Well Being

Profile: Lady Shuttlemaker Sherry Pence

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Today's profile is of ceramic artist, dyer, designer, author and tatter extraordinaire, Sherry Pence, AKA, Lady Shuttlemaker.

photo copyright Sherry Pence, used with permission

photo copyright Sherry Pence, used with permission

I asked Sherry a bunch of questions, and she has graciously answered them for me.

The photos are all Sherry's and she has given me permission to include them in this profile.

I began by asking Sherry where she lives:

I currently live in Idaho, but that may change soon. I am a military spouse and we move a LOT; we go where our country tells us to at any given moment. We have moved an average of once per year for the last 10 years. Idaho has been my favorite place to live thus far, so I plan to make the most out of my stay in this great State.

1.  You are well known for the beautiful threads that you dye and the unique tatting shuttles that you make. Can you tell us a little about the process of how you design your threads and shuttles?

My ceramic shuttles came first. You see, I am a studio potter by day. I have been a tatter since the age of 12. As a tatting shuttle collector, studio potter and avid tatter I had the idea one day to combine my love of the three and make ceramic tatting shuttles. After a frustrating year of one failure after another, I had successfully produced a product that was worthy enough to send out to several tatters to be tested.

Since I often get this question in reference to my shuttles I made a slide show of the process:


I cannot talk about “Hand Dyed Threads”, (known in the tatting community as HDT; something which many tatters get hopelessly addicted to) without referencing the very talented Marilee Rockley aka “YarnPlayer”. She was the first to start dyeing threads specifically for tatting and was my inspiration to start dyeing myself. I began as a customer of hers and of course became hopelessly addicted myself. I kept asking her to custom dye colorways for me and I became too impatient to wait for my thread to arrive in the mail. So I started dyeing skeins for myself. It was such a natural fit into my artistic life and routine, that with Marilee’s blessing, I started to sell skeins along with my ceramic shuttles. Thereafter, I became the second tatting HDT supplier. With some ideas of my own and the support of the tatting community, HDT has kind of taken over my life. LOL sometimes I feel like a drug dealer who is addicted to her own product.

2. Do you have a favorite style of shuttle to design and make?

I make post style shuttles; small ones, big ones, shuttles with pic tips, double decker shuttles, whatever fuels my fancy. Although I don’t have a favorite, I do enjoy making the “Diane” shuttle. It is one of my most regal shuttles. They are a bit more challenging to make than the others, and I never tire of looking at them. link to-diane-shuttle

photo copyright Sherry Pence, used with permission

photo copyright Sherry Pence, used with permission

3. What aspect of being a designer and artisan is most challenging to you?

I think dealing with rejection is the hardest part of putting oneself “out there”. I design and create because I believe in it and I am driven to do it. It cannot matter to me what anyone else thinks. I cannot be hindered by rules and tradition. I live “outside the box”. I have to trust my instincts, be patient and believe that there is an ultimate reason that I pour my whole heart into what I do.

4. What part of being a designer and artisan is the most rewarding to you?

The most rewarding element of my work is the “aha” moment when I discover a solution to a design problem that has been alluding me for months. I thrive on puzzles and challenges, and there are certainly many to be found in the ever growing and changing world of tatting.

5. How long have you been designing and crafting shuttles and threads professionally?

I finally went public with my shuttles in January of 2007 not including the year of research and development beforehand. I added HDT to my Etsy shop in November of 2007 and then the hand dyed silk was added a little over one year ago in the summer of 2008.

6. What triggers your creativity?  What is most inspiring to you?

It may sound trite, but I am heavily inspired by nature, especially the detail of things, all of which can be translated into tatting. Design challenges really trigger my creativity. I’ll start with an idea and I will not stop until I have a satisfactory result. No matter how long a problem may take I am relentless in my pursuit of finding a solution.

7.  Is tatting the only medium that you design in, or do you design other things, too?

I have been a creative soul ever since I can remember. If I look back on my life, I recognize that I was creative in everything I attempted, it is my nature. Whatever I happen to set my mind to at the moment I will try to somehow make it new or different. I also enjoy photography, writing, painting, just to name a few, in addition to ceramics and tatting.

8.  What is your favorite way of getting your designs out into the world?

Before the internet became conducive to what I do, I would show my work in art galleries and art shows across the U.S. But now I exclusively use the internet to get myself and my work “out there”. Etsy.com and Blogger.com have been an utter “Godsends” to my workflow.

9. Does where you live influence your work in any way?

Although I can’t pinpoint anything specific, I am positive that I am influenced by my surroundings. In the last decade I have lived in the Deep South, the Midwest and now the Pacific Northwest. I just moved back to the United States after a year long tour in South Korea. I have gained wide and varied experiences which I know has to manifest through my work in some way.

10. Where can people buy your work?



11. Do you maintain a blog? If so, what is it's url?

Yes I have a very active blog with tatting tutorials, free patterns and links to just about every tatting site out there. It can be found at Lady Shuttle Maker's Blog

12. Do you have a tatting community that influences you and is important to you? (online or ‘real life').  Is it important to you to be in touch with your peers?

I have no one in “real” life that I can tat with so the online tatting community is extremely important to me; I consider them family. With the recent explosion of interest in tatting, new tatting blogs and sites are popping up everywhere, which is very exciting to see. We, as a tatting community, are rapidly growing, so I am not sure how long we can hang on to that “personal” element which translates into how helpful we are to one another. But for now, and as long as I can, I will keep my online tatting friends close to my heart.

photo copyright Sherry Pence, used with permission

photo copyright Sherry Pence, used with permission

13. Do you have an all time favorite piece that you designed?

Hmmm…I have many favorites and they are constantly changing. My current favorite is a butterfly design which will be one of many new patterns featured in my upcoming book “The Exquisite Collection of Tatted Butterflies II”. Here is a sneak peak: Butterfly Book

photo copyright Sherry Pence, used with permission

photo copyright Sherry Pence, used with permission

14. Is there a design that has ever flumoxed you and just refused to work out?

Oh yes, “Royal Diadem” took me 6 months to design. I wanted it to be perfect, lie flat, be continuously tatted, have repeating harmonious themes and include several advanced tatting techniques. I took this design back to the drawing board a multitude of times. But in the end my persistence won out and now the pattern is a book in and of itself

15. Is there anything that I have missed that you would like to share with the readers of Hankering for Yarn?

Don’t be afraid to put yourself “out there”; to share yourself and your ideas. Whatever you give will come back to you tenfold and is well worth the effort in the end. Don’t take yourself too seriously; a good sense of humor is a must! If you can’t laugh at yourself from time to time then what is the point? Try to enjoy every minute of life while you can; reach out and grasp all the precious moments before they pass you by.

Thank you so much, Sherry! I wish you the greatest of ongoing successes!