Subscribe for 99 cents

Designer • Kristen Gula

Age • 29

Home • Swansea

Family • Danny, married 5 years; son James, 3; daughter Rosalynn, 4;  four pet chickens

What she sells • Modern hand embroidery on rings and jewelry as well as pattern packs, and soon a book of her patterns and designs.

How to buy • $10 to $150; subscriptions to pattern of the month exclusives available

Two weeks before her wedding, someone gave Kristen Gula a hand embroidery kit as a gift and a stress-relief tool. Soon she was out of a job as a copy editor for an online publication in Chicago and pregnant. In an effort to be a stay-at-home mom, she began her journey into hand embroidery. At first for fun, then at the request of friends and friends of friends making requests for custom orders.

Hand embroidery abounds, but it’s largely kitsch with hipster-friendly styles or modern phrases rendered in stitch for laughs. She’s got a few of those such as “the hustle is real,” and a tribute to Carrie Fisher that includes a quote, “I’m very sane about how crazy I am.” But Gula’s specialty is how she renders florals in a realistic painterly style. Her company name Gulush is a combination of her last name and lush, because she describes her style as “bountiful and sophisticated.”

Flower power • “When I first started, my flowers were just like random flowers you’d draw to imply a flower. I’d pick random colors, and they just didn’t look like real flowers,” Gula said. It worked as embroidery, but it wasn’t much of a challenge, she said. After she got a couple of requests for specific florals like a white anemone wrapped with wheat, she became obsessed with researching the actual look of florals to render them in modern stitch styles. Her artistic designs weren’t typical of the genre, and she started getting requests for her patterns. “One of my dream jobs was becoming a floral designer, so this is great because I can arrange flowers that never die,” Gula said.

Instagram famousShe’s got 71,000 followers and counting on the social media platform that have been fueling her sales and now her current project to complete a book with F&W Media International out of London. The publication will include details on how to re-create about 200 different types of flowers. “I used to do about 70 items a month. That was crazy,” Gula said. “Now this month, I’ve only been working on two custom projects because of the book deadline” (it’s due in October and will be available for sale by June 2018). That means she’ll be done in time to work on a number of items to package for Christmas. “But not 70 a month; that was ridiculous.”

Road work • “I have always been artistic. I like to draw and do watercolors, but you can’t take that with you,” Gula said. “There’s something about the way a needle passes through fabric, I love it … and it’s not messy like other art forms. You can take it anywhere.”

Workshop tour • Gula’s taught workshops at Bowood Farms nursery on Olive Street as well as been invited to teach do-it-yourself classes in Los Angeles. Currently, she’s considering a series of video tutorials but says she needs to balance taking advantage of interest in hand embroidery and staying sane. “I don’t know what the future holds because even this year, I’ve been surprised by the interest,” Gula said. “But I don’t want to get too busy, to the point where I don’t enjoy it. I mean embroidery has been around for hundreds of years, so maybe this isn’t a trend necessarily. Maybe this trend never ends. I hope so.”

Debra D. Bass is a Retail Columnist.