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To Sensory Chaos & partway back: It’s time to party with your perceptions


Ever get mesmerized then blown away by a pattern… ? I can sit for hours and look at  the veining in a leaf, or the repeating swirls and textures in a stitched sequence… Or listen to a particular bit of music on repeat for HOURS because it evokes a certain smell or color… I can remember sitting in a cafe in New York in the early 90s watching rain streaking down a floor-to-ceiling shop window and marveling at the patterns. I’d just seen Sting at a little dive bar where, pretending to be a nameless patron, he’d walked up to the owner (who was tending bar) and said, “Mind if I play on the piano?” I recognized him IMMEDIATELY and grabbed a Jack Daniels on the rocks and sat right down by THE (crappy) piano with my elbow hanging off. It is one of the singular moments of my life…  He played dreamy  ambient melodies and harmonies identifiable from the Soul Cages (one of my end-all favorite albums), and he hummed or softly sang as I digested every breath, every motion… In retrospect I’d memorized that experience by the sounds, the smells, the TEXTURES. (I saw him again with husband in Columbia MO in mid-2000s and he did the same music in a half-empty school gym where a mere handful of us stood swaying entranced… aahhh, the zen of swirling musical mojo). Back in NYC, there were brown scratches and wear patterns on the piano wood (that, in my head,  had the smell of patchouli oil… Often wood and terra cotta pots have a musky smell impression in my senses). I can recall MUCH of my experience by the way things around me elicit an amazing chaos of sensory experience. Now, with the guidance of some great books, and the savvy of my Dr. Social Science husband, I understand what the Hell is going on.  So…

I’ve said before that I have this… thing.  This… way of experiencing the world. It’s called Synesthesia. For years I had NO idea that the way I saw the world had a name. I just accepted that my impressions were… singular.  But after battling blinding, sickening headaches, and debilitating cancer, I’ve adopted a strict full disclosure policy. So here it is: the ReCap:  My brain is sort of… cross wired. More often than not, textures and colors are experienced in my senses as smells, many visual inputs (like seeing blue eyes — my son at about 9 months had GREAT blue eyes) they have a smell attached (for me, it’s coffee).  Also, certain sounds have smells (like a rumbling shaking subway smells like dish soap, as do certain types of my headaches(??!!) .  It’s made learning to create art a WHOLE different experience (for example, I sometimes have to abort an approach to a project because in looking at it, I can’t stand the associated smells or sounds…) THATs one of the attractions of experimenting with paints and mediums – I can manipulate how things impact my senses so I can work how I want and not be put off by my weird senses.  As for you, think about the possibilities of exploring your senses. Make a quick list of your favorite 3 colors and what you might associate with them. How can you use that information? Take a little time to party with your senses and see who joins in the mix…

For me, I love texture and the way it can appear rough, smooth, and everything in between. Whether using paint, toothy paper, or stitching, I can explore texture possibilities for hours.  It’s one of the things I love about test driving new products:

One of my new favorites is a mixture of Liquitex soft bodied white acrylic paint and Liquitex String Gel. ZOWIE! Applied over dry watercolor (on paper at left) it makes a very cool dimensional outline form for painting or stitching over.  I’m using this technique to create the Snakeroot – the white space of the flowers will be defined by the technique at left and will make up the tail of the snake, while the stems will twine in order to make a coil of snakes.

Second, on wet purple/green Lyra watercolor crayon (on fabric) the paint spreads and disburses the wet watercolor wash and makes a gorgeous continuous line of color. LOVE!!

I added a pile of loose french knots and some layered detached chain stitches and I like the look. Over the next few days, I’ll be slopping around in acrylics, gel mediums, and seeing how they interact with embroidery floss.

I’m also experimenting with some different surface design treatments including collage, adhering text and images, and using matte gel medium to explore making texture under paint:


It’s funny how Sinister Stitch and its poisons have infiltrated ALL of my art. Even my unrelated projects and experiments have taken on herbal or botanical components, figures and life drawing style forms, and I’ve adopted a palette from the Sinisters to see just what’s possible with my colors.

As it is now, I’ve got 6 poisons down, 7 left to go… This weekend, I’ve started the under painting for Monkshood/Wolfsbane. They are being worked on opposite sides of the same fabric…  A bit of a logistical nightmare, but, MAN, if I can pull it off it’s going to be SO cool!


I’ve sketched the facial features based on a kind of gnarly man, and am working Monkshood on the front and Wolfsbane on the reverse, each with eyes/noses lined up so that they will be mirror images on the fabric.

Today, I’m still editing video, and posting the Session One installment of the online Stitcher’s Garden Book tutorial! It’s not too late to register — I’ve even got a local student this time so we’ll be working some of the suggested exercises in the Florilegium Needle Arts shop & posting our results – FUN TIMES AHEAD!! Visit the Schoolhouse to Explore


This week I’ll also be guest teaching a first grade art class on mixed media embroidery!  We’re doing Looney Birds (visit the Play With Needles page to see kid stitching possibilities)

Thinking of getting fearless? Of Experimenting? Try Channeling your inner Warrior of Intention! (& get a peek at the genesis of the Womandrake circa 2009!) Go on, Visit the Past

2 comments to To Sensory Chaos & partway back: It’s time to party with your perceptions

  • How fascinating! I have a little of Synesthesia, but I had never really thought about it, and it is nowhere near the level you have it. I can say though that I LOVE textures/layers/colours and could stare at them for hours. Maybe that is why I am so attracted to graffiti 🙂

    ps. Sting is from my hometown, a fellow Geordie 🙂 So if you ever bump into him again just say “howway the lads” and he will know exactly what you’re saying.

    • Victoria

      I just knew we were sistahs from different mothers!!! And maybe explains why your work resonates so strongly with me.
      How funny — I could listen to his ambient compositions on repeat forever!
      Now… go smell some art! ;o}

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