By Greg Ritchie
HOUSTON COUNTY – For local needle work champion Brenda Flasowski, needle work is a great hobby; part therapy part passion – she has a collection of blue ribbons to prove her talent. Some pieces take years to make – but none of them are for sale now, or ever.
Originally from Crockett, Flasowski began her journey into needle working at the tender age of five when her grandmother began to teach her the basics. When she would get something right, her grandma would tell her to keep it up and she might just get a blue ribbon at the state fair, someday. She always appreciated the encouragement.
It wasn’t until years later Flasowski would learn there really were state fairs and they really do give blue ribbons. Her first humble beginnings at the 1989 fair garnered her second place. 179 Texas State Fair ribbons later, Flasowski’s hobby has certainly kept her busy.
“84 were blue,” Flasowski added.
Flasowski admits she isn’t the super patient type of person you would expect to excel as such a time-consuming art – some pieces have taken her years to create. But she says when you get started, the process takes over.
“The art actually teaches you to be patient. They say there are three phases of a stitcher,” she explained. “You take it out because you did it wrong. The second is, you leave it in because you know you did it right. In the third phase, you take it out and redo it because you know you could do better. It slows your breathing and it slows you down and you let your mind drift off and work out problems and emotions and all sorts of things.”
Flasowski returned to Crockett to take care of her parents and the long hours in doctor’s offices, on trips – even sitting in traffic – gave her the opportunity to get a little needle work in where she could. She now works at Willowcreek Chiropractic in Crockett and still tries to devote an hour a day, more on weekends or holidays.
While some intricate works can take years and go for big money, Flasowski is clear on one thing – her items are not for sale and not for gifts. After friends told her of the hours they spent creating a piece, only to see it end up in someone’s garage sale – she decided her “babies” were not going to end up like that.
In fact, each one of her pieces reminds her of a certain moment in time that inspired the work. While the designs may not match the memory, the hours spent working on it were spent during any number of life’s moments – good and bad.
For the uninitiated, there is a lot to learn, and the thought of spending seven years on a piece can be daunting. Flasowski explained needlepoint is embroidery on canvas, whereas embroidery is stitching on linen. She said the art was losing steam in our modern, rushed world, but the last few years have seen a renaissance in the number of people involved and spending their time creating their own heirlooms and fair entries.
“it was a dying art until COVID hit and it was one of those wild things no one expected,” Flasowski said. “State Fair entries were hovering around the 6,000 mark and when COVID hit it blew up to just under 10,000, now. People were confined to their homes and had to do something to keep them busy. And you’re making a family heirloom and a part of history you’re going to pass down. You can’t go to a big box store and find something like this.”
Flasowski admits it can be an expensive hobby, but those interested in starting can buy pre-made sets and try their hand at it. She appreciates her art, since most of what is manufactured now is generally of lower quality and not something most people would pass on to their kids as in earlier times. Finding handmade items – with the kind of time, energy and talent – are almost non existent in our plastic, throw-away world.
The judges appreciate her work, too, as that stack of ribbons shows. The judging is tough, with judges picking and prodding at the pieces to make sure the work is solid. With their flashlights and even magnifying glasses, the judges could undo some of the de-stressing you might get from the needlework itself.
Flasowski sees imperfections in other’s art and in her own but with so many years experience, she often decides to let the piece stand as is, noting only God can make perfect things.
“You will see a design that you think is absolutely stunning. It is gorgeous. It is awesome. It is perfect. And the stitcher was wink at you and you say, ‘Haha, there’s a mistake in there1’ It makes each piece unique.”
Foregoing selling the items is a bigger sacrifice then it may seem. Flasowski recently did a piece with Santa Claus and a plate of cookies. When she took it to Houston to show it off she saw the exact same piece, done by another artist going off to auction.
The stitcher had gotten the colors confused, and instead of Santa on a blue recliner eating chocolate chip cookies, he sat on a brown recliner eating blue cookies. The artist left it like that and sent it to auction.
It sold at that auction for $12,000.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]