Interview with Fiber Artist Lacy VanCourt of Die Trying
Lacy VanCourt is a multidisciplinary artist based in Austin, TX . In addition to her art making practice she and her husband are busy building their tiny hotel of vintage Spartan trailers and spending time with their tiny dog Pearl.
We've been collaborating with Lacy of Die Trying for the past five years on our chain-stitch embroidered bandanas. Once or twice a year we send a bundle of bandanas down to Texas for her to embellish with her antique chain stitch machine. We caught up with her recently to take a deeper dive into her process and inspirations. So queue up some Guy Clark on the radio and read on for a peek inside her studio and color filled life!
Can you tell us something about your formative years? Was there something in your childhood that started you down the path you're on now?
I found my creativity very young. In fact my earliest memories are of making things. As a child, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents on their ranch in west Texas. My grandmother painted western landscapes and was really into crafts and gardening. She taught me so much, and she always had some fun project for us to do together: Making paper, playing in the dirt, canning, crochet, sewing, painting. Those experiences really ignited my love for creating.
What is your creative background? Was fiber art always a part of this pursuit or something you arrived at through other artforms?
I went to art school for painting but have always had an interest and been drawn to fiber art and textiles. Over time I’ve discovered it’s just more in sync with my way of making. With painting, there is no end. you can erase and redo over and over and over again. With the tufting and the embroidery work you can only stitch so much and pull it out and redo. Eventually if you keep at it, the fabric will break down. It forces me to finish and move on. There’s also just something inherently playful about yarn. The texture and coziness of it. It’s so dynamic, varied and tactile. In my newer work I also love the added aspect of working more 3D.
I love to follow along with your various projects, from interior decorating, landscaping and exploring various fiber art mediums. What things are you currently working on?
My husband and I are l working on our vacation rental business, @thehoneysuckleroseatx. Our first two units are vintage spartan trailers we rehabilitated and we’re currently working on our 3rd unit, made out of an old grain silo. We’ve been working on this for the last 10 years along with renovating our house. I love making spaces and the fact that people can then enjoy and make memories in those spaces. It’s just extremely rewarding.
My newest creative obsession is tufting. I’m using the same tools that rug makers use and a variety of fibers to create larger scale wall hangings. It is insanely fun. You essentially are shooting yarn through a tool into a giant canvas. I’m really enjoying working in a new medium and a different scale than my embroidery work and I’m excited to continue experimenting with it.
Can you describe your visual language? What is the driving force behind your work and how does that inform what you do and how it looks in the end?
My visual language is pretty broad. I consider designing spaces, for instance picking a lamp, as much my visual language as making a wall hanging. But in a general sense it is all centered on color. I love colors, all the colors, and playing with how they interact. That is the basis for everything I create. Form comes into play as well, but ultimately, for me, its always just a vehicle for the color.
Tell us about your project Die Trying. How long have you been in business and how Die Trying evolved over the years? Was there an 'aha' moment when you knew you wanted to create a business around your craft?
I started Die Trying in 2016. It definitely was not an ‘aha’ moment and really began just as a desire to make a living from my craft. The goal was simply just …… can I make enough to survive on? My previous long term job was ending and I figured I’d give it a go. My husband and I were/are working on building short term vacation rentals on our property. So, the idea of having a flexible work situation so I could do both things was appealing.
The demand for chainstitch embroidery was pretty immediate and it allowed me to build an online following and hire help. It’s morphed and changed over the years. At one point I had a team of 5 people. Now we are back down to a team of two: myself, and my long time collaborator, Nikki Balderson; whose been working with me since the beginning.
I see Die Trying as an extension of my art practice, but also separate from it. It is a business, but I’m continually re-examining what I want that to be. There’s this idea that if you have a business you should be growing, expanding, saying yes to all the jobs…working 24/7. I tried that, and ended up extremely burnt out. I think it’s important to stop and think about what feels right to you and what is sustainable over time. For me, smaller and slower is better, more manageable, and allows me to have other creative pursuits.
Please tell us about the embroidery machines you work with? What is their history, and does that inform how you use them? How are the different from hand embroidery or modern digital embroidery?
Each DieTrying TX piece is created using the same hand operated vintage chainstitch machines that were used to create traditional western wear. While most embroidery today is computerized and mass produced, the work done on these vintage machines is hand done and made one piece at a time. Chainstitch embroidery machines started being manufactured around 1911. They use a handle below the machine to steer and essentially draw with stitches.
In addition to your beautiful work, I was also drawn to the name you chose “Die Trying”. Can you tell us about the name?
One of my favorite singer/songwriters Guy Clark has a song called Die Tryin’ and it's always really resonated with me and has become a kind of life motto. It’s really just the idea that life is going to end up the same way for all of us.. so you might as well get out there and try. Try new things, have dreams, go big. My simple plan is to just keep trying in all that I do.
When and how did you begin to work with Lindsey and Last Chance Textiles?
I hope I can visit you in your studio again someday, but over the last several years, we've had to work together, remotely. Can you describe the collaborative process? What were the crucial steps in development for you?
What I love about our collaboration is that your design is already established and beautifully done and my part is to just highlight and compliment some little details with color and embroidery. I appreciate that you pretty much let me have free reign in that area; although we have gone back and forth with various options deciding together on which one works best. It’s always been very fun and easy; which is a bonus for me! We also have a shared document where we can comment on various color combinations and the responses folks have to them; which has been very helpful.
Thank you for sharing your story with us! Beyond the LCT Collab, where can we keep up with you and how can we support you and your work?
You can follow me on the socials
and shop online at www.dietryingtx.com