I'm always looking for fun, interesting items to stock my shop, especially for the holiday season. I want things that are not common, not the average (direct from a factory in China) stuff you see in every Hallmark store or gift shop. Hence, I was DEE-LIGHTED to come across the work of Cynthia Treen.
Cynthia's studio, in the back of sprawling brick factory complex in Rhode Island, is just what you imagine an artists studio to be. Filled with light, the ancient, polished wood floorboards bob and weave, gleaming next to the spare white walls. Shelves, stacked with box after box of Threadfollower Hand Stitching Craft Kits, line one wall. Professional sewing machines (these are not the Singer Basics I grew up with) and the requisite computer equipment of any modern business share space with large cutting and crafting tables. A small seating area, cozy and off to one end, has a vintage table (the perfect New England "make-do") with spool legs. It's always a joy to spend time in an artists studio, being in the thick of creativity is inspiring. What, I wondered, was the thread that ran through the warp and weft of Cynthia Treen Studios? Cynthia, graciously, answered my questions. A New Hampshire native and RISD grad, she's had a thing for fabric and fiber as long as she can remember. "The Textures of fabric are among my earliest childhood memories..." she says. It's obvious when you look at her line of hand stitching kits, tiny treasures that lend themselves perfectly to soft, fuzzy, felt.
With parents who supported her creative dreams she's was able, from a young age, to pursue her artistic vision. "Some parents dream of doctors and lawyers for children, but for my parents it was an artistic child they wanted to support. Wacky, but wonderful in the end..."
Roaming and exploring ten acres of wooded land around the family farmhouse steeped a love of texture and shape into Cynthia's soul.
"I thought I wanted to be an architect (so grown up,) that shifted to interior design (grown up,) then upholstery (less grown up,) then it really all distilled itself down to fabric." Felt and wool, the fabrics of choice, the fabrics of childhood, (not so grown up.) Cynthia Treen's work is grown up, to be sure, but with a dreamers twist, the dream of an artist realized. Sounds like perfection to me.
The road was not a straight shot. Cynthia had a variety of positions and opportunities, sort of side streets and curves (twists in the thread,) on the road to Cynthia Treen studios. Working for Dosa Inc. in Los Angeles brought exposure to textiles from around the globe and great connections. One of those connections led to Martha Stewart. Cynthia was a stylist for Martha Stewart Living, a designer for Martha by mail and regularly appeared in the magazine and on the television show. In 2006 Cynthia wrote "Last Minute Fabric Gifts" published by Steward, Tabori and Chang. A charming book packed with equally charming hand made gift ideas.
I don't think anyone's road is a straight shot, but the road of an artist tends to be especially curvy. Cynthia has been a producer on PBS, worked on films (Union IATSE) and accepted private commissions for quilts and blankets. What's the future going to bring?
"Right now I'm focusing on growing and developing the Threadfollower line of sewing and craft kits. In the future I would love to explore children's book illustration and see where that takes me. I think it would be a natural progression from the kits and craft development and be profoundly enjoyable."
You can buy her charming kits at her online etsy shop: