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  • Writer's pictureEnchanted Conversation

Enchanted Creators: The Embroidery Magic of Kay Williams at Heart of Thistle and Clover



Needlework has long been associated with female storytelling, and Kay Williams, the embroidery artist behind Heart of Thistle and Clover, has created an online company “where embroidered wonders tell stories of resilience and delicate beauty.” A self-taught herbalist inspired by nature, folklore, and fairy tale, Kay creates and sells handmade pendants and mini-frames that express her sensitivity and help her connect with kindred spirits. Read on to learn more about Kay and her enchanted embroidery!



Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and when you first began creating with embroidery and herbs. What drew you to this type of art? What is your artistic process when creating something new?

 

My maternal grandmother was an exceptional quilter. My mother practiced sewing and quilting before she became a nurse. I am drawn to domestic, powerful, slow, and intentional avenues of self-expression that hold love, care, and magic. In a world full of fast capitalism and next day deliveries, I want to lean into projects that exude their own characteristics. I want to create pieces that fully convey the love and energy that it took to make them.

 

Embroidery found its way into my life unexpectedly, starting with small tattoo-inspired details on vintage resells while working for friends. What began as simple designs on jeans evolved into intricate hearts stitched onto rich velvet that I created just for myself. Venturing into more delicate territory, I began crafting pendants and mini-frames with a shift towards a softer, heartfelt aesthetic. Life led me away from my embroidery for a while, but this past October, I used my creative roots to help me get back to myself after a period of feeling lost. The sacred heart imagery, a beacon through dark times, drew me back. Nurturing my sensitive heart, I channeled my experiences into art, little knowing how much my work would resonate with others.

 

The inspiration for my art is simply anything I feel drawn to that has helped me embrace my sensitive soul. I am an avid reader of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. She writes about ancient female archetypes that have been forgotten, withheld, and even rewritten. These archetypes hold the secrets we need to navigate this life. Most of these secrets have been passed down in oral tradition via folklore and stories, and I often contemplate them as I walk my own creative path.



Your website features both Embroidery Frames and Protection Pockets, embroidered pins designed to carry crystals, talismans, and notes of affirmation. What first inspired you to create these products?  

 

Overall, I wanted to make a physical representation of something that could literally cover my heart and help remind me to guard it. All through my life I have been told I am both too sensitive and too much; I cry too much and I feel too much. My artistic journey has taught me that my sensitivity isn’t a weakness. It is a strength that culture and society wants to suppress.

 

I wanted to make something that helped others like me. I wanted to create something beautiful, not only through my art, but by building a community of heart-forward folks.



Your newest Protection Pocket is a reproduction of Baba Yaga’s house, complete with chicken feet! What drew you to use Baba Yaga as an inspiration for your art? Why might Baba Yaga’s house act as a source of protection for those who wear your creations? 

 

I have been an admirer of Baba Yaga since I first read about her in Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ book, Women Who Run With The Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. I immediately loved that Baba Yaga came across as a villain, yet she actually was benevolent. Growing up in a society that wants women to be small, docile, young, beautiful, and compliant, Baba Yaga is an archetype that emboldens me to break those holds. She is the wise witch of the woods, powerful, feared, and respected because she demands it. She does what she wants and does not give passersby the answers they are seeking just because they ask. She is a grumpy mentor who challenges you to find answers within. This is the woman I aspire to be, and I hope to foster that through my work. I ask her to protect me through that trip to the underworld. I am inspired by the audience that resonates with Baba Yaga’s teachings and by those who see her house as a representation of her protection.



Are you inspired by any other fairy tales or folklore? What is your favorite fairy tale narrative or fairy tale character and why?  

 

I am constantly inspired by folklore and immerse myself into finding stories of the old ways. Currently I am fascinated by Artemis and the plants associated with her like Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). Artemis is the goddess of the hunt, the moon, wilderness, wild animals and the care of children and mothers. It’s no surprise that I am drawn to her protective qualities. 

 

A more traditional fairytale that I love is “Rapunzel.” Some of the older variants begin with a woman who longs for a child and is overcome with the desire to eat lamb’s lettuce or rampion (another name for rapunzel). Rapunzel is then born, and, as payment for stealing from the sorceress’s garden, Rapunzel’s parents must turn their child over to a sorceress who locks her away from the world. The ending I most adore features a prince blindly wandering the woods for years before finally hearing his beloved’s voice. Rapunzel’s tears cure his blindness. There is something to be said about the trials and tribulations of “Rapunzel” and how if you follow your heart, it will never lead you away from your true desires, no matter how difficult the circumstances.



Your company is “inspired by flora, fauna and matters of the heart”, and many of your designs feature hearts and flowers. How did you come up with the name of your company? Why do hearts and flowers recur as images in your work? How are flowers and herbs representative of and related to the human condition? 

 

A long time ago I was enamored by the song, “At Last” by Etta James and the line, “My heart was wrapped up in clover.” I felt such a kinship to that. Clover is tender, green, soft, and loving. It is a nourishing plant, but it is so common that one no one really pays attention to it. That felt and still often feels like my heart. I am quick to love and easily hurt. On the other side of that is my affinity to thistle. Celtic cultures believed the thistle to be protective, and yet, this thorny weed is exquisite when it flowers. Thistle is another common plant that teaches me to guard my tender heart so I can continue to stay open. And that is how the name of my shop, Heart of Thistle and Clover was born.

 

I have been drawn to plants and have been creating a relationship with them since I was a child running and playing in the meadow and woods of our family farm. This world needs people who are still in awe of this earth and what nature can be for us. I hope that by crafting functional art that incorporates a vehicle for herbs and helps us learn about them, more folks will see that plants can be our greatest support and healers during difficult times. 




You can follow Kay on Instagram and TikTok to stay up to date on her latest projects and products. We know that you will love her enchanted embroidery and herbal magic as much as we do!


Kelly Jarvis works as the Assistant Editor for The Fairy Tale Magazine. Her poetry has been featured or is forthcoming in Blue Heron Review, Mermaids Monthly, Eternal Haunted Summer, Forget Me Not Press, A Moon of One’s Own, The Magic of Us, and Corvid Queen. Her short fiction has appeared in The Chamber Magazine and the World Weaver Press Anthology Mothers of Enchantment: New Tales of Fairy Godmothers. She can be found at https://kellyjarviswriter.com/

 

 

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