About two and a half years ago, painter and children’s book illustrator Lesia Sochor of Brooks took on the kind of sad task many face as parents age. When she put her hands to that task, she discovered something that has inspired an ongoing body of work, which she will share Monday, June 28 in both an Artists Lecture at Waterfall Arts Belfast and an exhibition at Rockland’s Caldbeck Gallery.

“My mother-in-law was ill and her house was going to be sold,” Sochor said. “My task was to disassemble the bureau. Unbeknownst to anyone, it contained her sewing drawer. I was completely overwhelmed … I knew this had to be the next series.”

Seeing her mother-in-law’s drawer, filled with colorful spools of thread and other sewing implements, brought up memories of Sochor’s own mother.

“She was a seamstress, sewed all of my sister’s and all of my clothes until I was 12,” Sochor said. “I was struck by the connection.”

After sorting through the drawer, Sochor said, she took what was allotted to her and soon created the first in her Threads series of oil paintings of thread spools. The painting is titled “Betty” in honor of her mother-in-law.

“It’s the mother of all the future paintings,” said Sochor.

The first works in the series were done to honor the past and the artist’s female ancestors, but the subject soon brought her back to the present “because my daughter sews.” At her slide talk, a free event that will begin at 7 p.m. Monday, June 28 at Waterfall Arts Belfast at 256 High St., Sochor will share how the series began and where it has taken her.

“I’m always fascinated in how an idea forms, evolves and grows in an artist’s work … my painting has always been inspired by my surroundings or events occurring in the various chapters of my life,” she said.

In the case of Threads, the paintings also began to be inspired by chapters in other people’s lives. When Sochor showed a series-within-the-series of small paintings at Åarhus Gallery, viewers were moved to share their own sewing-related family stories. In one of Sochor’s most recent paintings, “Stories,” some of these stories appear within the wound thread. One is: “My father was a tailor for 70 years and thread was his medium. He created beautiful leather and cloth garments. He died last year and was buried with scissors in pocket.”

“It’s such a humble, utilitarian image and yet people see them and they spark memories and stories,” said Sochor.

What began as a personal exploration of her female ancestry evolved to include both genders and all of humanity “and how connected we all are, sewn into the fabric of the world by a common thread.”

Sochor said she uses the image of a spool of thread as literal depiction — much larger in scale than people are used to looking at it — and as a metaphor. A recent Threads painting of an unraveling spool of pink thread serves as a protest of war.

“It’s titled ‘I’m not fighting, I’m sewing.’ Needles are my weapons,” said Sochor.

Several of the paintings stack spools on spools like a totem pole. One is dedicated to the artist’s mother, while another honors the mill workers of Maine. Part of the natural curiosity of exploring her subject led Sochor to research its history.

“Did you know the American Thread Company operated for 70 years in Milo, Maine? They produced over three billion spools, using 10,000 cords of wood,” Sochor said.

Education also comes naturally to Sochor, who has taught art to people of all ages publicly and privately for years and currently teaches at Merryspring in Camden and Waterfall Arts. Every spring, she offers workshops in another hands-on endeavor that connects her with her ancestry — pysanka, the Ukrainian art of decorating eggs using wax and dye. The mini series of Threads paintings she showed at Åarhus reflected on American “Home Ec” classes of the 1950s and ’60s, with a color scheme inspired by those times.

“The history is amazing to me,” said Sochor. “There’s the necessity and practicality of sewing, but then there’s the fashion aspect, the poverty aspect, the labor aspect — it’s all so inspiring to me.”

These are still relatively early days as far as Threads being seen by the public. Sochor’s watercolor and oil paintings have been shown in galleries and institutions throughout the state including the Baridoff Galleries, Mathias Fine Art, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, the Farnsworth Art Museum, the Gilley Museum, the University of Southern Maine, the Maine State House, and the Ellsworth, Bangor and Belfast libraries. Because the subject of Threads is so rich with context, Sochor, a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art, is unsure when the series will end.

“I’ll keep going until everything I’m going to say is said — or I can’t bear to paint another spool of thread,” she said.

In part, she said, the Thread paintings honor an icon from the past. The current technology is chipping away at tactile processes, and the simple task of sewing on a button is all but forgotten.

“I think people want to use their hands; they want to start something and work on it and finish it,” she said. “There’s a respect for the process that makes you feel so good when you’re done.”

Sochor’s Thread paintings will remain on view through July 17 at the Caldbeck Gallery at 12 Elm St. in Rockland; the public is invited to a reception Wednesday, June 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information about the Monday, June 28 talk at Waterfall Arts Belfast, visit waterfallarts.org or call 338-2222.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.