Liminal

...about themselves and the world.

…about themselves and the world.

As part of a collective of embroiderers, I have recently worked on this small section of a larger artwork originated by Ele Carpenter and co-ordinated by Brenda Burrell. The Open Source Embroidery Project makes creative connections between our traditional hand sewing craft skills and the new(er) world of online expression and collaboration.

Liminal embroidery detail.

Liminal embroidery detail.

The piece has been separated into 30 squares, 25cm square and stitched by 17 people. These are the words we all stitched for the Embroidered Digital Commons: LIMINAL

Liminal: Interstitial, vestibular and peripheral. Far from the centre, close to the border. A zone both between and without larger structures. Liminal spaces and moments are those into which large stable structures leak animated data about themselves and the world. Things happen in liminal zones. A city carries within it the contradiction of liminal zones located in its centre, because inner cities are the city’s farthest borderlands. Liminal fringes are often the most conducive environments for the culture of memes. This is because exiled images, ideas and meanings from several stable structures mingle in the corridors between them. Here, bereft of identities and other certainties, they are free to be promiscuous and reproduce. They infect each other with recombinant strands of thought and image. At the same time, the perspective of liminality brings intimacy to bear on an exclusion. Being liminal is to be close to, and yet stand outside the site of the border of any stable system of signs, where meaning is frayed from being nibbled at on the edges. Nothing can know the centre better than the sideways glance of peripheral vision. Liminality may be acquired from prolonged exposure to the still air of airport departure lounges, thick and over-boiled tea at the Inter State Bus Terminus on the ring road in Delhi, or the sub-liminal flicker of a cursor in an e-mail message.

'World' detail

‘World’ detail

The piece will be made up into a blanket/quilt to be exhibited from June.

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Portrait of a Green Man. Finished!

Portrait of a Green Man

Portrait of a Green Man

This has turned into a much more detailed project than I had originally planned. Started as a portrait of my husband and just to be a ‘bearded man’, he’s evolved into something else. On some of my previous blogs, you will find the portraits I did of my daughters ‘The Three Sisters’, which are lively, include torn papers from books and mainly machine embroidered. I think, as this was meant to be a ‘warm-up’ piece before I went into war poet Isaac Rosenberg‘s portrait, I just became carried away and used some of the techniques I am using on that series of portraits.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of Robin.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of Robin.

During the winter, my husband does have a beard – he hates shaving and it keeps him warm when cycling to work! In the ‘Green Man’s’ beard I have sewn Rosemary, Violets and small pretty pink flowers, these are to represent our daughters and it was his idea to turn him into a green man – traditional in areas of England, seen often on Churches and pubs (how appropriate!) The flowers are stitched with embroidery silks, as are the books and the robin.

The Robin, as a good friend of mine said, is like the spirit of a friend or family member popping by to check on you whilst you tend the garden. Robin is also one of my husbands middle names. It is also, the most heavily worked area of the portrait. A sort of mini project within the portrait.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of books and cap.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of books and cap.

The photo above shows the detail of the ‘tweed’ cap, embroidered using sewing machine thread as I wanted it to be finer and not as ‘heavy’ as the silks would have appeared. It took this picture into the framers this morning and cap was the area the framer was very excited about – he looked like a cap wearing kind of man, too.

I love the books. Books are one of our passions at home and we do have a lot of antique books with lovely decorated spines. Once the outline of the books were machine stitched, I painted them with acrylic, hoping to get the lovely vibrant colours old, bound books once had – acrylic is also used a little on the beard and eyes. I had great fun deciding which designs to sew onto the spines of the books, what colour silk to embroider it with etc.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the words.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the words.

Originally, I had planned to find some lines from a book, a song or a poem to sew across the shelves, to express a little bit more about the ‘Green Man’ but one afternoon, while walking the dog, I put together this which seemed to sum up the feeling:

Living in,

Once Industrial City,

Green pledges,

Charge your crown.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the eyes.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the eyes.

As I have done with my war poet portraits, this picture was initially coloured with tea. This has given it a lovely, all over subtle tone and stronger, more stewed tea was used for the beard, eyebrows and shadows behind the books. I am also very pleased with how the eyes look, they are very tricky and I’m not saying I’ve got them ‘right’ but there seems to be a vibrancy and life behind them. They were initially painted with acrylic but the very last touch I made to the portrait was to add the flecks of white which travel around the pupil.

This morning I took the portrait to the framers and last night I entered it for the Royal Academy Summer Show – fingers very tightly crossed as annually over 12,000 entries are made for around a 1,000 places…

REWIND: The Vanity of Small Differences

These photos are from a post I wrote back in 2013 and was posted on my then old ‘Blogger’ site ‘Diary of an Obsessive Creative’. It’s from a very exciting project I was involved in with Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and was funded by the Arts Council. During 2013, Sunderland Museum hosted the fantastic exhibition by Grayson Perry called ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’. The exhibition was the result of a Channel 4 series in which Grayson meet people from different ‘classes’ and looked at what people felt was important to them, their friends and the way they lived their lives.

I worked with three different community groups to create their own hangings in response to Grayson’s work. Each hanging is over 2 metres by 1 metre. Over ten weeks, each group created beautiful and powerful hangings. During this time, many learnt new skills and gained confidence in what they could achieve. It was a wonderful experience for myself, Jennie and Morgan (from Sunderland Museum) as well and it was just great fun!!

This first hanging is by a group of women who had moved to Sunderland recently, from a number of different countries. Each brought to the project imagery from places of worship, cityscapes, their culture and a love of the city which had now become their home: Sunderland. In this hanging, if you know Sunderland, you would recognise the Wearmouth Bridge, the shipyard cranes, the Winter Gardens, the Stadium of Light but the skyline behind is reminiscent of Hong Kong and some of the places of worship represent other towns and cities.

The Arrival at the City of Light

The Arrival at the City of Light

The second hanging was made by a group of young women from Sunderland. I was extremely impressed with how they all became so involved in the project and were very supportive when they were all learning new skills such as beading, embroidery and fabric painting. They all really enjoyed the process of making the portraits and we had such a great time fabric painting then beading/embroidering the biscuits and cakes for the tea party! The theme came from the idea of the ‘Mad hatters tea party’ in Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll actually spent sometime in Sunderland, which just gave more credence to a great idea!

The First Aspirational Tea Party

The First Aspirational Tea Party

The last hanging is by a group of young people who really enjoyed photography as a way of expressing themselves and who they are. The hanging is fabric painted and we drew out images they had photographed, turning their picture into a large set of negatives in the positive. This is such a great bold piece and it really stood out as you came up the stairs of the museum before you went into the gallery where the Grayson Perry tapestries were hanging.

Life Through a Lens: Turning Negatives into Positives.

Life Through a Lens: Turning Negatives into Positives.

The hangings were made using fabric paint, batik, embroidery, photographic transfer techniques and applique. All of the people involved in the projects learnt new skills ‘on the job’ and, as you can see, became very proficient at it!

During this exhibition, I also ran a week of school workshops, a teacher training day and master-classes, exploring the ideas of branding, ‘Tribes’ and identity which Grayson Perry reflects upon in his tapestries.

W.I.P Potrait of a Green Man, week 2

Sometimes there are rapid changes to this portrait, other times it can be terribly slow and frustrating. I am very happy with the stage I am currently at but have plans for further embellishment.

Portrait of a Green Man, testing frame size.

Portrait of a Green Man, testing frame size.

Below is close-up of the cap, which has been hand stitched to create a ‘herringbone’ tweed effect.

Detail of Cap

Detail of Cap

Hand stitched into the beard, using embroidery silks, are images of rosemary, violets and pink flowers – some even flowing out of his nostrils!

Detail of the beard.

Detail of the beard.

Using acrylic, I have painted the books behind the Green Man in heritage/natural colours which reflect the colours in the beard and my plans for the Green Man’s jumper.

Heritage painted bookshelves.

Heritage painted bookshelves.

With these colours in mind, I started embroidering oak leaves onto the Green Man’s jumper with a Robin sitting on one of the branches!

Silk stitching the robin over yesterdays sewing!

Silk stitching the robin over yesterdays sewing!

Embroidery Silk Robin.

Embroidery Silk Robin.

Over the next week, I intend to start embellishing the books on the shelves, colour the beard further, paint the Green Man’s shirt and add some hand stitched writing along the book shelf, maybe from a poem or lyric from a song.

Portrait of a Bearded Man W.I.P

In preparation for continuing my series on War Poet portraits (Isaac Rosenberg next), I thought I’d ‘warm up’ my creative skills, which have had a bit of a Christmas slow down, and produce a fun portrait of someone near and dear. Hence I have started a portrait of my husband, who is a sometimes strange bearded man. He is finding the process a bit concerning, as with the way I work, it’s a slow build up before you can really see how it’s looking and a stitch line slightly in the wrong direction is slower to correct than a pencil line.

The initial process, is to create a machine sewn outline of the portrait, which was day 1’s work. Using my photos as reference, I tried to create the unruly shapes the beard makes.

Day One, machine stitched outline.

Day One, machine stitched outline.

Next, I worked on the face – which needs more work and a few wrinkles… – and the cap. The cap has been hand sewn in brown, fine thread to create the textures and weaves of a tweed style cap. The shirt and jumper have been machine stitched in. The shirt I intend to paint but the jumper may well be treated like the cap, with extensive stitching to represent knitted stitches.

Day Two, tweed cap, face and clothing.

Day Two, tweed cap, face and clothing.

Behind the portrait, I have decided to place book shelves, which we have spilling over in our house, and I thought they would be a great way to create biographical references of the sitter using the spines of the book. I have also started to turn the sitter into a bit of a ‘Greenman‘, he has Rosemary running through his beard and out of his nostrils and will have Violets, too.

Day Three, rosemary and book shelves added.

Day Three, rosemary and book shelves added.

Eventually, once I have finished the majority of the embroidery, I will then start to paint the portrait. I have not decided whether to use layers of tea dye, as I did with the War Poet portraits, or to use acrylic as I did on the portraits of my daughters. Each day, my plans change and new ideas develop.

Watch this space…

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

Work In Progress: Embroidered Lovebirds

Lovebirds 1

Using my Aqua-Trickmaster water soluble pen, I drew out the design I’d decided upon, as I was getting a bit ‘twitchy’ and needed an immediate project to work on this weekend (not that I don’t have more important things that need doing.) The cotton fabric was then stretched on an embroidery hoop.

Lovebirds 2

I then ‘outlined’ the area I wished to fill in with the embroidery silks using a running stitch, then went back on myself, filling in the gaps. I find embroidery silk can be very expensive and recently the Works has started selling embroidery silks as well as other great priced craft equipment.

Lovebirds 3Using a ‘long-stitch’ or a rather scruffy ‘satin stitch’, I begun to fill in the areas of the bird, trying to make it appear quite feather like.

Lovebirds 4This is as far as I’ve got to tonight with my little ‘Lovebirds’, but I am looking forward to continuing with them this coming week. (Though I do have a workshop about hand sewing leather, small accessories inspired by nature, that needs planning for Wednesday! )Once the lovebirds have been finished, I hope to frame and have the picture available for the Ouseburn Open Studios in November.