Tett Interview: Artist Rebecca MacDonald

Artist Rebecca MacDonald's embroidery hoop display patterns

Hello Rebecca. Please tell us about yourself.

Hi there, my name is Rebecca and I am a full-time artist. Throughout the week, I keep myself busy by creating custom jewelry and keepsakes, embroidering, and doing freelance design.

My jewelry and keepsake business, Comfort Connects, focuses on working with the remains of the client’s pets or loved ones as a way to comfort them during the grieving process.

My exploration of embroidery came from a desire to have a creative outlet to help manage my own grief, to create, get lost in the moment, and slow my thoughts. I have zoned out and practiced different stitches for countless hours. Recently, I started compiling my embroidery designs into downloadable PDF patterns for others to try for themselves. And even more recently I started teaching my embroidery techniques at the Tett Centre. Rebecca MacDonald's embroidered couple

What is your background?

I emigrated from Northern Ireland to Canada at age 15 and have since lived in various places across Canada. Currently, I live in Kingston and am loving the arts community and small town feel here.

Are there other artists in your family?

I’m grateful to have supportive parents, especially when it comes to my art. The freedom to express myself through art has always been really important to me. There’s definitely a creative gene that runs through my family in some form or the other. None of my family members have done or do the same type of artwork as I do but I look up to their attention to detail and expertise in their trade. Their work ethic, hard work, and risk taking is something I carry with me through my art practice.

Rebecca MacDonald creating artwork as a childWhat is your earliest memory of creating artwork?

I don’t remember a time when I started creating artwork, but I still have one of my earlier masterpieces - a drawing I did in preschool of my Granny that says, “Granny is good”. One of my favourite childhood pictures of myself is of me sitting at my painting desk mid-stretch with my messy hair. I don’t know what I love about it but I’m sure I look pretty similar some days – ha ha!

Are you a self-taught artist or did you study art in school, or by working with an artist?

 A lot of the work I do is self-taught, but I can’t take all the credit. I completed my Bachelor of Applied Arts through a combined program at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton and at the New Brunswick College of Craft & Design. During my time at the craft college, I was lucky to explore many of the introductory studio sessions and get intensive education in design which have supported my current work.

Rebecca MacDonald of Comfort ConnectsWhen did you decide to start your own creative business? Was there an Ahah! moment?

When I lived in New Brunswick I missed my dog, Max, so I started exploring different ways I could feel more connected to him while I was gone. One Christmas holiday, I collected some of his fur with no idea what I was going to do with it. Then, I had the idea of preserving his hair inside resin, so I created a pendant with it. The piece brought me great comfort, as a few months later he unexpectedly passed away. Even though I wasn’t home with him I felt him with me. That pendant became my most treasured item. After his death, I realized the importance of what I had just created, not only as a piece of art but as a feeling. It was then that I realized that I needed to explore this idea. So that’s what I did and before I knew it, I became a self-employed artist and created what is now Comfort Connects - Keepsakes & Grief Support.

Rebecca MacDonald's embroidery hoop patterns

There wasn’t as big of an ahah! moment when I got into embroidery. I was dealing with some personal issues and grief that was weighing on me. I was looking for an art form that would teach me patience and slow down the thoughts in my head. Something I could pick up for fifteen minutes here and there. I completed my first embroidery kit and was sold. Stitch after stitch, I became more obsessed with the art form and also how my body felt after embroidering. I felt relaxed and I liked how I had control over my body and breathing again. After a while, I decided to create PDF embroidery patterns from my designs with the hopes that they will help someone else. And this is when my creative company Rebecca MacDonald Artist was born.

Can you give any advice to artists and makers who are considering starting their own creative business?

I’m glad you asked that because I’m the community manager for a very exciting project that recently launched called Crafty Creators Club. This is a membership program created to empower artists to sell their handmade goodies online. Included in the membership is our signature course ‘Intro to E-Commerce for Crafty Creators’, access to our members-only community forum, live webinars, and much more.

Whenever I first started my creative business, I spent countless hours trying to figure it out. I’m so proud to be part of this community that has so much valuable content to offer creators just starting out. We’ve spent a lot of time creating a membership that offers step-by-step solutions. If anyone is interested, we have a 30-day free trial of the membership.

Rebecca MacDonald's embroidered cherry blossoms

How has COVID-19 impacted your art making practice?

From the start of the pandemic until the start of September, I temporarily moved to Prince Edward Island to be closer to my family. This meant a couple of things for my art making practice. Unfortunately, my outstanding keepsake and jewelry orders were put on hold for several months as I was out of my home studio in Kingston. Thankfully, my clients were amazing and completely understood my need for the delay.

Due to that temporary move, it gave me more time to focus on embroidery as an art therapy. I was given the opportunity to practice more and develop more PDF patterns, work on some custom embroidery pieces, as well as plan for future embroidery workshops.

Now that I am back in Kingston, my art making practice is back to a new normal. I am fortunate enough to have a home studio where I can continue making orders and prepping for workshops.

You have several embroidery workshops coming up in November and December at the Tett Centre - just in time for the holidays! What will students learn and create in your embroidery workshops? 

My upcoming embroidery workshops at the Tett Centre are very exciting. This November I have scheduled two workshops:

The first is my Custom Ornament Embroidery Workshop on Saturday, November 7, 2020, in which you can choose between two different wreath patterns, letters, and color palette that you like. Students can register at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/custom-embroidery-ornament-workshop-tickets-....

 Rebecca MacDonald's Custom Ornament Embroidery workshop on November 7, 2020

My second workshop will be my Fox Embroidery Workshop on Saturday, November 28, 2020. Students can register at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/embroidery-fox-workshop-tickets-122253574733 .

Rebecca MacDonald's Fox Embroidery workshop on November 28, 2020

Both workshops include all supplies and an instruction guide will be supplied to the students. No prior experience is necessary for these workshops, as I will walk the class through the stitches used in the piece. Included in the instruction guide is the stitch guide for students to refer back to at any time. There will be time to complete a section of the pattern in class, ask questions, plus one-on-one time if needed. By the end of the class, students will have everything they need to complete their embroidery piece in their own time. Of course, if they have any questions about the piece after the workshop, I am more than happy to help.

If you aren’t able to make it to my November classes, be sure to keep my eye out because I’m planning more workshops at the Tett Centre for December.

Your embroidery workshops are great opportunities for students to make gifts for loved ones!

How can readers/subscribers find out more about you, Rebecca?

Keep an eye out for upcoming embroidery workshops with Rebecca at the Tett Centre and learn more about her work below.

Comfort Connects - Keepsakes & Grief Support

https://www.comfortconnects.com  /  Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest @comfortconnects

Rebecca MacDonald Artist - Custom Embroidery & Patterns

https://www.rebeccamacartist.etsy.com  /  Facebook, Instagram @rebeccamacdonaldartist

Crafty Creators Club

https://www.craftycreatorsclub.com / Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest @craftycreatorsclub

Interested in teaching an art making workshop at the Tett Centre? If so, please visit our website at https://www.tettcentre.org/rentals or contact the Tett Centre Rentals Coordinator, Susanna Gordon at rentals@tettcentre.org.

Interview by Susanna Gordon