St. Louis Artists' Guild
Two Oak Knoll Park
St. Louis, Missouri 63105
Submitted by: Michael Aaron McAllister
Tell us a bit more about yourself: your location, professional
affiliations, personal stuff…
I live and keep a small cramped studio over looking the Gateway Arch in Downtown St. Louis. By day I am a librarian for the Upper School of a prep school here in Saint Louis…in Ladue. I have been happily married to my husband Bill for almost 13 years. We share two pugs and a black lab. We also like to see cities of the world by ocean liner. Cruising for me is very romantic…very 1932…very David Niven.
What first inspired you to become an artist?
I have always considered myself an artist. My first works were in Sesame Street coloring books. From those beginnings, embroidery was born.
What possession do you most cherish?
My most cherished possession is the needle which I began my embroidery career with. I have stitched over 70 portraits with it. I have lost it dozens of times, have bent and re-straightened it, and have worn the chrome of its surface. When I give talks and demonstrations I take a “stunt needle”. THE needle never leaves my studio. I had a special velvet lined case created to house the needle, fitting some ancient holy relic.
What is a typical day for you?
My day begins at 3:30AM. I think it very important to give the best hours of the day to my portraiture than to someone else. I generally have three hours in the morning to work and two in the evening. I retire with the dogs around 7PM. The weekends afford me around 20-22 additional hours of uninterrupted, blissful work.
What music do you listen to?
I generally research other subjects while working in my studio. I devour audiobooks. Most of the books I read are history or biography. If not researching I will have a group of 3-5 movies that I watch over and over and over to foster a background white noise.
When do you feel you hit your stride as an artist?
Either when a portrait is finished and I know it’s a “special” one or
at the opening of an exhibition when a visitor speaks with me and conveys how one of my pieces recalls an event in their life.
What helps create a suitable environment for making art?
Absolute order. My studio must be in place and tidy. I also have to have the dogs. Edith Wharton wrote her novels with “her dog’s heartbeat at her feet” and I completely agree with that. Being in my clean studio is a calming act…having my pugs there only furthers that.
What are your favorite materials to work with?
I can’t and will not work without DMC 6-Strand Embroidery floss. Call me a “Brandist”…but I will not work without it. DMC floss and unlimited and varied fabric supply is very important.
Where do you find materials to create with? Names of shops or
The greatest place for me to buy fabric is www.hancocks-paducah.com I make a bi-yearly exodus to Paducah to replenish. I get my DMC floss at either Hobby Lobby or Michaels or in lots from eBay.
Name your top five: musicians, books, movies, websites, artists…
(provide a link to websites or artists websites if at all possible)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Music)
Ella Fitzgerld (Music)
Gone with the Wind-Margaret Mitchell (Book)
A Moveable Feast-Ernest Hemingway (Book)
Now, Voyager (Movie)
Out of Africa (Movie)
John Singer Sargent (Artist)
Andy Warhol (Artist)
Walt Disney (Artist)
What are materials that illicit the most response from you in viewing work?
Materials I don’t respond to as much as work having a “time-intensive quality”. That is something I ALWAYS respond to.
What is your next project?
I am currently finishing up work to mount a show at the Embroidery Guilds of America Museum in Louisville, KY. After that I plan to revisit the lives of British, French and Russian Royalty recreating their lives in millions of stitches and thousands of beads.