven’t had the time. Each is different in size, pitch and glazing and you can contact me directly to purchase one.

So, that pretty much sums up what I’ve been doing the last few months. 🙂