We came across textile and embroidery artist Christi Johnson (@christijay) on Instagram a few months back and were immediately enamored with her work—which, as described on Christi's website, "combines cosmic visions and botanical beauties, a hypnotic dance of symbols stitched slowly and methodically into fabric." We thought: wouldn't Christi's embroidery be incredible on a bag?! So we reached out and were so honored that she agreed to a bag making collaboration.
Christi recently made the Maywood Totepack using one of our full maker kits and following along with the Maywood online class, and her finished bag is pure magic. Below are some scenes from Christi's making process, which includes embroidery, appliqué, and a beautiful block-printed lining, along with her explanation. Thanks so much for much for sharing your beautiful work and artistic vision with us, Christi! 🐍🌟
CHRISTI'S MAKING PROCESS
I've never been that great at following directions (which is part of why I started teaching—because I knew there was a simpler way to describe sewing processes than the books I was reading!) so I generally make things up as I go, and embrace the possibility for total failure.
Luckily, I was delighted to see how clearly the instructions were laid out for the Maywood Totepack. At certain points I was tempted to stray from the directions, but I'm so happy I decided to get creative with the front pocket—instead of getting creative with following directions—the bag turned out perfect!
I wanted to do some embroidery on the front, but I've been having wrist problems, so I decided to go with mostly using an applique technique instead. I wasn't sure that my home sewing machine could sew leather, but I did it anyways—because it's not really a fun project unless you flirt with disaster—and was delighted that my machine sewed happily through both the waxed canvas and the lightweight leather! I didn't even have to change the needle.
As for the canvas interior... it was just begging to be decorated, so I pulled out my linoleum blocks and some paint, and got to work. I loved the yellow so much that I even added a little yellow leather pouch onto the interior pocket!
THE FINISHED MAYWOOD!
The imagery I chose for the front is a combination of themes I like to revisit—a star nestled inside a radiating square, with two winding serpents dancing around. The star becomes the central axis, much like the sun. The square implies stability and structure, which—when turned on its point, becomes a delicate balance to achieve. The snakes (representative of healing, but also of danger and venom) serve as a symbol of fluid movement and transformation. As one serpent slinks downward, the other rises up; a reminder to hold a bright center for our ever evolving experience.