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(Image courtesy of Warren Munzel).
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Artist of the Week: Warren Munzel

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at gmwynkoop@sbgtv.com. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? Do you work with other mediums?
I've been drawing and painting since 1958 but didn't start embroidering until about 1969. I also do collage work.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
Everything is connected, but I start out with my personal journals. At age 18 it was all cursive writing but then I started sketching in the journals and now I try to do one sketch per page with my cursive writing entries above or below the sketches. This warms me up for more drawing and eventually watercolors and acrylics. If I am astounded by a subject, I draw it on cloth and perform my style of complex embroidery. Then it is time to practice piano.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
Drawing, painting, and embroidery all compete for my time and attention and then I still need time to crochet! My life experience inspires me. But I am also amazed by the fiber art of Mexico, the Banjara embroidery of India, and remember the amazing embroidery studios in Hanoi, Vietnam. I am now studying a textbook about Muslim embroidery.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
I do observe nature but I'm captivated with human faces and figures. I look at the shapes and colors in my garden too. Still life subjects inspire me with their inert philosophy.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
I believe my embroidered jacket which is on my website is very important to me but I have a number of heavily embroidered quilts too.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
I was raised in a very conservative, religious environment and my education was for predominantly German-Americans. After 8th grade I went to a private all-boys boarding high school in another state so I was separated from my parents during those important formative years and learned to become my own parent. The theology was strict with threats of Hell to non-believers. After careful thought I realized that none of this could possibly be true. I became an atheist and in doing so my anxieties and self-loathing faded away and for the first time had happiness and a sense of quiet peace. But like any addiction, the drug (religion) persists within society around me. This dark life experience influences my art often in subtle ways. Oddly my way of life now as a reclusive artist is very similar to the life led by various orders of monks. It is just that my private "monastery" is atheist.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
Almost everyone is welcome to my home. One can look on my website but it is far better to come to my home and see what I've been doing. Embroidery is never as good in a photo as when you are holding it in your hands. So just call or e-mail me and arrange a fun visit. I have tea and coffee to drink while looking at what is hanging on my walls and then there are my quilts which tell stories. I have so much it is impossible to see it all.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
Present projects: Watercolors, hand-made cards, embroidered portraits, but I'm really enjoying the gifts I'm making. Anyone who visits me gets a little crocheted bag with a crocheted neck chain. It is worn like a necklace and inside is a phrase from my personal journals. This might change because I'm thinking that the next group of bags will contain miniature paintings. Close to the Winter Solstice I tend to give away little hand-embroidered birds.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
I love coffee. It is much better than Communion wine. My favorite restaurant is my kitchen and my favorite coffee is my coffee. I use whole beans, usually a French Roast, grind them and put them in a French Press. Then I pour the coffee in a pot and put in just a tiny bit of sugar, turmeric, clove, cinnamon, pepper, cacao. then when thoroughly mixed I add almond milk and I'm mentally transported to Oaxaca, Mexico.

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