Working with black linen

In the last 12 months I have been using black linen for various embroidery projects from handkerchiefs with machine embroidered lace borders to small hand embroidered images. An earlier post was titled spots. I used spots to link a few pieces that were grouped together in an exhibition.

While travelling to Sweden some years ago I picked up a book at the Nordiska Museet. It was titled 'Yllebroderier Berättande folkkonst från Norden' (2010). I have no translation but there are beautiful photographs of this folk embroidery from around the 1700 through to contemporary examples of the present day.

What interests me with this work is that much of it is done on cloth of a dark background. This sets the red thread off in a very striking manner. The book seems to explore the origins of this style of embroidery. Each chapter is written by specialists and academics. I can only go by the images and there seems to be a relationship to southern European religious art, although there is not a lot of religious imagery in the the Swedish embroidery. I may be wrong. The red dala horse appears quite regularly. 

The works below are on black linen. In the last week I have begun to add red thread in the self portrait. This is a work in progress. I feel it has moved from a self portrait to more about embroidery, which I suppose is a essential part of me and hence adds to the concept of self portrait.  

 

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Spots

Over the last few weeks I have been stitching on black linen. I have wanted to do this for so long - in fact since I bought a Swedish book 'Yllebroderier' edited by Annhelen Olsson (2010). I bought it in Sweden years ago. It is about a style of colourful folk embroidery stitched onto to very dark fabrics. This year one of the participants in #1yearofstitches2017, @mutuallydeconstructed, started stitching on black and revived my interest in stitching onto black linen.

I began with a small embroidery of two of my grandsons asleep while we visited my dying mother-in-law. The children lay under a spotted quilt cover. It was really difficult but I pursued it. I had marked out the spots but when I embroidered them, or actually I left gaps in the stitching, the spots seemed to have a life of their own.

I had drawn up the embroidery on quite small scale as I didn't know how it would work. It was a little too small for the faces. It seems to be easier to stitch if they are larger.I found this out in my portrait series. I have drafted up a large portrait of the two boys and will stitch that a little later in the year. 

I had a go at drawing an old family spoon. My mother had brought this spoon with her from Tasmania. It is worn the spoon diagonally from stirring. My daughter had brought it home to our house as she may have been thinking of using it as a springboard for artwork. It has always fascinated me, so I made an image of this lovely spoon.

I stitched it in a range of greys, from dark to light. I then drew up a spotted pattern for the background, and added a shadow. The background really enlivened the piece. 

Self portraits

I continue to hand stitch each day and post on Instagram daily. I am up to self portrait eight. As I noted in an earlier post, the point of this project was to return to stitching and having something to work on, as well as my other studio work in which I am preparing for an exhibition later in the year. In the self portraits I have been exploring various stitches as well as colour. My machine embroidery tends to be monochromatic - either black or white. 

As well as Instagram, I post weekly to a closed Facebook site, 1 year of stitches: 2017. You can request to join in. I noticed that there are often new participants. It's great to log in each week and post my progress. With over 3000 followers on this site I can see why it is limited to once a week as it would otherwise clog up Facebook feeds. There is a huge variety of stitchers from novices, to people who use commercial patterns, to some really creative stitchers and designers. 

I realise that I will soon run out of space on my piece of linen. I am thinking about what I will do when I get to that point. Either add more linen around this piece like a frame and continue the stitch of self portraits or begin something entirely new. 

I am posting individual portraits here on the blog, as a number of people who are recent followers would like to see the other portraits. I will post the most recent at the top and a whole image which includes the beginnings of the eighth portrait at the bottom.

I have begun reading much more about self-portraits in order to write an article about the process I have been going through. In the most recent image I used a timer to take a photo of myself as I think there are only so many times I can draw myself face on. In my research, most of the artists in historical self portraits use two mirrors to work up their images. I have done this in the past and will post some of that work later. 

Finishing some work

I am finding that finishing work these days seems to be a longer process. Letting work hang on the walls for a longer time and really looking and being critical of the work has all changed the way I work these days. I have made a number of versions of this work and finally I have brought it together. I had work in the LoveLace exhibition at the Former Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and so visited a number of times. I still look at the catalogue. there were a number of pieces that were made out of metal. I haven't gone as far to make metal lace, although I do embroider with metal threads. But I have been looking at wire structures that are lace like. One is fencing. In this image of my sister Mary and my cousin Ruth they are walking along our front fence. One side was a bank of pink roses - so if you fell it could be pretty painful. the work I made is called Walking the Fence. I may continue with this piece but for now I am happy to put it away. 

At the lake

Last week I spent a few hours drawing at Lake Burley Griffin here in Canberra with some fellow artists. It has been a while since packing up a basket of watercolours, pencils, paper etc. It takes me quite a while to settle down and to look slowly at the environment. Despite the threatening clouds I managed to get some work done. Of course I seem to have an attraction for birds who like to menace me. I was once threatened by a big black swan at a small lake in Perth. When a black swan came sailing along it wanted to investigate what I was doing. However, there appeared to be more attraction to searching out the reeds for quite a while. So I switched my sketching from the reflections on the water to the swan. 

Today in the studio I am translating the watercolours into textile pieces. I can see there are many ways I can proceed. So it looks like a lot of sampling needs to be done. My aim is to make lace pieces but this may change depending on how and where the experimentation leads.

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 Black swan - looking at reflections 

Black swan - looking at reflections 

 Black swan on the lake

Black swan on the lake

 This is the image I am working on in the studio

This is the image I am working on in the studio

On Saturday 5 Nov I led a group of 20 textile enthusiasts on a tour of artists' studios around Canberra and Queanbeyan. This was part of the Design Canberra Festival that is happening in Canberra during November. My thesis of my MA back in 1994 focussed on textile artists and their studios. At that time most textile artists worked at the kitchen table or had a space just off the living area of their house. None of the artists I interviewed were on this tour. It would be interesting study to follow up those artists and what they are doing now. 

On our tour we visited Julie Ryder, Polly Crowden, Annie Trevillian, Ruby Berry and Monique van Nieuwland. We unfortunately ran out of time and only stayed around 15 minutes to hear each artist talk about their work. I opened my studio for those that were interested after the tour. 

I have observed that now far more artists have designated studios. It is fascinating to see how things have changed for artists in the last 20 years or so. As well  far more artists work to support themselves and their practice. They also have a far more professional outlook. 

 Julie Ryder's studio

Julie Ryder's studio

 Ruby Berry's studio

Ruby Berry's studio

 Annie Trevillian's studio

Annie Trevillian's studio

Pop Up exhibition - DesignCanberra Festival

On Saturday  29th October and 12 November I am taking part in a pop up exhibition during the Design Canberra Festival in an architect designed house in Dickson, ACT. The SG House was designed by Architect Ben Walker. The work exhibited is from my Walking the Camino series. This will  also be on show and for sale in the exhibition Materialise at the Sturt Galleries in Mittagong, NSW opening in December. Along with me in the pop up exhibition is Suzanne Knight (tapestry and gouaches) and Dimity Kidson (tapestry and ceramics). The first Saturday we had over 200 people come through the house

 Four of my Walking the Camino Series

Four of my Walking the Camino Series

 Looking across to four more of my works with Suzanne Knight's tapestries on the table

Looking across to four more of my works with Suzanne Knight's tapestries on the table

 Dimity Kidson's ceramics in the kitchen

Dimity Kidson's ceramics in the kitchen

 Suzanne Kinght's tapestries and gouaches 

Suzanne Kinght's tapestries and gouaches 

Spring on its way

Today has been a glorious day in the garden and it felt like time to have a look around to see what is happening. I had a go at drawing with just a white chalk on black paper. Many of the design for lace in Italy that I saw last year were drawn in this way. The white lines formed the design for the lace. While my drawings are much heavier that fine lace lines they still have the potential for textiles.