Today I would like you to meet Janet Patacca, a talented miniaturist and a bear maker.
– What are you specializing in?
I specialize in needlework and embroidery which has expanded over my years in business.
– What made you decide to focus on needlepoint in miniature? Did you know instantaneously that this was what you wanted to do (and do extraordinarily well), or did it develop over time?
I have been doing needlepoint since I was a child. I have always loved it. In 1999 I quit my job to start my own business. I do needlepoint on a printed canvas rather than working with a chart and counting. I have never been able to see the holes in silk gauze. So I designed my own line of needlepoint rugs that are worked on a 24-count printed canvas. I needed to create my own designs to use in my own dollhouse. I am one of the only people in the industry who works on a printed canvas.
– Creating miniatures is a very niche form of art. How did you get started designing and creating your own patterns/miniatures?
I think this answer is included in the question above.
– What is the process of creating a new pattern or product? How much research goes into a pattern, and what inspires you to create a new one?
Before starting my miniature needlepoint business I was an interior designer for 25 years. During this time I saved patterns of rugs we worked with in real scale houses. I like to interpret rugs that are in what I call “the real world”. I use the same size as the original to keep the integrity and scale of the design. Most of the time I also use the original colors, but also do a lot of custom color for clients.
– What other forms (i.e., different fabrics, materials, needles, etc.) do you work with?
After starting my business, I decided to expand my product line. I now include machine embroidered rugs.
Most of the embroidered designs are similar to my needlepoint designs but I machine embroider them which brings down the pricing of the end product.
Although I am not able to stitch on silk gauze I am very intrigued with the scale of the stitches. I then started buying old petit point and upholstering it on furniture. Another way to expand the product line.
– Do you feature your work at specific festivals or shows, competitions? What are those experiences like?
I have enjoyed participating in many Dollhouse Miniature Shows around the country. This gives me great exposure to lots of miniatures and new clients.
– How are you preparing for the shows?
I am trying to make as much new product as possible to make the table look fresh.
– Can we see your studio?
Probably not a good idea as the place always looks like someone has blown up in it.
– If someone is just starting out with needlework in miniature and thinking about creating miniatures, how and what would you advise them?
I have been approached several times by people that want to work on one of my needlepoint rug kits that has never done needlepoint before. My first question is, “have you ever done cross stitch?” If they have, I relax a little. That is an easy transition, half the stitches and lean one way. If they have never stitched before I always ask if they have a friend who could help them, or a needlepoint shop in their town. Although needlepoint is easy to learn I like to guide people or have them go to someone with questions, the first time out.
– Who/What are your biggest influences?
Back in the early 80’s I entered into the interior design world. I got to manage a wholesale fabric & furniture showroom. The owner of the showroom was one of the most famous interior designer of that time, Angelo Donghia. He did design work for Ralph Lauren. His style and creativity took me on the path that I am on today.
– What keeps you up at night?
Nothing. I am a good sleeper.
– How would you describe your current project to someone at a dinner party that is never heard of you and your work?
I have had to do this many times. I first explain that I am a needlework designer. Most people understand what needlework is. Then I explain further that there is a large miniature dollhouse world and I design needlepoint rugs for dollhouse. They get a little lost but other people explain to me what they do and sometimes I don’t get it, so it’s OK.
– Where do you get an inspiration for your ideas from?
Other’s projects, magazines and pages I have saved along the way.
– What does your Artwork represent? Does your Artwork represent something about you?
My designs show that I have a preference for more things traditional than contemporary.
– What/How did you have to develop, try, or learn to create your Artwork?
I use a cross stitch design program. It gives me pixels to work with and I able to see every detail needed to make the design. Everything I design is done stitch by stitch.
– What gives you the most joy?
Working on a stitching project whether miniature or real size. Really traveling but the needlepoint is something I can do every day.
– Is there anything you dislike about your Artwork?
Sometimes I design things that I don’t love but I also have to be open to know that it will work for other’s interior projects.
– Professionally, what is your goal?
I think my major goals in life have been achieved and now I do my work for the pleasure.
– What is one thing you are not getting credit for that you absolutely should? Is there such thing?
I am not getting credit for the scale I use to make my designs. I have been told too many times that good miniature design are always done on silk gauze. Sorry, I disagree. Some people, like myself cannot work that small. When you look in the real design world, every flower or design used in interior design is not tiny, tiny, tiny. There are different sized elements used for different projects and I have done very well with all my designs in the scale I work.
– What is the best thing about being an artist?
Your time is your own.
– What is your strongest memory of your childhood?
That is a real hard one. I have lots of good memories, coloring in a coloring book with my dad. Going on a 2 week vacation every summer. Having 5 siblings.
– What is your favorite dish/recipe/food?
I like anything with sugar.
– Who/What does challenge you? What is challenge for you?
Sometimes I work on a design and I think I will never get it to my satisfaction. Time and patience will get you there. You need to walk away and come back fresh to see that elements are not quite working yet. Also asking a friend to take a look will open your eyes to things you had not seen.
– Favorite or most inspirational place?
Traveling in Europe and going to art museums.
– Do you listen to music when you are working on a project? If yes, what are you listening to?
No, I am a TV gal. It keeps me company and I do not have to really watch it, mostly I listen. I also like book on tape.
– Where does your support come from when you “hit a wall”?
If I hit a wall, I talk to my partner to break my own thought process. I also look on line and though magazines for inspiration.
– What are you most proud of to date?
Although I work in miniature most of the time, I also design real size needlepoint for museum stores. I interpret artwork in their collection into needlepoint point kits for glass cases, coasters, eyeglass cases and pillow fronts. My biggest accomplishments was the collection I did for the White House Historical Association, the gift shops for the White House. I made thousands of kits over a 10 year period. I also did a large collection for the gift shop of the Capital Building.
– If you were completely start over again, what would you do differently?
If I had to start over, I think I would do the same thing. I have had a great career and a good life. My interior design background brought me to miniatures. Life is good.
About the bears.
I started making bears about 3 years ago. I have always loved bears and collect bears, most are not miniature. It all started with a needlepoint friend who had a bear pattern for needlepoint. She helped me figure out what kind of stitch should go in each section of the body as I wanted him to be very textured.
I entered him into the Maryland State Fair and won First price.
I have some friends who had their mother’s old mink coats and asked me to make memory bears. So now I was off and running. I have made lots of bears along the way.
Some people even send old shirts or skirts and I then dress the bear.
I make the head and paws out of fur and the rest of the bear is made from the article of clothing they give me. It’s hard work but it’s great fun.