Wow, where did the summer go? We had a lovely 26 degrees yesterday and only 6 this morning... We will even see the first night frost this week! Time to re-home my lovely flowering tropical plants from the balcony to the windowsill :). The cooler temperatures are also a perfect excuse to stay indoors and start a new embroidery project. As I really want to be recognised as an artist instead of a crafter, I need to start making original artwork again. For the past months, I have been thinking about a theme for my upcoming solo-exhibition in August 2019. I seem to be rather good at getting brilliant ideas in the middle of the night :). Luckily for me, I am pretty good at getting back to sleep after these nightly strokes of genius. My husband has a far harder time. After all, I have to tell someone, right?
I am planning to make a few embroidery pieces in the style of St. Laurence. Using 16th century goldwork embroidery techniques and artistic language. But addressing modern-day issues like immigration, climate change and consumerism. All unmistakably linked, by the way. First up is Pope Francis. Ever since his disarming 'Buona Sera', I have been fascinated by this man. But what probably fascinates me even more, is how we all seem to project our hopes and dreams on this one man. Francis should address climate change, the role of women, homosexuality, world peace etc. And 'pronto', please! The inconvenient truth however is, that one man, even when he is the pope, cannot accomplish this on his own. Are we willing to help him?
To show how our projections tend to make Pope Francis larger than life, I've given him a few extra arms. Like many Hindu Gods have. Two arms and hands form what is called the 'Kanzlerraute', the typical 'everything will be all right' posture Angela Merkel often shows. The background will be closely modelled after an orphrey from a chasuble made between AD 1520-1525 in the Northern Netherlands and now held at the Catharijne Convent under inventory number BMH t2911. I am very grateful for this museum to have given me free access to several high-resolution images of this magnificent piece.
That's all for now. I will spend the rest of the afternoon transferring the design onto 40ct natural linen by Zweigart using a normal lead pencil. This is the preferred way of transferring embroidery designs in the Late Medieval period.
P.S. This week's newsletter has a code of 15% off high-quality embroidery scissors by the German-based company DOVO. You can sign up for my newsletter in the right-hand column! You can read a review by Mary Corbet on these lovely scissors here.
After having had a sore arm for three days thanks to 1ml of immunisation fluid, I was hit hard again. Obtaining a visa for China will set you back a whopping €286! So when I received my passport back I was hoping for something sparkling. A little gold dust perhaps? Nope. It is a rather ordinary looking sticker.... Luckily the mailman brought me some promotional material concerning the museum and Hangzhou to cheer me up. Especially the museum and the West Lake look very pretty!
Preparing for China means I don't have much time to do some stitching. I still need to make instructional videos from the footage I shot whilst stitching the class samples. This means I am learning to use Adobe Premiere Pro and video platform Vimeo. Quite fun actually. The first eight videos concerning the crewelwork pomegranate are up there. They will be turned into an online course for beginners in the near future. However, I still need to write some instructions for it and do my calculations. In the meantime, you can have a look at what my video instructions will look like.
And then there is another major thing that gets in the way of stitching: the garden. Whilst the rest of Germany and indeed most parts of Western-Europe had a severe drought this summer, the Alps had a good summer. This means that our 'Belle de Boskoop' is having a bumper crop. Normally, this tree has a hard time coping with the harsh alpine climate and only gives us miniature very hard green fruits. However, it seems we now have a climate change winner here. My kitchen turns into an apple processing plant most days. So far me and my husband have made several pies, Lithuanian apple cheese (google it!) and apple sauce. On top of that, we have the larder full of beautiful pumpkins and herbal teas. I am very grateful for nature's bounty!
Back to making more apple sauce :)!
With a bit of luck I will get my passport back this week stamped with a shiny visa for China! Getting one was my first encounter with Chinese bureaucracy :). I will also see my doctor tomorrow for a refresher jab to protect me against nasty diseases. We embroidery artists lead exciting lives! Although I am not sure if I am an artist. I have been denied this title by the German authorities. They basically say that embroidery is not an art form, but firmly belongs in the realm of craftsmanship. At first I was knocked off my feet by this, but now I am preparing to defend my case. Getting recognition as an artist means that I am able to afford social security fees again and that my health insurance bills are almost cut in half. This would mean that Märchenhaftes Sticken could finally make a modest plus instead of a monthly loss...
What you see here is the kit for my week-long series of workshops at the National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, China later this year. As the workshop-series is open to anyone, it is highly likely that I will have a wide variety of abilities in my class. Apart from the four techniques (Appenzeller whitework, crewel, goldwork and Schwalm), they will have four pieces of Aida band on which they can cross-stitch the names of the techniques. The bands are later used in construction to hide the seams between the different fabrics. Although it is highly likely that there are people in my class who have never done cross-stitching, explaining is easy and people can soon work on their own. With 15 people in class, I won't always be immediately on hand. Having something easy on the side you can always return too whilst waiting will probably come in handy.
One thing I have learned over the years is that people mean wildly different things when you ask them to bring fine-tipped embroidery or craft scissors. Especially beginners manage to bring whopping big blunt paper scissors for goldwork classes. I have therefore included a pair of decent craft scissors in my kit. It is exactly the same pair of scissors I bought all those years ago when starting the RSN Certificate as an absolute beginner. And they are still my favourite goldwork scissors! Thanks to Google Images, I found my non-name scissors and was able to buy them for my Chinese students.
As the kit includes many different materials, I packed each project separately. I printed a picture of the finished project onto re-usable labels. This makes them easily identifiable for non-English speakers and people can re-seal the bag and so keep supplies together. All kit materials will be packed together into a paper bag. I will urge each student to write her/his name onto the bag to avoid misunderstandings.
I've also included a shower-cap into the kit. The museum will provide embroidery hoops with seat frames for each student. The free shower-caps you often get in hotels are perfect to protect your work when you are not actively stitching. The other thing I have included is a simple goldwork cutting board. It is one half of a round plastic containers my dad used to house his screws, bolts and whatnots in. I lined the base with a piece of red velour and presto you have a cutting board. If I had more space in my suitcase, I would prefer to give each student a small round tin (I always upcycle my hair-clay tins this way!). Being able to cut your threads and then screw the tin close is even better.
What else will I have at my disposal in the classroom? I've asked for an iron an ironing board. After all, I had to fold the fabrics to be able to get them into my suitcase. In preparation, I have already drawn all (bar one) patterns onto the fabric using a normal lead pencil. Unfortunately, the lines of aqua trick markers might not be stable when flying. I landed in America once with very faint lines... The only pattern I will have to draw before class, is the Appenzeller monogram. I'll use a trick marker and a copper stencil. It just doesn't work well with a lead pencil.
And last but not least, I will have a sewing machine in my classroom. Although I am not sure any of my students will be able to finish all four projects in time to start the construction of the pronkrol, when some so, they can use the sewing machine for quicker construction.
I am getting so excited!
P.S. you can read an interview with me on the blog of Valia Dikova 'Oberammergau Erleben'. I've also been interviewed for an article by Crafts Industry Alliance on the 'Benefits of limiting your time on Social Media'. Unfortunately, they left out my remark on the dangers of particularly Facebook using our data for commercial gain and the undermining of democracy. This was an important reason why I deleted my accounts after being hacked.
Last week I was fortunate enough to visit the exhibition 'The embroidered Heaven' at the Church Heritage Museum in Vilnius, Lithuania. I also met with Lithuanian embroideress Agne Zemkajute. Discussing pieces in the exhibition with a kindred soul is pure bliss! And Agne proved to be a very knowledgeable guide and fellow cake eater :). As we both have a love of church textiles and love to recreate them, this was certainly not the last time we have met. For those of you not living within two hours flying time from Vilnius, I will try to pack this blog post as full as I can with impressions of the exhibition. And at the end of this lengthy post, I will pass on details of the lovely catalogue produced by the museum.
The exhibits were displayed chronologically from the Late Medieval period until the 20th century. Due to the fact that the Lithuanians were the last peoples in Europe to convert to Christianity in AD 1387, there aren't any really old vestments. And Lithuania's turbulent recent history with 100 years of Tsarist rule, two World Wars and the Soviet Occupation, didn't help in the preservation of what once has been there either. Nevertheless, there were two chasubles and a cope hood on display which dated to the Late Medieval period.
One of the Late Medieval chasubles was 'restored' using paint. Its iconography of saints sitting under an architectural arch is well-known from many other embroidered vestments and paintings dating to the same period.
There were many more chasubles and related vestments on display dating to the 17th century. Contrary to earlier vestments who told a biblical story, vestments from the Baroque period feature large floral motives and an excessive use of gold threads. The height of the padding on some of these pieces is mind-boggling! These vestments were meant to dazzle you and to clearly show you who held power.
Although I am not a fan of the Baroque period, I do admire the skill needed to produce these magnificent pieces of highly-padded goldwork embroidery. Today, this style of embroidery is still in use in the embroidery ateliers of Spain. One of the people teaching this type of embroidery and blogging about it, is Cristina Badillo.
Playful 18th century Rococo with its elegant floral motives is much more my cup of tea. Especially the cope displayed above. Does this not remind you of Jacobean crewel work? However, this is made with silk and silver passing thread. I have never come across a piece like this and I would love to hear from my readers if they know of a comparable piece. Agne and I discussed the piece at length as we can't quite discern how the flowers have been stitched.
In fact, we have so many questions about this piece that we will have no choice (how horrible!) than to try and recreate some of it. Just determining if it is best to stitch the silk before the metal threads or the other way around was just not possible from looking at the piece. We even took pictures if the blown-up detail pictures on display to get a grip on the stitching process...
This chasuble from c. 1909 reminds me of the chasubles made by Leo Peters, a Dutch artist, around that time. It has an Art Nouveau feel to it. And the padding underneath the figure of Jesus and the cross is just amazingly thick.
And I really liked this early 20th century piece as well. I don't remember seeing vestments using panels of needlepoint before. There is even some drawn-thread work in this one.
Apart from the many embroidered vestments on display in the exhibition, the museum also has a few vestments on permanent display. And, best of all, they have a large set of drawers on the organ gallery. Each drawer contains a vestment. They allow you to browse through them and have a good look at them without the hindrance of glass!
Please note: the exhibition 'The embroidered Heaven' will end on the 15th of September 2018. However, the Church Heritage Museum sells a wonderful catalogue, hard-bound, and with full-page detailed pictures of all the vestments held by the museum. Although the regular text is in Lithuanian, there is an excellent summary in English in the back. The catalogue has 222 pages and costs only €15. You can contact the museum here.
As most of you will know, my Instagram account got hacked a couple of weeks ago. I felt gutted when it happened! And even more so after it became apparent that Instagram does not have a help desk with nice and knowledgeable people who will do their utmost best to help you sort the mess. Instagram help pages are scant (even more scant in a non-English language!). None of the suggestions listed there to recover a hacked account worked for me. The hack was so thorough, that I never received the recovery emails you are supposed to get. I even asked my provider to check if there had been unlawful access to my email accounts. Fortunately, that was not the case!
I badgered Instagram (and Facebook, they are one and the same thing!) with emails, snail mail letters and built-in help forms. Nothing helped! For the most part, I am still waiting for a reply. As my Instagram account is linked to my Facebook business page, I in effect, have two hacked Social Media channels. And I can't severe this tie either as I have no access to my Instagram account from where one has to do this. To prevent the hacker acting out through either channel and so harming my business, I reported the hack to the police. That was a fun experience: picture police officer in rural Bavaria making a protocol of my hack...
It became clear to me that, if I wanted to keep using Social Media, I would have to delete my Facebook business page and start again. Building up a new Instagram account and a new Facebook business page would have cost me a lot of time. Besides, which guarantee would I have that those new account wouldn't get hacked too? None! I decided to sit back and mull it over for a while. In the meantime, I would look at other means of promoting my embroidery business. Since I already sent out a weekly newsletter to alert my readers to a new blog post, why not beef that up a bit?
And then I started to note that not being on Social Media was actually a relief. Don't get me wrong, I really loved seeing what everybody was doing! However, seeing it all, comment here and there and posting my own messages took a large chuck out of each day. Think two hours or more... And with hindsight, it stressed me more than I really knew. You see, racking your brains once a week about writing an interesting blog post is quite doable. Racking your brains several times a day to make sure you show your best and sunniest side on your Social Media channels is tiring! As soon as I stopped, I felt my creative juices flow again. Paradoxically, not being visually bombarded all the time, relaxed my own creativeness and all sorts of new ideas started to bubble to the surface again. Great!
All the above, together with the whole unsavoury business of using especially Facebook to undermine our democracy, cemented my resolve: delete most of the Social Media accounts I manage. At present, I am Facebook-free, Instagram-free and LinkedIn-free. Don't get me wrong: I am not against Social Media. But I am against the very large companies behind them. They love the data you and I create, but they don't care when something goes wrong. So, my website, my blog, my newsletter and my studio are the places where I love to interact with you. You probably see less of me, which means you have more time to create. If you want that is :).
On a whole different note: I had to raise prices on the hand-dyed House of Embroidery yarns and ribbons I sell. Earlier this year, House of Embroidery had to raise their prices due to a rise in costs of raw materials. They also had to source a different delivery company as shipping things from South Africa is a nightmare (those who read Trish Burr's blog will know). For me this means that getting the parcel cleared by customs has become more expensive too. My husband joked that I should start importing weapons: far less restrictions :). In order to make the price raise hurt less, there is a 15% off coupon in this week's newsletter! You can sign up for my newsletter using the button in the right-hand column.
P.S. I am off to Vilnius (Lithuania) tonight to visit the Church Heritage Museum :). Back on Friday to ship your House of Embroidery orders!
As I told you in my last blog post, I rendezvoused with the medieval copes at St. Paul im Lavanttal (Austria) last week. And what a delight it was! The weather was quite hot and thus perhaps not ideal for visiting a museum. This meant that I had the copes to myself and could take as many pictures as I liked :). I had also brought a tiny bit of replica-stitching to compare with the original; more on that further down. Let me introduce you to the older cope housed at St. Paul Abbey.
This cope dates to the reign of abbot Bertholdus who died in AD 1141. The piece is thus more than 875 years old!!! It never ceases to amaze me how well these copes are preserved considering their age and the fragile materials they are made of.
The cope displays scenes from the bible: seven from the New Testament and 16 from the Old Testament. These scenes are not just 'pretty' or an incidental record of certain biblical stories. Instead, the scenes from the Old testament have a theological relationship with those from the New Testament. For instance, the Annunciation is paired with the foretelling of the births of Samson and Izsak. Each of these scenes fits into a square. The scenes from the Old Testament have some writing in them as well. Perhaps while they were and are generally lesser known and/or harder to identify.
Further towards the hem, 20 saints are displayed. These saints had a special relationship with the original Abbey of St. Blaise.
Along the hem, 36 small roundels display, amongst others, the edifices of the twelve Apostles, St. Paul, prophets, evangelists and the founder of the Abbey: Holy Roman Emperor Otto I (AD 912-973). The priest wearing the cope was literally a walking theological learning aid :). And not for the 'common folk' as they would not generally attend mass in the Abbey church. Instead, the cope would remind the monks themselves of Christian theology and the lives of the saints.
To separate each square, there are smaller squares with mostly geometrical patterns (there are birds and floral patterns displayed in the squares on the 'cross-roads'). And there are a lot of them! I have half-heartedly started to catalogue them and have already counted more than 25 different geometrical patterns. And it is one of these patterns that I started to replicate.
At first I thought that the stitch used was closed herringbone. This is however not the case. A row of closed herringbone stitches produces two parallel lines of stitches on the back: back-stitch on the one and split stitch on the other. It was long hold that this was the stitch used on the cope. However, when I stitched my copy, I ended up with small gaps where two rows 'bud'. Upon checking the literature again, I saw that during the restauration of the piece it was found that the stitch used is in fact long-armed cross-stitch with a small compensating stitch at the start (option three in this diagram).
I decided to stitch the same pattern again using DeVere 60-fold loose-twist silk on Zweigart Newcastle 40ct natural linen. And presto! No more gaps and the pattern became nice and square (it really is! pardon my photography). It is still at 41,5 mm a bit bigger than the original. This means that the linen background fabric used was finer than 40ct (!) and the silk too. What I further learned from my wee bit of replica-ing, is that the end-result becomes quite stiff. The bulk of the silk thread is on the front and adds quite a bit of weight to the finished piece.
In the future, I would like to try my hand at one of the non-geometrical scenes. After all, copying a geometrical pattern with what is in essence a geometrical stitch, is not a problem. However, I am in awe at the craftsmanship needed to execute curves and natural forms using rows of long-armed cross-stitch! To me, that makes stitching a scene from the Bayeux Tapestry (c. AD 1070) like a walk in the park :).
Last year I made a trip to the Benedictine abbey of St. Paul im Lavanttal, Austria. The abbey houses two important medieval vestments. The friendly monk on duty was happy for me to take pictures without flash. Unfortunately, upon returning home, the first 30 or so pictures were lost during the transfer from my camera to my computer. Luckily, I am going to visit these beauties again in the next couple of days! And, as only the first pictures were lost, I can introduce you to the younger of the two pieces: a beautiful cope from the 13th century.
Although these pieces are now housed in an abbey in Austria, they were originally made for the Benedictine abbey of St. Blaise in the Black Forest (Germany). During the dissolution of the monasteries in Bavaria in 1806, the abbot moved his convent and the treasure to St. Paul im Lavanttal and thus preserved them. Amongst the treasure were three medieval vestments: a cope from the 12th century (now in St. Paul), a cope from the 13th century (also in St. Paul) and a chasuble from the 13th century (now in the Österreichische Museum für angewandte Kunst in Vienna).
The cope from the 13th century is stitched with silks and gold threads. The main stitches used on the cope are long-armed cross-stitch and brick stitch for the silk and underside couching for the gold threads. However, details are also worked in other surface stitches like chain stitch and split stitch. The silk used for the brick stitch is untwisted, but looks softly twisted and thicker for the long-armed cross-stitch. Originally, no linen background fabric showed; the whole cope was covered in stitches! During conservation, it became clear that the cope had been sown together from loom-width strips of linen before the stitching commenced.
Depicted on the cope are the hagiographies (legends of the saints) of St. Blaise on the one side and St. Vincent of Saragossa on the other. Both saints were the patron saints of the abbey church. Scenes of the hagiographies are depicted as medallions as would have been the norm for stained glass windows in the 13th century. Each scene is accompanied by a few words to aid identification.
There are two possibilities regarding the maker of this excellent piece of medieval embroidery in the 13th century. It is quite possible that the cope was stitched by the monks of the abbey of St. Blaise. But it is equally possible that this cope was stitched at a professional workshop. Either way, it is highly likely that the person who made this was a man rather than a woman. A fact I love to "share" with male visitors to the Pilatushaus who exclaim that my stitching is a "mere female past-time they are thus not interested in" :).
Who provided the capital needed to produce these 'top-end' liturgical vestments? The St. Blaise abbey belonged to a reform movement in the Benedictine tradition. A movement highly endorsed by the nobility. Not only were many of the monks of noble birth, but noble families would endow the abbey with cash, lands, rights and works of art. These vestments were far costlier than the golden monstrance on the altar. Not only were the materials needed to stitch one quite costly, the countless man hours invested made the end-result VERY expensive. Another 'fun fact' for my visitors at the Pilatushaus who exclaim that the price tag on St. Laurence means the piece is unaffordable. I pleasantly inform them that in the Middle Ages they, as the commoners they are, would not have come this close to such a work of art :). Oh, you should see their faces! Truly priceless :).
If you are ever in the area, do visit St. Paul! They have many embroidered liturgical vestments on display. Everything is quite well lit so that intricate details are visible. Essays on the art historical background of the pieces and the conservation of two of the three pieces can be found in: Braunsteiner, M. & H. Kaindl (1998): Historische Textilien aus dem Sakralbereich (=Schriften zur Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte des Benediktinerstiftes Admont, Band VII), ISBN 3-901810-02-1.
For my upcoming teaching trip to China, I was asked to demonstrate several European embroidery techniques. Finding the techniques was not a problem, after all we have a rather rich embroidery tradition. But what to do with the stitched samples? And how to manage pace in a medium-sized diverse group of students? I came up with the idea of making a band sampler or a 'pronkrol' (pronken = to show off) as they are called in Dutch. This is a type of band sampler which became popular in the late 19th and early 20th century and was worked at private boarding schools for girls. As French was the preferred language of the well-to-do, these band samplers are often called 'Souvenir de ma Jeunesse'.
What will my students learn? They will start with making a pomegranate with a few key embroidery stitches used in Jacobean crewel embroidery. Then they will explore Schwalm embroidery. This is a drawn-thread whitework technique from the Hessian region of Germany. Students will fill a classic tulip design with tulip patterns. Next up is a monogram using the fine whitework technique from Appenzell in Switzerland. And last but not least, they will learn couching, padding and cutwork to produce a goldwork leaf.
Each technique will be separated by a small linen band sporting the name of the technique in cross stitch. After all, the humble cross stitch plays a very significant role in European embroidery. Both past and present. And these bands are great for students to work on on their own when I am not immediately available to solve a problem. The finished pronkrol will serve the same purpose as the antique ones did: show off a student's work. In the old days, the pronkrol would also inform the prospective mother-in-law about the housewife qualities of the bride-to-be...
This is what the finished pronkrol will look like:
Would you like to join me for this five-day workshop at the National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, China? No problem! The museum loves meeting new people from all over the globe. The workshop fee is c. €640 with an additional material fee of c. €45. I will be teaching in English and this will be translated into Chinese. In addition, I can provide explanations in German and Dutch. Each day will start with a short lecture on the technique and will end with a show and tell. During those five days, we will also visit the museum's exhibitions and on Saturday I will lecture on my St. Laurence goldwork embroidery.
For those who would love to have free access to the museum, hear the lectures and interact with fellow embroidery enthusiasts, but don't want to work the pronkrol, we can have two people sitting in on the workshop, but working on their own embroidery pieces. These people don't pay the workshop fee nor the material fee.
For either great option, you will need to make your own travel arrangements. Please contact Edith Cheung directly for further information and booking. She can also point you to hotels for your stay. Do follow the above link to see some very pretty pictures of both the museum and its collection comprising of ancient Chinese silks, textiles made with other fibres, and costumes from all over the world.
I am very much looking forward to this great adventure. Not only will I be passing on time-honoured knowledge to new students, but I will also have the opportunity to learn from the Chinese about their magnificent embroidery culture!
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Lately, I've been asked repeatedly about re-stocking embroidery hoops made by Klass & Gessmann. For those of you who have never heard about Klass & Gessmann: they were a German company who probably made the best quality embroidery hoops and stands in the world. This is no exaggeration. The hoops and stands are very well made with a high finish. This means that they will probably last you a lifetime if you look after them properly. Other than, for instance, Elbesee, the hoops by Klass & Gessmann do not have any plastic parts. Just beautifully turned beech wood. They are really the Rolls Royce amongst the embroidery hoops and favourites with Mary Corbet (read Mary's review) and Yvette Stanton.
I've always stocked Elbesee hoops and changed relatively late to the Klass & Gessmann hoops. Why? Well, there's the price. You can have an Elbesee hoop with either clamp or seat frame for about €25. The Klass & Gessmann hoops start at €32,10 and €44,95 respectively. This is partly due to the fact that wages are higher in Germany than they are in the UK. But more importantly, this is due to the fact that the Klass & Gessmann hoops are so much better quality. When I used the Elbesee hoops during my workshops I host in my studio, they wouldn't last long. They lost their 'grip' and stability really quickly resulting in a hoop that 'drops'. Although I tell people to always loosen-up the wingnut screw before flipping the hoop to work on the back of their embroideries, who does so consistently? In contrast, the Klass & Gessmann hoops have so much 'friction' you can only flip the hoop without loosening-up when you use brute force. This reminds you to do use the screw :) and results in a hoop that lasts!
To my dismay, Klass & Gessmann was sold and moved to Bulgaria a couple of years ago. This seems to happen to all good quality companies that sell for a fair price and thus can't keep up with cheap competition in our throw away society. The new owners did not really stay in touch with us buyers. The website disappeared. Postage got up. The hoops became more expensive. Communication became troublesome as they did not speak German and only a little English. Due to all this, I had made the decision to stop stocking the Klass & Gessmann hoops. Especially as I was afraid that the quality might suffer due to the move to Bulgaria. Prejudice rearing its ugly head...
Then I hosted a workshop and people were asking me where to purchase a good embroidery hoop. By that time, I had only one Klass & Gessmann hoop left... High time to search for an alternative. Easier said than done. My search was unsuccessful. The best hoops out there are made by Klass & Gessmann, period. But as they no longer have a website, how does one contact them? I decided to use the last email address I had for them and see if they are still in business. Thank goodness they are! So I placed a large order and hoped for the best. When the hoops arrived last week, I was a little apprehensive: would they still be of the same high-quality? Luckily they were!
I've re-stocked my webshop with embroidery seat frames, embroidery hoops with table clamps and loose hoops on a stick that will go with either. They are available in six different sizes: 155 mm, 185 mm 215 mm, 250 mm, 275 mm and 305 mm. To celebrate the re-stocking of the 'best hoop in town', there is a 15% off coupon in this week's newsletter! No, I won't do coupons every week, but this is rather a special occasion and a big relief :).
P.S. You can sign up for my newsletter using the button at the top of the right-hand column.
In August 2019, I will hold my first solo-exhibition in the Pfannerhaus in Roßhaupten. As the exhibition area consists of two large rooms, I am going to 'split' my exhibition in two. In the first room, I am going to present a series of goldwork pieces inspired by current world affairs and my Catholic Bavarian surroundings. More on that project in a further blog post. The second room will present an overview of my work till date. It will therefore showcase many different embroidery techniques and styles. It is for this second room that I intend this new project.
Ever since my mum dragged us along (that's definitely how it felt to me and my younger sister on the day!) to a Franz Marc exhibition as a kid, I am an admirer of his work. Franz Marc was born in 1880 and died as a soldier, aged just 36, in World War I in Verdun, 1916. His most productive years, in which he developed his distinctive style, were between 1911 and 1914. Franz Marc lived and worked in the area where I now live. He is best-known for his brightly coloured animal studies. When I needed a design for my canvaswork piece for the RSN Certificate, I choose his Tiger.
For years I have wanted to turn another one of his pictures into a canvaswork embroidery: Foxes painted in 1914. I love foxes and I am always thrilled when I see one strolling though a field from my car. A couple of years ago, a fox crossed the footpath just in front of me when I was hiking through the woods between Bad Bayersoien and Bad Kohlgrub. Such a magical moment! It was neither afraid of me, nor did it take much notice of me. For a few seconds, we just shared a footpath through the woods.
Although I have wanted to stitch the design for years, I wasn't quite sure how to tackle it. Every so often, I would look at the picture and ponder my options, but I never got the feeling that I 'understood' what I was looking at enough to start stitching. Until today! I viewed the picture under an angle and in an instant it made total sense. I now know what is the front, what the back and what's in between. This is very important with any embroidery design. The thinking process before you can actually start to stitch can take quite a while; in this case a couple of years. And this is how I now view the picture:
There are two main tricks the embroiderer can apply in canvaswork to create depth. Firstly, bigger patterns come forward, smaller patterns retreat. Secondly, bright and shiny materials and colours come forward, dark and dull retreat. Applying this logic to Franz Marc's foxes, I will use mainly silks (shiny!) for the face of the 'top' fox. As this is the most detailed part of the painting, I have no choice but to choose smaller patterns. However, the very shininess of the silk should still make it standout clearly. The rest of both foxes will use semi-shiny threads like cotton perle. And the background will be stitched using wool, as it is dullest in appearance.
To further 'clarify' the picture for the viewer, I will also 'group' my stitches. There are three main types of stitches one can use in canvaswork: diagonal, straight and cross. I am not sure yet what goes where, but these will be assigned to fox 1, fox 2 and the background. Now it is time to pick colours and work on my stitch-plan some more.
If you like pre-stitching musings and discussions on design choices whilst a stitching project is underway, you might want to check out Rachel's blog VirtuoSew Adventures. Not only is Rachel a very accomplished embroiderer, she also puts a lot of thought into the designs of her textile art!
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Jessica M. Grimm
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