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(Interior page article heading: Stitching: Artist selling own designs)
A couple of years ago at a folk art show in Sharonville, cross-stitch designer Cecilia Turner saw tables and tables of different crafts dealing with fruits and vegetables.
"There were boiled wool fruits and vegetables, wooden fruits and vegetables, quilted fruits and vegetables, and I thought I have to do 'Wee Fruits' and 'Wee Vegetables'" recalls Turner as she sits in the family room of her brick two-story home in Liberty Township, just south of Monroe.
Area cross-stitchers may be familiar with Turner's Heart in Hand Needleart company and her series of "wee" cross-stitch designs, which are available at local stitching shops.
Above, Cecilia Turner works on a cross stitch pattern in her Liberty Township home, just south of Monroe. Her Heart in Hand Needleart company is known for its series of "Wee" designs like "Wee Santa," "Wee Chicken," "Wee Wooly," and others. At top, Cecilia Turner dedicated her "Heirloom Baby Sampler" design to her son, Matthew, who died just 15 minutes after he was born in 1985. The dedication on the back of the Heart in Hand leaflet reads: "Though his life lasted less than a day, his love continues to touch each moment of my life."
The fruits and vegetables theme took a strong hold on Turner because of the colors she had seen. She says a lot of her designs come out of her attraction to different colors.
"I came home and one of (the designs) was probably stitched within about 36 hours of having gone to that show, seeing it, drawing it, and then I just immediately had to stitch it because the colors were in my mind. I'd seen a fabulous eggplant in boiled wool, and the color of that,...well, I had to find the right fiber and begin stitching it.
"I don't know, it's just one of those things. They say writers will stay up all night writing. Well, I'm the same way. If I get an idea in my head, I've got to sit down, find the right fabric and fibers and embellishments and just get going on it."
Turner, a former news staffer for Cincinnati TV Channel 12, launched her Heart in Hand Needleart business from her home in 1994 after winning a "design-a-heart" contest in 1991 and having her designs accepted by national publications.
Since 1994, she has released 86 leaflet designs and 17 kits, which are sold here and abroad. She also attends trade shows and teaches seminars throughout the country.
Inside Turner's home are rugs and wall hangings of hearts and hands, some of them gifts of friends she has made across the country. One of the embellishments her company sells is a silver charm of a hand with a heart inside.
Turner picked Heart in Hand for the name of her company because of its association with a Shaker phrase.
Cecilia Turner based the name of her company on the Shaker phrase, "hands to work, hearts to God."
"The Heart in Hand symbol is a Shaker symbol which is most frequently associated with the words 'hands to work, hearts to God,'" she says. "I liked that, and it always spoke to me about why I enjoy doing handwork. I think, when I started looking for an identifying symbol for my business, that just was what I wanted to say about why I do what I do."
Stitching for Turner is more than just the needle, floss and fabric it takes to make one of her designs. It ties people together, and it offers comfort in difficult times.
"I talk to more and more people that I think it is just their therapy. It is their personal way of relaxing," she reflects.
"Some people, before they go to bed at night, have to read a book. It calms them and quiets them, and it's kind of their quiet time. Stitching is that for many people, it's their calming quiet therapy."
Turner knows only too well the calming benefits of stitching. She found comfort in stitching after her newborn son, Matthew, died in 1985.
"He died 15 minutes after he was born. It was a very difficult time for me," she says. "I had been a stitcher up to that time, and I had four months off work, and I stitched and stitched and stitched, and it was really comforting for me to have that to do.
"And I stitched more Christmas ornaments that year. Everybody got Christmas ornaments. It really was a kind of therapy for me.
"I designed a baby sampler for Matthew and published it a number of years ago," she says. The sampler features a quotation from Charles Dickens:
"It is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us."
"I hear from people all the time who have stitched that piece, and I put a dedication on the back for Matthew, and they read that, and it ties people together. They have a story about a child they lost or they have a story about someone who has tried to have a baby and has had a difficult time getting pregnant. It just really has tied a lot of people to their lives, and they will tell me those stories, and those are very intimate stories that they're sharing with me. It really is a gift that people have given me in sharing those stories with me. It's something I will always treasure."
Turner grew up in Kettering and graduated from Alter High School. Her husband, Randy, a Franklin High School graduate, is an attorney and law professor at Miami University.
Some of Cecilia Turner's Christmas-themed designs are, from left: "St. Nick," "Jolly Old Elf," "Woodland Noel" and a "St. Nick" kit.
She and her family are involved in stitching. Both her daughters, Elise, 13, and Allison, 10, are stitchers, and Randy has been so taken with the hobby that he organizes his own Stitcher's Retreat in Millersburg, Ohio each year.
Turner, who learned embroidery as a child from her grandmother on stamped pillowcases from five-and-dime stores, believes strongly in the value of passing along knowledge of stitching and handing down the heritage to future generations.
"When we were little, somebody taught us, and if we don't teach somebody, you know the art which has been around forever will go away," she says. "And I think that's sad."
She creates her designs today with busy stitchers in mind. Many are quick-to-stitch designs. And although she likes newer specialty fibers, she also uses traditional floss.
"I really try to make it easy for the stitcher to get everything to do the design or it's frustrating.... I guess I try to think about those things," she says.
All in all, she says she is happy in her business and her life.
"I'm very lucky to have this work. Not many people can find a job that really gives them as much joy as this does.... I feel very lucky to have this work because I get to meet so many wonderful people when I travel and teach and just hear from people via e-mail and letters and phone calls, and what a great joy that is."
Heart in Hand Needleart does not sell directly to the public. Visit Heart in Hand's website at www.heartinhand.com.