This week we will be taking an inside look at Hazel Blomkamp of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa – the little lady with a BIG personality! I have met Hazel several times in South Africa, but recently had the opportunity to get to know her better over the 10 days of Beating Around The Bush this April in Australia, where we shared lots of laughs but also indulged in some serious discussions where we solved the world’s needlework problems! (or so we like to think). It seems that besides our love of embroidery and the need to share it we found we both grew up in Colonial Africa and were the victims of boarding school from an early age. I can assure you that there is never a dull moment when Hazel is around!
Hazel was one of the fore-runners of embroidery in South Africa and is well known for her beautiful and innovative crewel embroidery with it’s sublime colour schemes. Besides being a designer and author she is well known in South Africa for her (often controversial) column in the South African Stitches magazine.
Hazel uses a diverse range of embroidery techniques including beads to give her work an exciting and unsual twist.
Here are some of her other designs including goldwork and needlelace:
She has taught for many years both home and abroad and recently published her first book Crewel Twists which can be seen here. and was recently reviewed on Mary Corbet’s website here. Hazel offers kits and embroidery materials for sale on her website here.
Below is the transcript of my interview with Hazel where you can get to know the woman behind the designs. In the meantime wherever you are have a wonderful week and happy stitching. Trish
- Please tell us about yourself and personal life briefly? Who is Hazel Blomkamp?
She is first, and foremost, a wife, mother and lover of dogs – preferably naughty Boxers. Then she is an embroiderer, bead worker, columnist and author. She likes to laugh and talk rubbish, preferably with a glass of red wine in her hand, is outspoken and wishes she had the time to tidy up her house and look after her garden!
- When did you first become interested in embroidery and how?
My grandmother was a superb embroiderer, so it was always in my life but my interest was reawakened when a friend “forced” me to attend an embroidery course when I had a very ill toddler. I have embroidered every day of my life since then.
- Did you have any formal training?
Nope, The odd course here and there, but mostly self taught – out of books.
- Did you inherit your love of embroidery from anyone in particular?
Probably my maternal grandmother.
- You have been teaching for many years now, both locally and overseas can you tell us a bit about your teaching experiences.
It is rewarding. It is wonderful to watch a shy, insecure women blossom as she creates something that she is proud of. It will drive you to improve your skills and to invent new concepts. You will learn from, and often be inspired by, your students. You will get a special kind of thrill when someone who started with you as a beginner is suddenly designing her own pieces and they are being published. Many of your students will become good friends and, if you persevere you can even turn bad-mannered ladies into polite and pleasant citizens. Depending on the time that you have available and the type of commitment you are prepared to give to tutoring, you can end up travelling the country and even to other parts of the world, meeting like-minded people. There is no doubt in my mind that it is the best way to travel and make friends. I have made so many that I could get myself into trouble just about anywhere and find someone that I know to tell me where to find the best motor mechanic, hospital or doctor.
- Can you tell us some of the highs and lows about running a needlework business.
The highs - working with fabric, thread and, mostly, colour. Working from home and working with something you are passionate about. Associating with like minded people is a high. Strange as it may seem, writing about embroidery has forced me to research the various styles and their history and that has been fascinating. The lows – difficult women and never finding time to take care of my house and garden.
- Where do you get your inspiration from.
From looking at historical embroideries, from upholstery and quilting fabrics and from old newspapers, books and magazines that were, in the past, exquisitely illustrated.
- Are there any forms of embroidery in particular that you favour?
Definitely Jacobean embroidery, but am busy with a crazy patch at the moment that is ultimately going to get a range of styles. Fascinating.
- You have just published a book and have a range of products for sale both locally and overseas – can you tell us briefly about these.
Briefly? Okay, all of the print, thread and bead packs that apply to the book are available. We have DMC stranded, perle, special dentelles, fil metalise and metallics. Anchor stranded and Marlitt. An extensive range of Miyuki beads, bead work and embroidery tools and gadgets, tassel making supplies and a large range of my own embroidery and beadwork patterns and kits.
- What do you love most about your job?
That it is creative, colourful and that I get to play all day with threads and beads.
- What is your advice for people who would like to start embroidery?
Just start. Get a kit, buy some threads and needles, a hoop and some sharp scissors and get going. Take lessons if you need to, otherwise just enjoy the process. It is slow to do, but you have to remember that the joy is in the journey and the destination will take care of itself.