Saturday, June 20, 2015

Paint and Stitch: the Little Bee Bag

     As I continue to attempt to simplify my life and determine what the true necessities are, at times I also carry that over into my work.
I am really terrible at packing for travel, but for my recent trip to Santa Fe for a workshop with Betty Busby, I was determined to try to tackle this issue. One of the things I did was to make this little bag that measures 5" wide by 6" high. It actually holds my cell phone, identification, credit cards, cash, lip balm, and a pack of kleenex: the bare necessities.
     The bag is made from a medium weight natural European linen that I have fallen in love with. There is something so incredible about the hand of this fabric that makes it especially lovely and wonderful to work with.
     First I painted the fabric with my Bee Stencil. The bag has the honey bee on the front and the bumble bee on the little back pocket. The stencil is made in two parts so you can paint the body first and then the details in a different color. I used Lumiere paint in copper and silver, let it dry overnight, and then heat set it for permanence.
     I had painted the linen pieces on a Saturday night, and the following morning I heat set the paint and began stitching. Even though it was a Sunday and I should have been doing household chores, I kept finding excuses to sneak back over to my studio to do just a couple more stitches on the bag. By the end of the day I had all the embroidery done.
     The really fun part for me was the hand embroidery. It is kind of odd, but doing the embroidery feels to me like learning a new language. It is still a bit awkward as I learn to compose artistically with this medium. At the same time it is very exciting as well as rewarding to see the end results. I love the interplay of the colors and the texture created by the stitching.

     I work in two pretty distinct ways: either very planned or intuitively. They both have their benefits, and some work, like my wholecloth pieces, does require more precise planning and composition decisions before beginning the actual piece. I really love to work intuitively though. It is always so exciting to begin with only a vague notion of where I want to go with a piece; then I proceed one step at a time until the next step is revealed to me. I think it only requires having faith that once you have that creative momentum it will continue until some inner sense tells you the piece is complete.

Friday, June 19, 2015

It All Started When......

      When I was very young,I learned to do hand embroidery from my grandmother. I always loved doing the handwork, and I spent many enjoyable hours working side by side with my grandmother learning new stitches and embroidering things that have long since disappeared to who knows where.
      Many years ago, in fact so many that I can't remember, I bought this old kit in an antique store. Someone had purchased the kit, embroidered one teeny little flower, and shoved it right back in the envelope.
      Every once in a while, I would get the urge to do some handwork and pick the piece up again. I would do a few little stitches, and then put it aside and forget about it.
     A couple of months ago I once again picked up the piece and commenced to actually finish the embroidery.
      I can't explain what it was that happened, but I fell in love with the process as well as the fabric. That beautiful old linen was like butter in my hands. The embroidery thread was not quite so delightful; it was really old rayon that tangled incessantly and caused me a whole lot of grief. I persisted and finished all of the embroidery,and now only the edges need to be finished.
The main part of the fabric has the date stamped on it: 1927. I think this must be longest running UFO. When I work on something old like this, I always wonder who the person was that purchased the piece originally.

The interesting bit is that I could not wait to do more work with this incredible fabric. I procured more linen and better thread; now I am totally hooked and I can't seem to stop.
Here is an almost finished corner. The kit also came with 4 napkins that are supposed to be inserted in the top of the lantern. The lanterns were embroidered on the gold linen first and then sewn to the background using the needle turn appliqué technique.