Stitching by naomi
December 01, 2020

Featured artist: stitching by naomi

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Naomi Ghafoor.

favourite type of dog?

I love all dogs, but my all-time favorites are miniature dachshunds. I’ve been obsessed with them for years after meeting one in particular who I fell in love with, and now I have my own (a chocolate dappled pup called Rupert) I can’t imagine ever owning any other breed! They are so sassy and have such funny little characters and are so incredibly loyal and loving.

what do you do?

I am currently studying a bachelor’s degree in Psychology through The Open University which I’m thoroughly enjoying, and I run my stitching business alongside that. I’ve worked in a variety of different sectors and am hoping to eventually work in a role where I can combine my love of animals with my passion towards improving mental wellbeing.

when did you start stitching by naomi?

I started Stitching by Naomi in June 2020. At the start of lockdown back in March I thought it would be a good idea to teach myself something creative to occupy my mind in these strange, unprecedented times. I’ve always been quite a creative person - I studied Photography A Level a few years back, and have always really enjoyed creative writing. A family friend has done cross stitch for years, and she’s the one who introduced me to sewing. Every week she’d drop off little packages with threads, aida fabric and some designs, which really kickstarted my passion. Once I started using Instagram to document my work, I saw a lot of artists doing embroidery – although it looked a lot harder than cross stitch, I decided to give it a go, and instantly was hooked. I taught myself primarily through YouTube videos and a LOT of trial and error but once I mastered the basics it was pretty straightforward. I made a few pieces as gifts for friends and family, but a few followers and family friends asked to buy pieces and it sort of blew up from there. I’ve made such a variety of different pieces and plan on expanding the business even further and opening an Etsy store in the new year.

why do you stitch dogs specifically?

My whole life pretty much revolves around dogs; such a massive part of my time is spent with Rupert or in the park meeting people with other dogs, so it seemed only fair that dogs would be the center of my artwork. After making my first couple of dog tote bags I was asked to do a few commission pieces and I really enjoyed using different threading techniques to create the furry textures, and of course the final product!

what work do you most enjoy doing?

I enjoy making animals – mostly dogs and cats – and doing wording. I am a big advocate for mental health and have used my stitching skills to spread awareness of mental health difficulties, as well as to create positive phrases and images. Combining my two key interests is something I’m really grateful I get to do. Whilst I primarily stitch on tote bags, I also enjoy stitching on decorative hoops and on clothing.

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biggest source of inspiration?

As cliché as it sounds, my biggest source of inspiration is the things I come across in my day-to-day life, and things that I enjoy. I also get a lot of inspiration and keep up to date on trends and styles from the accounts I follow on Instagram – it’s refreshing to see social media have such a positive impact. I follow a load of amazingly talented creators and seeing the content other people post definitely drives me to better myself and try different techniques.

what piece have you created that you are most proud of?

I’m really proud of a lot of pieces I’ve made, all for different reasons, but I’d say the piece I am most proud of is a Springer Spaniel commissioned tote I made for a friend of his dog, Jago. It was really tricky using both different stitching techniques and a variety of different colours to create contouring and highlights, but the finished product looked great and I received a lot of positive feedback.

is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

I’ve always been quite introverted and focused on work which definitely helps, but it can get quite lonely, especially when you have nobody to bounce ideas off of; but as I mentioned, social media has introduced me to a lot of creators and I feel quite comfortable reaching out to others if I have questions or want some feedback. I also make sure I balance my time well – it’s easy to get so absorbed in the work and spend hours crafting away but I’ve found planning out my days and taking breaks to get some fresh air, have some food and connect with other people really helps to have some regularity. Also, I’m never entirely alone – Rupert is always nearby or on my lap and provides constant cuddles and affection!

how do you look after your mental health?

One thing I’ve found incredibly beneficial for my mental health is owning Rupert; he’s added a whole new dimension of love and contentment that I never even knew existed. Before owning him I spent so much time on my own which had a really negative impact on my mental health, but since having him I’ve had a constant companion and have really pushed myself to try new things and explore new places, to give him the happiest little life possible. Another thing that really helps me when looking after my mental health is sticking to a routine. This has proven to be particularly difficult in lockdown, but I find sticking to the same schedule really helps me feel balanced and offers a lot of stability. Factoring in things that I like into my daily routine – going for a long walk, connecting with friends, working on embroidery and allowing myself time to rest are things that make me feel good and help improve my wellbeing.

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what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given is to focus on doing things that I enjoy. This can be applied to so many elements of life, from day-to-day living to creating work I am proud of. It’s so easy to get sucked into what other people are doing and to try and mirror how others act which often results in unhappiness and discontent. Do what you enjoy and you’ll feel a massive, positive difference. I’ve really found that doing what I want in terms of my artwork has allowed me to create a unique sense of style, and I enjoy being creative and trying different things rather than sticking to rigid norms.

what advice would you give to aspiring creatives?

Honestly, I’d say bite the bullet and do whatever it is. For the first few months when I was teaching myself embroidery I toyed with the idea of selling pieces but worried whether it would be successful or whether I’d be wasting time and resources. Having the courage to make that move was a huge step out of my comfort zone but so exhilarating, and made all the anxiety worthwhile.

what dog breed most resembles you and why?

People say that dogs and their owners have a lot in common and I definitely agree – I share a lot of the same characteristics as Rupert. Whilst I may not be as bold and vocal, I am definitely loyal, affectionate, and determined to not shy away from things that feel bigger than me.

why are you interested in partnering with paws in work?

As mentioned earlier, having Rupert has worked wonders for my mental health, and I’m a firm believer that animals really help improve wellbeing and add so much to people’s lives. In this modern day and age people face so many challenges and undergo so much stress, and I truly think that being able to spend some time around animals adds calmness and contentment, things that are so important. Paws in Work really is a genius concept and is so unique to most other companies, and I totally agree with the ethos and values. Partnering with somewhere that is so passionate about the wellbeing of both humans and animals is a no-brainer for me!

Click here for more of Naomi’s work.

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