Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dandelion of a Thousand Wishes

My son loves dandelions.  If he sees one in the grass, he picks it and gives it to me.  Making wishes on them is even more fun.  Seeing their seeds fly through the air sets him into reels of laughter and makes my day.  While I was in Durham working on my RSN Goldwork, as I trimmed the ends the Japanese and Rococco threads after I plunged them, the piles of fluffy golden bits reminded me of his dandelions and giggles.  I always save my scraps when doing goldwork, partly because they are expensive and precious materials and partly because that was one thing I remember Tracy saying at my first workshop with her "Save everything, you never know what you might could use them for"--and so I have.  

So, I am starting a new series.  A series of goldwork weeds and wildflowers--outsider flowers using what some may call an outsider art of creative embroidery.  I want them to feel fairly traditional in composition but completely nontraditional in detail and execution.  

For the dandelion, I am using an Aida Rustico 18 count cotton ground fabric.  I thought the rough fabric would be a nice complement to the goldwork, and I loved the slight slub and oatmealy color of it.  All the metal threads I am using are saved ends or "weeds".  Some are tarnished.  Some have barely any metal still wrapped around the fiber core.  All of them are in this pile because they are some kind of damaged or leftover good.  I have decided to embrace these flaws for all the design excitement they could be.  I have to admit, I'm having a lot of fun with this!  I hope you enjoy it too!

 Left Dandelion:  Loose ends with a varigated cotton DMC, stretched smooth purl, and stretched pearl purl. 

 Outside stems:  Stretched silk wrapped purl stitched down with metallic thread.
Inside stem:  Stretched smooth purl cutwork with varigated thread worked over string padding.

 Before her haircut. . . 

 Blossoms finished with a haircut.  

 Dandelion bud:  Bullion knots, stretched smooth purl, and chipping

 Just a bit more to finish . . .

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

UK 2014 Trip: St. George's Chapel at Windsor

A couple of my favorite books on goldwork are Mary Brown's Goldwork Embroidery:  Designs and Projects  and Jane Lemon's Metal Thread Embroidery  At the beginning of Brown's book, it has an excellent summary of the history and development of goldwork embroidery In the very back of Lemon's book, she has a list of the different locations of important embroidery pieces and collections.  I consulted this back section in Lemon's book to see where some of the pieces were located that I had studied and requested an appointment at St. George's Chapel at Windsor to see a set of panels created by Beryl Dean and other vestments and alter frontals in their collection.  (Please see correction note at bottom.)

Maria, one of the Senior Sacristans at St. George's, kindly showed me around and talked to me about the history of the pieces and the Chapel in general.  It was fascinating!  I absolutely LOVE looking at the beautiful details, craft, and imagery that was used in these pieces.  I was able to see 5 alter frontals and 6 sets of copes in addition to coordinating veils and vestment accessories.  The sets of copes included a set of white copes, the Coronation Jubilee Copes, a set of Blue copes used for Advent and Lent, a set of black copes used for funerals and Requiem masses, a set of green copes used for Eucharist Sundays, and the red set worn for the Order of the Garter service.  Maria was wonderful at showing me the different details on the copes that delineated the dean, canons, and minor canons vestments.

Each set had a special detail that I found especially exciting.  The intersections on the cutwork and the turns in the couching were so beautiful on the Jubilee copes.  Having just finished my RSN Certificate Goldwork Module, the intersections and how they were treated were of special and timely interest to me.   My favorite set were the blue copes used for Advent and Lent that had been created by Liz Thompson, a wife of a former canon, and Wendy Pearson.  To recognize a donation from the Australian Friends of St. George's that partly funded the copes, the motif of the "wattle" was incorporated into the design.  Utilizing cut felt leaves with french knot buds in a heavier thread (appeared cotton?) with goldwork embroidery, the embellishment was such a lovely mix of formal and informal, traditional and non-traditional. 

Here are just a couple images from my visit, shared here with kind permission of St. George's Chapel at Windsor:

The Beryl Dean panels did not disappoint either.  Having only seen them in print before my trip, I was not anticipating how large they were.  They are stored in a cabinet at the back of the Chapel as you walk from the worship area to the gift store/exit.  One is on view at any one time.  I love Dean's depiction of each person's face.  The oversized eyes and color shading in the stitches is very beautiful.

 These are some details of Mary and a Wiseman from the Adoration of the Magi panel (link for a very nice write up on St. George's Chapel website on this panel). 

Correction Notice:  The list of places to visit embroidery is actually in Jane Lemon's Metal Thread Embroidery book (another favorite of mine), not in Mary Brown's book.  Brown's book does have the wonderful history of goldwork at the beginning.  I apologize for the mistake and have corrected the information in my post above.  If you are interested in goldwork embroidery, these 2 books are both on my must have list. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

UK 2014 Trip: Jean Paul Gaultier at the Barbican

I ended my trip with a few days in London.  The final couple posts on my trip will spotlight a few of the exhibitions I saw in London.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at the Barbican.  In one very short reaction-- if you are in London, this is a MUST SEE!!!!!  I have always loved the fashion of Jean Paul Gaultier.  His work is a phenomenal mix of fantasy, artistic expression, and incredible craft.  To complement the Gaultier pieces is an equally excellent presentation and exhibition styling.  They encouraged you to take photographs.  The app for your phone was excellent and provided further videos, images, and interviews for each section.  I spent over 3 hours in this exhibition taking it all in, sketching, and photographing details.  And just to warn you, there are two floors of the exhibition.  I almost missed the 2nd floor until I passed a small sign on my way out!

Since I had dubbed this my "Summer of Goldwork", I thought I would show some of the beautiful examples of goldwork from this exhibition.  You can also see the official photo gallery of the exhibition here.

 I know this piece is not goldwork, however the beading is so incredible that I could not resist adding it in here.  It is a full length gown and the entire front is beaded to look like this animal skin!

The origami folding, tucking, and pleating on this piece was so beautiful.  It's hard to see in these photos but there is also a gradation of color in the materials too that is so soft and perfectly complements the harder edge of the folds.    

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 Lotus is Finished!

I finished the lotus for my Goldwork class with Hand & Lock!  As you may notice, the two center areas of cutwork are slightly different.  I did the first adding in the purple smooth purl somewhat sparingly and I thought it would be interesting to see what it looked like with more purple.  Originally, I was going to experiment with it and rip the side I did not like out as much and redo that side.  Then I remembered I could do the same thing with Photoshop without ripping out the experimental side.  Also, I kind of like the different sides for the sample to have as a reference.  

Now, the one thing I am really not liking is the far right side of cutwork.  I think I must have either:  1) cut a couple of the purls slightly too long and therefore created slightly bubbles or 2) angled the purls in slightly too much creating a less smooth appearance.  I'm on the fence about redoing this as it is not a "final" piece more of a sample anyway, and it is not exactly to tragic status.  Honestly, I think I want to move on to get to some ideas I have from my trip.  I still have a final piece to turn in for my course too. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

UK 2014 Trip: Benton & Johnson

As you all know, I love goldwork embroidery.  Those wires and threads seem like magic adding sparkle, texture, and a little extra life to my embroidery.  I had the wonderful experience of visiting the Benton & Johnson factory just north of Coventry during my trip in June.  It was fascinating!  I had absolutely zero clue how labor-intensive these threads are to make.

Neil Halford of Benton and Johnson graciously showed me all the machinery and walked me through the steps required to make many of the metal threads and wires.  The process of making each thread was not a quick task and required a lot of patience and a tremendous attention to detail.  A tiny kink or incorrect tension and there goes your hard work and wire.

Here are a few things I learned and saw while at Benton & Johnson:
- Bullion is just a larger smooth purl (no technical difference other than the tube diameter).
- Broad Plate take 28-30 passes through the flattening machine to get to the correct dimensions.
- The color that the metal is wrapped around for passing makes an incredible difference in the final color of the passing.  If I thought about it, I would have assumed this would happen.  It was fascinating though to see how much of a difference it can make.

 This is the machine used to flatten the wires for smooth passing or rococo.  The more weight added at the bottom, the thinner the wire becomes.

Pearl Purl:  First the metal wire is drawn to the correct thickness, depending on the desired final size, by pulling the wire through a series of dies.  The smaller the desired pearl purl, the thinner the required wire and the more number of dies the wire must be drawn through.
Pearl Purl: Once the metal is the correct thickness, it is flattened and then pulled through another die and onto a round guide wire producing the cup-shaped wire needed for the pearl purl.  To separate the wire from the guide wire, two people have to wind them off each other in tandem (pictured above).

Pearl Purl:  Finally, the cupped wire is spun around a needle to create the iconic length of pearls.  The final pearl purl winds itself into through the funnels and into the buckets.

 Smooth Purl: For Smooth Purl, the wire is fed through a machine that spins it tightly around a smooth round needle and into a tube.

Bright Check:  Bright Check is made using the same process with the only difference of using a triangular needle instead of a smooth round one to create the jagged edges of the bright check tube.

Here is a link to the Benton & Johnson online shop where you can purchase metal threads and wires to your hearts content!  If you don't see a specific material you would like or have a question, Neil's email is listed at the top of the website. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Williamsburg: Making Some Progress

I found my super pearl purl!  I could not find it and was starting to get a little worried I was going to have to order more.  Then I found it in the envelope labeled "gilt passing".  I've found that sometimes the gilt threads and wires from different suppliers have a slightly different coloring to them and I really wanted the golds on both sides to match.  It's so exciting to me when the metals start going in.  They seem to automatically add a level dimension to the composition that was not there before.  I also am really liking the stretched pearl purl couched with the different greens. 

I thought everyone might like a sneak at the difference of the two sides.  I am extremely excited to see it when it is finished! 

Mastered: Cutwork

In my fury of trying to find my pearl purl from Williamsburg, I found some purple smooth purl I had bought a number of years ago (I think on my first trip to Durham!).  I thought it would be fun to experiment with adding it into the mix on the center cutwork areas of the lotus.  I had already planned to add in some bright check to add a bit of interest and play with the reflections.  The outside ones I decided to keep just solid gilt smooth purl.  I also thought it would be another good symmetry exercise for me.  Now, not only do I need to get the angles the same side to side but also the placement of the bright check and purple smooth purl pieces.  Ah, this should be fun!  I have a distinct feeling some 'reverse stitching" may be in my very near future!  I love a good challenge though! 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Williamsburg: Split Stitching

You know the days where the stitches just do not seem to be falling into the "right" spot?  That was my last night.  I worked on my Williamsburg piece doing some of the leaves and one of the buds.  Towards the end of the night though, I was not happy with how my silk shading was going on the tiny leaves.  They just seemed overworked or not as smooth as I wanted them.   So, I relegated myself to only the split stitching around all the other tiny leaves.  Going to work on the metallic stem stitch today and maybe back to those tricky tiny leaves!