Panic Early – Design and Sample

“Panic Early ” has been my making motto for many years and the advice I always handed to students at the beginning of any project with a set deadline….now it is my turn to heed my own advice. As a hand embroiderer the idea of stitching in a hurry is a total nightmare.  So I tend to give myself a few days ‘wriggle room’ on any given deadline, I hate last minute making. So as my partner Rachel Kelly and I have about 3 more weeks to the deadline for a piece of work, I have decided to step up my input and get to grips with the rest of the tree design and sampling (with a plan B as well – watch this space) so that as soon as the Easter vacation is over we can just roll into the manufacture of the fabrics. The actual piece of work has been in the making for about 2 months now (see the last 2 posts) and the idea to make the Daphne Tree is at least 15 years old and I am about to see it come to fruition in the next 2 weeks, when it is due to be exhibited at a group exhibition called ‘Pairings’ the Museum in the Park in Sroud

The design drawing above, although sketchy, is looking fairly comprehensive, although to anyone who hasn’t seen the full scale pattern on the tables at Heart Space Studios will have their doubts about my progress.

As a hand embroiderer I am used to developing my original design ideas as I make them. Working from a fairly comprehensive design drawing with stitched/dyed/fabricated samples, hand stitching then affords time to contemplate the work in progress, so subtle shifts of colour or even whole areas can be re-assessed –  sometimes a piece of work can take several months of steady work to complete. The initial research is a  fairly rapid process compared to the execution of the finished piece. Now I have to plot the whole piece in advance of starting the work so that I can calculate just how much stitching time will allow…we have hit on the idea of working with paper computer print-outs that Rachel send to me as she designs them -so that I can develop the design and get the scale sorted out, while we wait for the fabric to arrive to be printed and the departments to open up after Easter

 My pairing partner, Rachel, works in a completely different  way – she is a digital printer, so everything she makes has to be mapped out first on a computer and programmed so that she can manipulate everything she needs at the final printing stage. She gives herself a range of options to choose from – making her work spontaneous in a totally different way than mine… fact my way of working isn’t spontaneous at all, it could be said to be organic or even vegetative in its development. She takes a long time to prepare; I take a long time to make; she can print metres of  piece of cloth in a day; I can take months to cover half a metre.

And as we are playing a game of consequences to make this work, in that we each react to the others new idea or  image, I have to play by the rules and just make  new ways to to do my stitched work within the time span. But what wonderful choices I am given, beautiful bouquets of exquisite flowers, some with hidden birds that I can cut out and embellish, but at the moment just working with paper makes the stitched results rather crude, but gives me ample opportunity to play with the colour and composition.

Eventually we will have the cloth to print on and cut out and sew beautifully – and the vellum will be laser etched hopefully later this week ready for me to start sewing it all together. Meanwhile I have to carry on sampling all the ways I can make a piece of vellum transform into a sheet of paper which then becomes a printed chintz design on cotton. I have started to sample dyeing the shoji paper leaves to applique onto the cotton fabric – hand stitching is the answer   as all of this is too big to go under a sewing machine – did I mention that this work is 3 metres from the toes to the top?

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