photos and story by John Bonath
Perry Pearce’s pop-up studio might appear in his living room one day and his sun-room the next. Such is the advantage of a portable loom. But do not be fooled by his small working space, the cubic space he occupies is filled with a very dense with concentrated work energy. On a productive day, he might finish four square inches of needlepoint, that’s 144 stitches per square inch. On the average, a 32”x 40” needlepoint usually takes him about a year and a half to complete.
Forty years ago, Perry and his wife, Bradley, were living in Santa Fe when he took up needlepoint as a means of finding calm and solitude outside of his high-stress job as an attorney. While in Santa Fe, he became enamored with all the beautiful Navajo weavings that he would run across. Inspired by his study of Navajo design, he began employing these aesthetics into his own needlepoint.
Sixteen years ago, he relocated to Denver for his job and began his current series of Navajo inspired needlepoints. Now retired, his goal is to produce seven of these Navajo needlepoints as a legacy for each of his seven grandchildren to remember him by.
Perry uses a cross-stitch computer program by Ursa software to covert his designs into a mesh grid and print them out. (This software can also interpret a photographic image for needlepoint.) The program analyzes his sketches and creates diagrams that can be assigned any number of mesh holes per square inch. Counting each row of stitch holes, Perry manually transfers the printed diagram to the canvas with acrylic paint and markers. The canvas is then used as the mesh scaffolding onto which he stitches his yarn.
Perry feels fortunate to have discovered the materials produced by Restoration Yarns for his needlepoint projects. These un-dyed shades are spun from the fleece of Churro and Rambouillet sheep, breeds originally introduced by Spanish settlers to a region that became the American Southwest. Perry finds this wool perfect for his needlepoint projects because it has the same color and tone as is found in the traditional weavings he bases his designs on. The fleeces come in a beautiful range of natural browns, tans, beiges, and white that can be blended to make an even greater range of natural sheep colors.
In his next needlepoints, Perry will be incorporating Navajo designs from the Two Gray Hills style. Two Gray Hills was a trading post from 1910 that encouraged Navajo weaving for the trading market from which some distinctive Navajo design styles emerged. Two Grey Hills rugs are best known for their exclusive use of only natural wool colors, the different browns and greys being produced in the carding of the wool. Two Gray Hills designs have a reputation for their artistically complicated designs and fine hand-spun wool.
Perry loves having the ability to create with the same materials as was used 100 years ago and feels it imbues his work with a very special feeling to look at when hanging on the wall. When the textile is completed, it is stretched onto stretcher strips for final presentation by Robert Mann Rugs of Denver, Colorado.