Saturday, April 27, 2013

Occupational hazards of the stitcher

I find that if I get engrossed in stitching, particularly the goldwork which is amazingly engrossing, more so than any other artform I've been involved in, I stitch on and on, and seem to freeze in one position while I think about stitches and threads and placement and needles and light, and when I realize I did that, it's too late.  

I have a stiff back, and a stiff left hand, oddly, the holding one not the stitching one, and a stiff neck, and I'm left wondering if the RSN has a special course in exercises to avert stitching injury!

Anyway, back at the frame, the current piece is moving on and I've learned umpteen things about gold thread and how to handle and choose it and what it looks like on the fabric, often not at all how I expected.  This is for me the best way of all to learn, the empirical method, says she grandly.  In other words, try this, if it doesn't work, try that...

And I thought you might like to see a bit of the design process I'm using for my next goldwork on linen piece, all lined up to get to after the current work is done.  

I had a drawing from a series I made years ago, freeform line and wash, which I traced with a heavy marker, so that the original drawing is unchanged, put the tracing on the back of the framed -up piece of green linen, and drew it on the front with a fine point Pilot pen. This worked very well on the white piece, so I think it will work on this, too.  the fine line means that it vanishes under the threads, and the pen means you don't get it migrating onto the thread as you pull it through.

Anyway, this is where I am with the next goldwork piece.  In the studio I have a piece of cheesecloth ready to stretch onto a much bigger frame for a piece further down the road, using pulled thread, and possibly another of these abstract drawings as the model for the design.

My stitching group has an exhibit coming up in the fall, and I'm hoping to have a couple of showable pieces to put into it.   I also think that the drawing from the green linen piece could be a companion to the stitched version, along the lines of the dual medium pieces I've been doing.

The green linen is from a thrift store skirt!  many sizes too large for me, there's a lot of good linen in it, in a nice soft color.  Same place I got the white linen blouse which is now the base of my current work.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mixed media stitchery

Here are a couple of small pieces I stitched this year, now framed in shadowboxes and in place on the wall. They'll probably be part of a group exhibit the needlers are putting on in the fall. I painted the backgrounds inside the box, and the frames themselves, because they were stark black and ew, but the size was right. Because of the glass, I had to shoot from the side,hence the distortion, but in rl they are dead square. Not my favorite design shape, but them's the breaks.

And the goldwork is coming along, new learning with practically every stitch, and two of the completed motifs I stabilized on the back by cutting the metallic threads off short and putting a tiny dab of white glue on the end. I already have a ton of ideas for the next and the next....and I am definitely going to involve cheesecloth at some point in some piece, and pulled work, and goldwork, and padding and stop me before I collapse of overstitchery.

 the main thing I need is to sharpen my stitching skills, but you can only do that by doing it. The sunny weather today is very kind to stitching, so this is a great summer project.

You can see these better if you click on them.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Goldwork 101 School is Open

So the book on goldwork arrived, and I studied it all excited and found it was just as good as I remembered from briefly seeing it on the convent trip recently.  So I cut out a nice piece of Belgian linen from a thrift store blouse,  framed it up, and made my design (I used a fine point Pilot pen, which didn't bleed, this is good), and found that my embroidery guild's stash has, so exciting again, a variety of gold threads,members for the use of.

Lovely time at stitch in meeting last night,exploring the stash and choosing a few likely thread candidates, and drawing my design on the framed up linen.  Then today I'm all about getting under way with learning to do this stuff.  This is a small piece, so that I can try out a number of approaches and threads, but still hope to create a decent artwork.

Meanwhile, there are men on the roof doing something very loud and disturbing to our Sandy damaged chimneys, so this is a calming activity, more or less, despite seeing debris being hurled down onto the patio from two floors up.

Oh the other picture is of a wonderful cloth, silk on silk, Chinese embroidery, perfect on the back as well as the front, from the family of Carol P., whose daughter is going to receive it when she marries this summer.  Lucky daughter.  It's an amazing piece of work to see and handle. Carol brought it in last evening for us to admire.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Biscornu all corned!

The biscornu is done, stitched up, stuffed, may have another item stitched into the center, but I'll wait on that and see how I like it.  This was great fun, once I fathomed the architecture of it -- not half as tricky as I'd supposed.

So here are views, front, back, side.  I ended up putting a little embroidery area in the small boxes, after all, and saved my initials and the year for the back in the end.  And I am criticizing it already....not stuffed tight enough, or something.  But I think I'll let it rest for now and just see.

This was fun, and now I have to do some finishing work, my hated item, on other stitched projects.  I hate framing, finishing, stuffing, whatever has to happen for presentation, but as a sardonic artist friend, Stefi M. once said, if you want the joy of framing, first you have to suffer the misery of making art...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Biscornu continues

The biscornu is progressing, and I've changed quite a bit of the original suggested design, as I worked. The empty corner boxes will probably contain my initials and the year I stitched this, as a stab at trying to record my work better. The centers of the bigger boxes are yet to be determined. I like very much the colorway we were presented with, and this is great fun to stitch peacefully, counting and observing and generally staying inside the box, unusual for me, but nice now and then.



I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of my goldwork book, so that I can get into some serious thinking and designing there. I already have some beautiful linen ready for use -- Belgian linen which is currently a blouse, from the thrift store still with original tags on it, but though it's my size it's for some quite differently shaped person, so it will be used for embroidery. And I picked up another couple of linen items at the thrift store, one in a soft beige, one a lovely gentle green, and both will either be nice to wear -- one a skirt, one pants, both way too large but could be altered -- or provide a lot of great linen support for the goldwork. We'll see. I think what with the scraps of linen I already have and the white blouse, I'll be supplied for some time, the embroidery I'm thinking of being very slow work.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Biscornu! the word of the day.

French speaking friends, what is the origin of this word?  we know it means sort of lopsided or something like that -- it's created square then twisted to change the shape, but where does the word come from? my researches have not yielded anything.  It sounds like bis meaning twice, and cornu meaning something to do with horns? but I'd like to know more.  Or anything, really.

Yesterday's Embroiderers' Guild meeting featured just such a biscornu, in honor of our own chapter, specially custom designed by Ginny H., longtime member and great stitcher (also quilter, but that's another post).  She designed, made the prototype, wrote great instructions, put together kits complete in every way, and we had a great time yesterday.  That's Ginny, in the blue shirt, demonstrating how you turn the finished biscornu to construct it.

One bonus of the day for me:  the lady in yellow, candid shots show her in typical vivacious mode, is Penny A., whom I knew in what is really an earlier life.  We touched base, and proceeded to do 35 years of catchup and reminiscence!  great stuff.  I had asked about her recently, of a mutual friend in art, and said I hadn't seen her around lately.  Whereupon friend tells me she moved 16 years ago.  That would explain it, I guess.  See what happens when you turn your back for five minutes...

So here's a cascade of the Great Us, in full swing, and the biscornu posing nicely.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Church stitchery and a day's adventure at the convent

The embroiderer friends went on an expedition to north Jersey today, to spend the day at an Anglican convent being shown the most incredible treasures of stitchery, largely silk on linen and on silk, and wonderful goldwork, amazing experience.  This order of nuns includes virtuoso embroiderers, and the laywoman who showed us the workshop side of the embroidery, and the long history of stitching at the convent, is herself a great teacher and embroiderer, full of energy for the art.

Ecclesiastical embroidery is full of significance for the religion, and symbols, which you need to know in order to really get the narrative of the work.  Some of these pieces dated back centuries and are lovingly preserved, and some are works in progress.  The work of one nun, Sister Olga, was amazingly modern in concept, and a tour de force of design. 

I came away bound and determined to teach myself goldwork and fine stitchery as close as my skills will let me to this standard -- well, I'm far off, but I have to get moving on this.

After lunch, where we were the guests of the community, the Sister Superior showed us around parts of the building -- this is a big complex, includes a Daytop center for teen rehab,  and a  Retreat House where there was a silent retreat in progress.  In their library they have a great range -- all the way from Eats, Shoots and Leaves to an enormous vellum and leather book of hand drawn plainsong, which touched this old convent girl's heart, having studied plainsong for seven years.  The other excitement to me was to be up close and personal in the sacristy and on the sanctuary of the big chapel, forbidden territory to women in my youth, except for nuns who cleaned up and organized the vestments and generally tended to the backstage part of the liturgy.

One of the vestments, the one with shamrocks and other Celtic insignia, was made in honor of the ordination of a woman Anglican priest, with Irish ancestry, very moving to see.

Aside from the needlework, there was the interest of talking plainsong with the sister who is a musician, in fact, graduated from the College of Music in the same city where I did my degree at the Uni, and where I was in a student hostel with young musicians she probably knew, same era. 

She lamented the fact that the Church of Rome still insisted on singing plainsong in Latin, since, as she pointed out it works fine in English, too!  She has written books on plainsong, so I listened to her very respectfully.  Another guest, not a religious, chatted about the labyrinth concept, and was familiar with the one at Chartres -- I didn't realize that it was the starting point of the Sant  Iago de Compostela pilgrimage.  I learned a lot today.

Instead of using captions,I'll just pour the pix over you to bask! they're self explanatory except that the book on Goldwork is shortly going to belong to me -- I ordered a copy as soon as I got home. This will be my Summer Adventure this year, I think.