Photo by Joe Del Tufo
A local designer has found that making humorous art can be a stitch, as she sells her embroidery at festivals around the First State.
During the pandemic, Sarah Klishevich was looking for a creative outlet — “something to occupy my hands and pass the time,” she recalls. She dabbled in acrylic paint and epoxy, but when her two young boys also became interested, she decided to seek out a more solitary activity that would give her the “mental health break” she was dreaming of. . So she bought a cross stitch kit. Even though it proved too strenuous, it led her to the perfect craft to unwind: embroidery.
Inspired by movie quotes and song lyrics that made her smile — “We watched a lot of Wes Anderson movies and listened to a lot of 90s rap during our 40s,” Klishevich says — she created pieces that resonated with his “weird sense of humor,” as well as goodies for family and friends.
She first embroidered on early 20th century dresser sashes provided by her mother, a seamstress and quilter with an affinity for vintage textiles. To fill her collection of linens, she quickly set about browsing Wilmington’s antique shops and estate sales (“A lot of them are these amazing time capsules with things no one wants anymore!” notes Klishevich) , adding other embellishments like retro upholstery, hat ornaments, and vintage frames for the finishing touch.
“It started as a way for me to decompress at the end of the day after the kids were in bed,” says Klishevich, who works full-time as a facilities manager at a Delaware-based investment firm. “But then it got out of control. … I had done so many pieces that my husband ended up saying, “We don’t have enough walls to hang all this. You should try to sell them.
Klishevich had learned from a friend and fine artist that a woman was sewing Missy Elliott’s lyrics and charging $400 on Etsy. Although she maintains the price is outrageous, it has sparked curiosity about turning her own works for profit.
One day her husband came home after visiting the Bellefonte Brewery and told him about a Sunday craft fair the place was hosting. By way of encouragement, he had already asked them to reserve a place for him.
Skeptical about the answer that the words of the Wu-Tang Clan could bring, The great Lebowski and design women dark dialogues or idioms ironically sewn into Battenburg lace doilies, she was surprised to sell five of the 20 works she had submitted – and even more intrigued by the pieces people loved.
“The first one I sold said, ‘What doesn’t kill gives you unhealthy coping mechanisms and a dark sense of humor,'” Klishevich recalled. “I thought it was weird that the wife bought it as a wedding present…but then I found out the recipient was a therapist.”
Another, featuring the Beastie Boys’ lines of the song “Intergalactic,” went to a female pastor.
Shortly after, this same artist friend, former exhibitor at the Brandywine Arts Festival— suggested that Klishevich apply. She knew the event was looking to diversify the media, and she had never seen anything like it.
A few months and dozens of new works later, Klishevich had rented a tent among several regionally renowned painters, potters and jewelers in Brandywine Park. On a balmy fall weekend that drew dense crowds, Klishevich greeted other “weirds” with an appreciation for his wall hangings. (Her mother stood in a nearby corner directing passers-by: “You have to come in and see everything; it’s not like ‘live, laugh, love!'”)
“I sold 65 framed pieces, plus a handful of embroidered masks and sweatshirts that I decided to do at the last minute,” Klishevich says, still in disbelief. “That first day was furious – I was selling something every 15 minutes.”
The experiment attracted new followers, some seeking commissions for loved ones or their own homes. Now Klishevich designs holiday themes, which can be viewed on her Instagram @sk_stitchand she has no plans to stop sewing any time soon.
“It’s my therapy,” she says. “It makes me even happier now to know these pieces are going to a good home and making others laugh.”