Drawing Embroidery

This little heart has been made for a project for the new Heart Space Stitch Club. I designed several small felt hearts that could be made in an evening and taken home. I offered everyone a choice of colours between bright pinks and rich reds with sequins and beads and silver thread embroidery, it is Christmas after all.

One of the makers was amused at the frivolity of her choice of materials, excusing herself by saying it was a only a gift for a child. But then I explained that she had made a perfect symbol for protecting a child, the heart is now a universal symbol for love and the mirror would divert the ‘evil eye’; traditionally shisha mirrored embroideries were used to decorate children’s garments

So imagine my feeling when looking carefully at the images I had taken throughout the evening I saw the maker’s eye gazing out of her tiny stitched mirror.

This struck me as the perfect way to introduce the collection of embroidered garments I had organised for the Drawing Club the following weekend.

The fabrics I had chosen for the drawing class were an wonderful array of embroidery in wools and cottons and silk and silver, mirrors, buttons, shells and coins on dyed and printed grounds, all made by hand and traditionally worn for festive occassions by people of the desert communities in Pakistan and Rajahsthan and Gugarat in India. I had also brought in some books that deal with the symbolism for these fabrics, amongst them one of my favourite resource books, Amulets by Sheila Payne.

But where to start with such a myriad of pattern, texture and colour, I said to try to be faithful to the colour and the students soon set to work colouring and cutting to form backgrounds for the detailed drawings.

These are all worn and faded fabrics, so some of the first studies were surprisingly subtle, chalks applied to darker grounds give a broken faded effect. For the first exercise I asked the class to describe the embroidery in as much detail as they could, just to get them focused. This is after all, primarily, an observational drawing class.

Describing the details made lively descriptive drawings and collages. I liked the inventiveness when students started to make 3D collages for describing tufts and fringes.

However not all the colours were difficult to attain, several people had brought in their own materials and some of the hand-made papers were really good colour matches. As one member of the group had requested a workshop featuring collage I had provided lots of coloured tissue papers with paints and inks in silver, plus silver- well silver coloured, metal leaf.

Then the drawings, themselves  started to become collages, so they were being made in a similar way to the fabrics – by being separate pieces stitched together and then embroidered.

I had asked the class consider how to recreate the effects of the light bouncing from the mirrors, several different techniques were tested, silver inks, paints, foils and fibre tipped pens, that all gave different results.

the application of silver foil was particularly successful at rendering the reflecting light.

There were several fabrics that were not mirrored, but with strong embroidery patterns that were developed into bold drawings.

and also some very large but subtle collages captured the beauty of worn fabrics

Eventually new and fresher studies started to emerge, the students were starting to express more than the look but also the spirit of the materials.

 But at the end of the afternoon, we looked at all the studies alongside the actual fabrics and were amazed at the way that they belnded together, it was difficult to tell which were fabrics and which papers, not the intention of the exercise but interesting, considering the free way in which the drawings had been assembled.

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