I love Dianna’s embroidery. It’s something that absolutely catches my eye when I see it. And she’s got skills that I would love to have! Meet Dianna and check out her products!
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Dianna LaFerry, an artist, embroiderer, and stitch teacher based in Oakland, California. I grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma (about 40 minutes north of Tulsa). My husband and I moved to Oakland in 2003.
What do you make or do?
I wear a lot of hats, but these days I try to focus on three aspects of my business that fit together really well: I’m a commercial artist, professional embroiderer, and I also teach embroidery and hand sewing.
As a commercial artist, I partner with other artists, makers, and indie business owners to polish rough ideas into logos, package designs, and products that fully express their creative vision. I’ve been either a production artist or an art director for the last 23 years, so it was a natural transition to become the art department that most indi makers wish they had in-house. I’ve been a long-time graphic collaborator with both Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics and Decades of Style Pattern Company, both located in Berkeley, California – it’s a real treat to work with women-owned indie businesses, particularly in the home sewing industry! I’m also working with other pattern makers and costumers who need illustrations, package design, and PDF conversions to make their products spectacular, enticing, and user-friendly.
As a professional embroiderer, I bring my stitching skills and art-history-nerd sensibilities to a number of projects. I love doing fancy stitching on fine fabrics and formalwear, so my current project of flossing corsets for Dark Garden Corsetry & Couture is very fulfilling. I’m also working on some fabric and embellishment projects for Decades of Style. Really, if it involves clothing and embellishment, I’m in!
As an embroidery teacher, I try to make serious stitching fun. My classes (at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley through June, then elsewhere – locations TBA) are high-energy, irreverent, and fun. I try to be realistic with my students while getting them stitching for the long haul. I’m interested in getting students to stitch beyond the sampler – I really want them to learn embroidery and learn how to integrate it into their own craft and recreational goals.
I also do a number of other design-related things that crop up from time to time in my business – design fabric, write and design craft sewing patterns, and I publish a line of iron-on embroidery transfers. I told you I wear a lot of hats!
Where can we find your creations?
My portfolio and details about my custom art and embroidery are on my new website, diannalaferry.com.
My hot-iron embroidery transfers, sewing patterns, and crafts are for sale at diannalaferry.Etsy.com.
Potential embroidery and hand-sewing students can sign up for my class info newsletter at MailChimp
My corset flossing service is currently available through Dark Garden Corsetry + Couture in San Francisco – www.darkgarden.com.
I’m also a regular collaborator with Decades of Style Pattern Company, especially on their Decades Everyday line – www.decadesofstyle.com.
How long have you been creating and is it your full-time job?
I’ve been seriously engaged in some kind of sewing, art, or crafting for the last 35 years. I started early, at age 5 or 6, and haven’t stopped since then. I was a high school kid in the very early 90s, when hardly any young people I knew sewed. I could always be found at home sewing clothes while my friends were out partying, and consequently I had spectacular party clothes that I ended up wearing to school. This was partly out of necessity, as my parents were always on a budget and I had a real love for wearing edgy, gothy fashions. Sewing was the only way I could afford to have both the clothes and the shoes to complete my desired look.
Is creating your full time job?
Is creating my full-time job right now? It’s certainly my full-time passion. Right now I have a three-year-old who is only in preschool part-time, so I end up working whenever she’s at school or asleep. I put in the hours to make sure my deadlines are met, which means sane bedtimes with a few all-nighters sprinkled in. Sometimes I work nearly full time, sometimes it’s not, but full-time is always my goal!
When you’re not making things, what do you do?
I go to concerts, collect records, ride carousels, and read. My toddler LOVES carousels as much as I do, and there are so many pretty vintage ones to ride in the Bay Area – they’re real works of art! The vintage Dentzel-designed carousel at the San Francisco Zoo is probably my favorite, although we are much more frequent visitors to the Tilden Park Carousel in Berkeley. My Instagram is peppered with carousel pics, it’s just part of my life!
Last year my husband and I tried to read all of the books that had won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. I only managed to read 8 books off the list, but they were all good ones! Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness are now on my short list of favorite books of all time.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to lead a creative life?
Even though I grew up in a very creative family and have always had extremely good support as a young artist and later working artist, It’s been the biggest struggle of my adult life to edit out the crafts and activities that aren’t part of my professional practice.
I make so many things enthusiastically and well, but at the end of the day I just don’t have enough time to learn every skill or do every project that comes to mind. I dearly love knitting and weaving, paper crafts and fancy cake-baking, but at some point I had to put some of those pursuits aside to focus on what I truly love. On the other hand, I also finally accepted that it’s okay not to narrow down my business to just one thing. It’s okay for me to do three things, especially when they mesh together so well. The push-and-pull of exploration and specialization is a balancing act that I’m constantly trying to master.
One of my best friends likens me to a creative border collie – I always need a project to round up, new collaborators to check in with, places to go, stuff to make. Working with other artists and designers meets that need now! I don’t have to run after every creative sheep, I just have to keep the sheep in my flock going in the same direction.
Did someone in your family, a friend or teacher introduce you to your creative side or have they helped you along the way?
In many ways, I was raised as a multi-crafter. I grew up in an extended family of working craftspeople and super-makers, so I was exposed to and inundated with learning everything under the sun. Whether it was sewing or woodworking, blacksmithing or early computer programming, block printing or painting, it was a skill to watch, learn, and do. My mom and her mother were my initiates into the world of sewing and embroidery, and family friends exposed me to doll-making, advanced paper crafting, and other pursuits like interior decorative painting and polymer clay.
I can also thank the family who hired me into my first professional graphic art job. They owned a little custom tee shirt printing shop in my hometown, and I was brought in as their entire art department at the tender age of 19. I had only 3 semesters of college under my belt, and no formal training in paste-up, layout, or digital graphics. I learned on the job and taught myself the rest. That was 1993, and I’ve since used every version of Adobe Illustrator from 2.0 to the current version of Creative Cloud (I think that’s 17 versions)! That first hire not only gave me a job, it gave me a career. It’s really the reason why I teach now; you never know how you might change someone’s life when you teach them something new.
What’s on the horizon for you and what you do?
Designing more fabric, expanding my creative collaborations with other designers, and developing new classes. I would love to work with more indie artists and makers to help them perfect the look of their packaging and promotional materials. Since I just re-started my business with a renewed focus, there are some very exciting new projects brewing, but it’s early days yet so I don’t want to say too much. I’ll be announcing new projects on my social media in the next few weeks and months!