Welcome to the Art of Chris Wills
Chris Wills was born on 17 September 1971, the youngest in the family with 2 older sisters. He was a quiet child who kept to himself, only walking at 18 months.
Not much was known about autism in the 70's so as a quiet, mostly non-verbal child his family thought initially that Chris might be deaf. He was officially diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old.
Although Chris wasn't a fan of having people in his personal space he showed a fascination with graphs, maps and charts at an early age, setting the stage for his extraordinary abilities as a needle artist today.
Cross stitchers know that things like colour recognition and counting ability are both essential requirements when it comes to cross stitch projects. Chris is considered to be on the severe end of the autism spectrum and is significantly limited in counting ability and colour recognition.
He uses his own unique way of interpreting counted cross stitch patterns by creating what appears to be randomly selected “markers'' which he stitches towards and away from in order to complete his project - which is entirely unheard of.
Before trying cross stitch, Chris was a very frustrated young man, unable to communicate in ways we take for granted every day, his family felt helpless and could see that he was very frustrated.
It was only when Chris saw Step Mum Gaylyn working on her cross stitch projects that he wanted to have a go. That was in 1994 and the rest is history.
A New Lease on Life
Cross stitch has given Chris a completely new lease on life, he is able to express himself through needle art and his love of graphs.
Gaylyn says "Chris knows people love to look at his needlework and of course it makes him feel very special so he is always happy to show it off. He seems confused that people may not know what the picture is when he shows them the symbols only. He seems to think that is much more accurate than the actual picture of what he is doing. So even when he has done only a small section he thinks we should know what it is. He sure does"
From Picture to Pattern
The custom artwork Chris creates is no small feat. Special software is used to convert an image or photograph into a pixelated graph for Chris to work from. Gaylyn then prepares a corresponding colour "key chart" for him to refer to so he can match the numbers on the graph to the thread colours. He works tirelessly, almost obsessively with a single artwork until it is complete - each one being precision perfect, having never missed a stitch.
A Special Journey
The Spectrum Cross Stitch website was created to raise awareness around what is possible and to showcase Chris' incredible talent and beautiful work. To show other families struggling along their individual journeys that Autism can be viewed as someone having extraordinary abilities, rather than just being labelled disabled.
Gaylyn's advice to anyone wanting to introduce needle art to the Autistic person in their life is to be patient and to let them make the approach and the rest will come.