Exercise 1 calls for a plain background fabric and I have chosen an ivory linen since it is a weight I find it easy to work quite a wide range of thickness of threads into. I started by using yellow embroidery cotton. Some of my materials are so old they lost their labels many years ago so I am not sure of the correct names but this is a quite thick thread and matte rather than lustrous like embroidery floss. I made some french knot stitches close together, but not touching to start with and then more spaced out. The resulting shape looked like an egg so I continued this theme with the rest of the samples in this stage.
I managed to find enough threads of the same type of yellow in my stash so that I was able to show a variety of textures. This next sample was stitched densely using tapestry wool and introducing a bold blue so that the colours graduated from one to the other across the sample.
Next, I chose a finer, slightly more lustrous embroidery cotton and interspersed it with some coton a broder in the same yellow and blue. Here I have varied the sizes of the knots, along with the density and the spacing which has provided more texture.
In the next sample I introduced a third colour, red and tried to show how each pair of colours and then all three colours mixed together. I used the embroidery cotton again and the blue was the slightly more knobbly coton a broder.
In the final sample of this exercise I stuck to yellow and red in a variety of threads. The yellow is a mixture of stranded embroidery cotton and the matte cotton. The red knots are made using stranded embroidery cotton, coton a broder, narrow satin ribbon and a narrow gauze ribbon.
At the beginning of this stage I was finding motivation difficult but as I pushed on I found I enjoyed the repetitive action of making the stitches and, reviewing the samples I now find I am more impressed with the results than I was when I was producing them. I particularly appreciate the texture that was produced by using different thickness and types of threads, especially with the ribbon knots. I can see I might use that technique again in further work. Also, although it is not easy to see in the photographs, the difference in the way the light plays on the matte and shiny threads makes for an interesting effect. I must say, though, this is not really appreciated unless viewing close up.
Exercise 2 asks for a sample using pastel colours. I had plenty of tapestry wool in soft colours so I used those for this exercise and the egg theme was still bubbling away (I was working this over Easter and we had just got some hens that began to lay at this time). I began to stitch knots in pink, then added a blue. This was followed by a beige, then green and finally a mauvey-blue. As I look at the sample I can see how the colours change depending on what is next to them. This is especially obvious with the beige which starts off looking more rosey next to the pink and ends up taking on a more grey hue by the time it gets mixed with the green and darker blue. The pink too, looks more grey further down the sample. I like the way it has turned out. I do seem to have kept the knots quite tightly together, perhaps it is an inner tension that makes me less able to leave gaps. I do find I work in a similarly close way when hooking rag rugs and it makes them curl up a bit too much.
For the final sample in this exercise we were asked to look through our sketchbooks for a drawing using pastel colours. I looked through what I had and couldn’t initially find anything that looked suitable. It was at this point that my motivation took a nosedive into the depths as I was finding keeping up the momentum on drawing or mark making for the sketch book impossible. I took time out and turned away from my studies to concentrate on making my workspace more usable. This re-grouping took longer than I would have wanted but it enabled me to come back to the course less critical of my work. I knew it was going to be difficult to find time to spend on the course but I hadn’t realised how much more difficult it would be to overcome my lack of self esteem as an artist.
Artist has never been a word I would use to describe myself and as I grew up my creative energies gravitated towards textiles rather than art because I felt I was more technically able in that field. I remember enjoying drawing at school and doodling away on pen and ink sketches and copying fashion illustrations for fun but somewhere along the line I must have got disheartened by comparing myself with other, much more talented fine artists, my contemporaries at school and college who seemed to be able to bring their drawings to life much more easily and skillfully. I find myself doing the same thing when I look at my lovely daughters’ art work. I forget they have no responsibilities, except to themselves to do well at school and college. They are not bogged down with jobs, housework, money worries and the rest of it and they can spend as much time as they like on their creative pieces. How wonderful it would be to have that mental space.
Last week I pulled myself back on the rails after rationalising my work room (ongoing, but much better than it was) and spending some time making small items to sell at a craft fair in my local village. By taking the pressure off myself I made space to remember why I was doing this course and remind myself that I should stop comparing myself with others. I made a poster for my workroom wall that says “Good Enough”, just to remind me that I am not trying to achieve perfection, and not just in my studies! This time out has helped a lot in all aspects of my life and it meant that I was ready to continue with the course in a much more positive and creative frame of mind.
BACK ON TRACK
When I came back to looking at images in my sketch book to use as inspiration for this last sample, I returned to a drawing I made using crayons and a plastic food net that I ironed on and melted so that it made an interesting grid pattern. The main trouble I had looking for a suitable image was that most of them are bold in colour. This image is more muted than most, but probably not exactly what the exercise called for.
I zoomed in on one corner and did a sketch of some of the elements using wax crayons. Looking back at it I am quite pleased with the way I have been able to find interesting shapes and colour combinations in the “noise” of the original image. I must remember that I am using drawings for inspiration so my sketches need not be accurate or necessarily always detailed observations of an original. I also like the way that zooming in on a digital photograph of my wax crayon drawing has brought out colours that you cannot see in the original image. The computer puts it’s own interpretation on the data and pulls out interesting new details. I have printed a small copy to use in my sketch book using an ink jet printer and the printed image is different again, presumably due to the quality and tones of the ink. I like this surprise element and I think it will be useful later for developing designs.
From the sketch I produced this sample using mostly tapestry wool and some stranded embroidery cotton. I found that as I worked I was attracted to the more vibrant colours, but I managed to keep some areas more muted.
I am definitely drawn to this combination of colours. It is very similar to those in the earlier colour exercise where we were asked to identify a colour theme that we were drawn to. The combination of magenta, blue and orange is very attractive to me. I have been collecting cuttings from magazines, cards and photographs that inspire me and it looks like a lot of them use these colour combinations. The sample grew from the central red oval and I almost stopped at the stage where it looked egg-shaped but then I continued with the blue curve because I thought it brought more to the design. Most of the central area have French knots that are quite tightly packed but as I was tailing off at the bottom I left larger gaps between each stitch and used less of the turquoise thread which, I think, finished it off nicely.