Gerry Kendall (seated) and Kathy Taylor are pictured with some of the seahorse creations done by the Shuswap Needlearts Guild that won a national award at the Embroiders Association of Canada annual seminar.

Column: Seahorse project nets national award for Shuswap Needlearts Guild

Friends and Neighbours by Leah Blain

When Kathy Taylor and Gerry Kendall challenged their fellow Shuswap Needlearts Guild members to the Seahorse Challenge, they had no idea the result would be national recognition.

It simply began as a fun group project. There were no rules, so they said. Without putting too fine a point on it, there was a minor one (they weren’t allowed to buy any material; they had to create from their ‘stash’); and a major one (they weren’t allowed to use a pattern).

“We have such creative people but they follow a pattern,” said Kathy. The point of the challenge was to make the guild members even “more creative.”

“Outside the box creative,” added Sandra Baker.

They got the idea from a magazine.

“Kathy and I thought, ‘We could do something with this,’” said Gerry. “We’ll make it a challenge; take the shape of a seahorse and make one out of the stuff they had at home – they couldn’t buy anything.”

“Everyone has a huge stash of thread, you don’t have to buy more, although that’s fun,” said Kathy.

Just about everyone in the guild took up the challenge and the result was impressive. The members made seahorses using buttons, blackwork, crewel, tatting, beading, goldwork, candle-wicking, embroidery, metal and thread.

Kathy and Sandra, like the majority of needle art crafters, prefer using patterns, so this was a bit of a challenge for them.

“My inspiration came from an adult colouring book,” said Sandra. “I took it from the colouring book and had it photocopied onto the material… It was a learning experience.”

Part of the material she used was her old military uniform.

“I cut up a skirt; it’s great material. I was ‘up-cycling.’”

“I’m more of a pattern person,” said Kathy. “I have no problem changing it up – changing colours, but I normally follow a pattern.”

Gerry is a little more unusual in her creations because she often doesn’t (more like “‘won’t”) follow a pattern. This may or may not have something to do with her inspirations that often come in the wee hours of the morning.

“This was my game,” she said laughing, referring to the no-pattern challenge.

Kathy was 12 when she first tried needle art.

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“The lady I worked for bought me a needlepoint kit and I went from there. It was nice because, being in the military, it was nice to take something from place to place.”

Kathy lives in Vernon but comes out for the guild meetings at the Sunnybrae Seniors’ Hall because it’s the only Embroidery Association of Canada (EAC) guild in the Okanagan.

It was at the EAC’s annual seminar in Victoria that the Shuswap Needlearts Guild won the national award for their seahorse project.

“Kathy said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we entered all of our seahorses?’ So she did all the work to enter them and we took them to Victoria. There were about 200 people there from all across the Canada, the States and Australia. It was a people’s choice award and we won,” said Sandra.

“It was so exciting,” said Kathy. “People thought our pieces were truly amazing.”

The Shuswap guild is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. With over 20 members the group is going strong.

“It’s an ancient art that we’re keeping alive,” said Gerry.


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Gerry Kendall (left) and Kathy Taylor, along with other members of the Shuswap Needlearts Guild, won a national award for their Seahorse Challenge group project. (Leah Blain photo)

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