Tools & Talismans #17 — Orna Willis

T&T-#17-Orna-Willis.jpg

I am in love with Orna Willis’ work—she is a master artisan in the world of needlework. She’s taken a craft that many people think of as “old-fashioned” and made it the hippest, coolest most luscious expression of color, texture, shape and wearability. Painting her skeins of embroidery thread, and her gold plated needle, her vials of beads and her work hammer was a total joy, and it made me dream of needlepoint designs again.

I am: A Taster of Color. I believe that “presentation” sets the tone of our aesthetic journey.  I love to make things look beautiful, the more mundane the objects, the more I search for just the right way to make them hopelessly appealing. Hence my addiction with glass vials, with perfect boxes, with a custom hanging system for all my fibers, (and fibers, and fibers). 

A little notebook for jotting down lists, an array of lip-glosses for lips that need a little perking up, and my mini business cards that introduce me visually, these are always with me.  Sumptuous fibers to drool over, along with my gold plated needles that are, to me, the epitome of indulgence and Ultrasuede, one of man’s great contributions to our world; these are what I make my art with.

Tools make me happy, and with my little hammer I form a sheet of metal into an object, what wonder! And then there is the gold bracelet that my grandmother gave me when I was born, with my name beautifully engraved in Hebrew letters. This is where I came from; all the others are where I’m going.  When you don’t know where you came from, the journey forward will be very poorly lit.

Orna Willis, needlepoint and jewelry designer


Tools & Talismans is a personal painting project where I’m documenting {in watercolor} the tools and talismans of 100 different women — creators and healers, thinkers and makers, wordsmiths and visionaries. Join me for a year of Tools & Talismans — a new painting will post every Wednesday.