We love handcrafted goods and we have a deep commitment to traditional craft, which is shared in common with textile artist Jennifer Cardenas Riggs. Jennifer, owner of Thread Honey, creates embroidery with a contemporary touch “that speaks to the millennial generation.” She has a desire to preserve this classic art form and demonstrates the ways in which embroidery is versatile and modern. It is with pleasure we designate Jennifer a Rustico Mark Maker.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Jennifer Cardenas Riggs. I’m a textile artist and author from Boise, Idaho. Along with embroidery, I work as a freelance graphic designer and am a certified yoga instructor. My favorite pastime is home design and renovation. Together, my husband Brandon and I completely remodeled our first home and it was such a fun and rewarding experience – I think I’m happiest at a construction site.
What drew you to embroidery and how did you get started?
My grandma taught me how to embroider when I was about eight years old. It wasn’t really love at first sight. I didn’t continue to embroider and actually forgot all about it until I was studying a visual arts minor in college. It was then that I realized I could come back to the craft of embroidery—this time putting my own spin on it. It makes such a difference when you’re working on pieces that you feel passionately about and I started to feel a deeper connection with embroidery once I started creating my own designs and patterns.
What is the meaning behind the name “Thread Honey”?
I knew I wanted something with the word “thread” to let people know at first glance what medium I work in, but I landed on “honey” because I wanted to pay homage to the bee which is a sign of community, brightness and personal power.
When did you decide to start a business? What advice do you have for those looking to do the same?
I kind of fell into business. I came back to embroidery as a hobby and then started an Instagram account (@threadhoney) to show off all of my creations. People found me and started asking me how they could buy my embroidery hoops so I decided to start an Etsy shop selling my wares. I think the main piece of advice I have for people starting their business is to know what’s driving them to do so. Once you recognize your purpose it can help inform the decisions you make throughout your business and you can stay authentic to yourself and your brand.
What inspired you to write a book?
Embroidery has so many practical applications outside of just hoop art. I created my book, Embroidery Now, because I wanted to show off just how versatile and modern embroidery could be. I included 30 projects to up-cycle your wardrobe and create art for your home and they range from embroidered dream catchers, tablecloths, dresses, sandals, hats, lamps, and so much more. It was important for me that the book was geared for all levels, which means that anyone can pick it up and start stitching, even if they have no prior embroidery experience.
What has been your favorite collaboration?
I really enjoyed working with COACH on their Rexy campaign in 2016. For the campaign, I created a custom Rexy hoop that I was able to share with my followers to promote the launch. It was my first time dealing with a big brand and I learned so much throughout the experience.
Where do you draw inspiration for your embroidery?
Music, books, yoga, colors that I see around the world—the list goes on and on. I find that I never have a lack of inspiration; there really is so much beauty all around us if we’re open to receiving it. Typically, a design idea will usually stem from something specific like a quote or color scheme that I can’t get out of my head. In the case of a quote or music lyric, I’ll often think about what it means to me, what it makes me feel and how I can use a visual interpretation to bring that feeling to life. While my designs are not often usually ornate or complex, I hope that they always make the viewer feel something.
What is your ideal atmosphere when stitching?
My favorite place to stitch is in our den where we have a gas fireplace that our cat cuddles up in front of and stitching during the day in that environment is so peaceful. Embroidery is a great pastime because it’s basically an excuse to watch TV and listen to podcasts as you work.
What are some things you are most passionate about?
I feel that we all need to get back to basics. There has been way too much consumption of fast fashion and manufactured goods in recent years and I think that we’re all craving ethical handmade goods again. I have a deep respect for crafty art forms like embroidery, needlework, macramé, and knitting, and I want these skills to keep being passed down for generations. It means so much to me that my grandmother taught me how to embroider and I hope that as I teach embroidery to others I have done something to preserve the tradition.
What do you hope to instill in the creative community?
My greatest desire is that the creative community realizes that all art forms are valid. So often there seems to be a hierarchy of what is considered “fine art” and what is considered “craft.” I don’t think that there has to be delineation between the two.
What upcoming projects/collaborations are you looking forward to that you can tell us about?
Right now I’m working on a mini-website makeover! I have begun filming embroidery instructional videos that can serve as an extra resource for those who are new to embroidery and would like a visual representation of the stitches. Other than that I’m working on a couple other projects that I can’t speak about right now but I’m very excited about! If you want to stay tuned you can follow me on Instagram @threadhoney or check back on my site at thethreadhoney.com.
A special thanks to Jennifer for letting us interview her about her unique embroidery. It has been a great reminder to keep creating and to preserve traditional methods of craft. You can follow Thread Honey on Instagram, check out her website, and pick up her book here.
Do you have a Mark Maker in mind? We’d love to hear about how they’re making an impact in their community. Let us know here.