Bismarck resident takes top amateur prize in Art is Ageless competition

Hele Kripplaben with her cross stitch "Angels Lost Wing."Cross-stitch is painstaking work. Even a simple pattern can call for dozens of colors of threads, carefully sewn into a coherent and often beautiful image.

It took Helen Kripplaben of Bismarck, Mo., 11 months to complete a pattern that caught her eye in a cross-stitch catalog — however, many have asked if it’s a picture of her daughter or a loved one. Kripplaben named it “Angel’s Lost Wing” and entered the piece in the Art is Ageless® competition this spring at Farmington Presbyterian Manor.

All those hours of work have paid off. Kripplaben’s piece won Best in Show, amateur division, in the system-wide Art is Ageless masterpiece level competition. Her work rose to the top among more than 100 entries from 18 Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America communities in Kansas and Missouri. Artwork by more than 50 artists age 65 and older will be featured in the 2016 Art is Ageless calendar and note cards.

Kripplaben became eligible for the masterpiece level of the contest when “Angel’s Lost Wing” won the needlework category at the local level. She also took the People’s Choice award, and she’s only been doing cross-stitch for about eight years.

“I retired in 2007, and I wanted to do something. I came across the cross stitch,” Kripplaben said. “I had gotten little things to see if I could do them. Then, from the little things, it just kind of grew.”

She started on patterns for fabric with a low thread count per inch, then worked her way up to more complex designs. Kripplaben said she used to enjoy drawing, but now needlework appeals to her more — partly because she can choose from a variety of patterns, rather than coming up with a subject on her own.

This isn’t Kripplaben’s first Art is Ageless win. In 2011, her piece “Pleasures of Winter” took first place in Needlework at the local level. Now she’s working on a half-stitch pattern of two cardinals on a mailbox that calls for nearly 90 colors.

“I’m learning different ways to do things. I got my friend hooked on it too. But I’d be a bad teacher,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t think I have the patience for that.”

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