Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Mid-winter greetings

In the UK we really are having a 'bleak midwinter' with snow disrupting all kinds of things, traffic, work, holiday plans, schools. I seem to remember snow every year as a child but don't remember this disruption (maybe it was just because I was too small to notice).
Anyway on this, the shortest day of the year, I'd like to wish you all Happy Mid Winter Celebrations however you are choosing to party/stay warm/stitch/bead/quilt/celebrate.
And for the new year, I hope it brings you sharp needles and shiny threads.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Teeny tiny chrysanthemums

Progress is continuing on the shell box piece. The large chrysanthemum has been challenging me but I think I've solved it now, but that journey is going to be the subject of another post. In the meantime I've gone back to White Blossoms where I have also been challenged by some teeny tiny chrysanthemums. This is a lovely JEC design, mainly worked in white silk with the odd bit of black and gold for contrast. It's a deceptively simple design, the scale of the various motifs proves the challenge. The colour combination is challenging as well, the slightest gap in the stitches means the colour of the fabric shows through. Depending on the colour of the fabric this isn't always such a problem but on this piece the colour combination makes the gaps very obvious and, for me anyway, not acceptable. The two chrysanthemums below are my first attempts and even taking into consideration of the magnifying properties of digital close ups (in reality the motifs are about 1.5-2 cm across), I've decided that after applying the "can you live with it rule" I can't and they'll be coming out.
Apart from the gaps the other things that bothers me is the shape of the petals, they aren't regular. So how to solve this? I ended up doing three things, I went down a needle size, went up from 1.25F to 1.5 F, and put some guide lines in between the petals. I've used yellow couching thread for the guide lines so I can see them while embroidering and can then take them out once the petals are completed.
This process worked very well on the smallest of the flowers so I went onto the larger of the two, well when I say larger this one is about 2.5 cm across.
They also seem to work better working from the centre outwards rather than the other direction, not sure why but it works so I'll continue with this method.
I'm happy now with these chrysanthemums so I'll continue to put in all the basic shapes then will go back and put in all the knots which go over the top. I've only done about a third so far, so quite a bit more to do.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Preparation and maples

One of things that people always ask about traditional Japanese embroidery is how long it takes. Well it's all relative of course, and some people work faster than others, but one of the things that it is important to spend time on is preparation. Without good preparation it is impossible to get a good finish, and of course this all adds time.

So I worked on this little section on Sunday evening, all together it took about 3 hours. I put in the foundation of the shells and the top of the shell box, all in flat silk. Then I put in temporary holding threads, these are held down at regular intervals with small stitches. The long threads seen in the photo will come out but the small holding stitches won't so I had to twist up 2-1 couching threads in the same colour as the foundations. These holding threads will stop the foundation moving while I work the layer over the top.

The shells are designed to pick up on the chrysanthemum theme. The design of the petals has been traced and tacked over the foundation. I think I'm going to work these little petal shapes with a metallic thread, but I'm still thinking about it. The tracing on the right doesn't match the stitched section, I'll have to trace that one again and do it once I've completed the other two shells. Once I completed the section above I had some more fun with maple leaves.
Difficult to get a good colour image when the light is shining on the flat silk, but this gives the idea and I'm loving all these colours.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Classes, students, finishing, starting, and continuing

Well, that was a bit of a busy couple of months, so much has been going on. Some things on the work front went a bit pear shaped, but have now been resolved (thank goodness). I've been both student and teacher, there have been some progress on pieces, pieces started, and pieces finished.
At the end of September I was lucky enough to attend a gold leafing class with Midori Matsushima, I've blogged about it over here, this was a brilliant day and has given me a whole load of new ideas which are buzzing around in the back of my head.
I'm going to let them buzz for a while so watch this space for progress.
Following on from the gold leafing I was in Bournemouth attending a five day JE class as a student. This was great, it was lovely to be a student again, the last class I went to as a student was my phase 10 and teacher class last August so it's been a while. It was great to catch up with all the other students, to see what they have been doing while I've been MIA.
I didn't get lots of pictures, too busy catching up and stitching! However, Carol (above) and Pat (below) kindly let me take some pics of Sake Box and Double Cypress Fans. Both pieces are still in progress and are both are beautifully embroidered.
For some reason I didn't take any pictures of the whole class, but I did get this really nice one of our two tutors, Margaret and Denise, choosing colours for a new piece of Denise's. The piece is going to be based on an old obi design sheet and I think it is going to be stunning when complete. Denise has found some fabulous fabric which is just perfect. I'll share photos when I have them.
I had a great week and following on from a very difficult few weeks at work it was lovely to be in class, just what I needed. Thank you to everyone for making it such a great week.
Fast forward a couple of weeks to Japan Day 2010, organized by Japan Society North West. It was a very good day, loads of visitors. It was so busy in fact, that I couldn't get out from behind our little space to take photos from the front.
Above we have Sue demonstrating Japanese Beading, and the back of Jennifer's head who was demonstrating Japanese embroidery. Below a photo of Michiko, one of our JE students, in a lovely shibori kimono. This time she was demonstrating how to make kanzashi flowers from silk.
A few days after Japan Day we had our JE classes in Garstang. This time I was 'Miss' (which started as a joke from my stitching friends after I'd graduated to being a tutor but seems to have stuck ;-)). This class marked our 2nd anniversary of running classes in Garstang. It is quite amazing how this class has developed over this time, students are moving on up the phases and are producing lovely work.
This time we were joined by three more advanced students which is great for the newer students as they are able to see more advanced pieces and chat to the other students about their experiences.
I am so pleased and proud to be part of this growing group of Japanese embroiderers. It is wonderful to see the students develop and grow in confidence in their stitching. It makes me proud to think that I can help them on their own journey.
We had three pieces finished during class, Michiko and Jennifer both finished Bouquet and started on Hiogi.
Colleen finished Hiogi and started on a practice piece.
I didn't get much stitching done during the class, but it didn't matter, I had a fabulous time and feel inspired and re-invigorated to continue with my stitching and designing.
White blossoms is coming on slowly, I've actually done quite a bit, but don't have any up to date photographs.
A while ago when visiting my tutor I discovered a lovely obi design sheet amongst her collection. As luck would have it I'd taken a tan of kimono silk with me to show her and to discuss what I might embroider onto it, and what do you know it was perfect for the obi design. Since then I've tweaked the design a bit to give it my own twist, figured out a colour list for threads, transferred the design onto the silk, and generally progressed. I took the completed framed up design with me to Bournemouth to have another discussion with Margaret about colours and techniques.
I had made plans for techniques but just wanted to run my ideas past her to get her opinion. I hadn't planned to start work on this one, but once I got home I couldn't resist ... my fingers were itching to put some stitches in. So here is my first maple.
I've done very little since, but I'm loving it and will share progress at it goes along.
At the class last week Denise brought along some obi and kimono silks and I got the section of fabric below. It is a section from the inside of an obi. There was only a short section dyed like this, so Carol-Anne and I shared it. They dye fades slightly differently on each section, and it'll be interesting to see what we both come up with to put onto this.
The colour fades from a soft creamy white to a dark charcoal grey. I have a plan already for this piece of fabric. Oh to win the lottery so I can give up work and get cracking on all these pieces!
Well that ended up being a much longer post than I had planned, but now I'm all caught up and will spend the weekend working on ..... oh dear, decisions decisions!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Good news, bad news

Very busy first couple of days this week, I've been doing some overtime at work, good news; sadly no overtime available today, bad news; instead been working on some new designs, very good news.
Regular readers may remember I did a number of posts about this piece a while ago.
I love peonies, they come in such lovely colours and seeing them always cheers me up. I have two peony plants in pots in my yard, they flower every year, just one bloom on each, but for the short time they last they are glorious.
So, thought I, why not do a pattern of a perfect peony, so I have. :-)
Available as a PDF from my Etsy shop.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

New designs

It's been pretty quiet here since we exhibited at the show a couple of weeks ago. As usual it was very busy, so much so I didn't get chance take any photos.

As usual we met lots of lovely people, all of whom were very kind about our work. Yoyo san got here own very special visitor. Rachel from VirtuoSew Adventures made the journey especially to meet her. It was wonderful to meet Rachel in 'real life' to put a face to the blog and to chat about lots of different things. Thank you Rachel for coming to visit Yoyo san (and the rest of us!).

For a while now I've been thinking about drawing up some smaller designs I've got and making them available in the etsy shop. After much prevaricating I've finally got round to drawing up a couple and loading them into the shop. At the moment the designs are very traditional Japanese designs, as I develop my own style this may change, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy them.

First is a design of an Uchiwa fan decorated with chrysanthemums. I've got a couple of designs of cypress and suehiro fans but they are still on the drawing board. If you'd like to know more about fans I did a short post on them over here on the JE blog.

Next is a section of the design of small plum blossoms which I embroidered.
Last a lovely butterfly with flowers. The butterfly is a very simple design, but lots of possibilities for different colours in this one.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Exhibition, Manchester UK

Yoyo san will be on display at The Stitch and Creative Craft Show at Manchester Central (GMEX) from 3rd - 5th Sept. She would be honoured if anyone would like to come along and be introduced. :-)
I'll be there as well, as will other members of Japanese Embroidery UK. We'll have lots of different pieces on display and will be demonstrating traditional Japanese embroidery on our stand throughout the 3 days.
Looking forward to seeing you there.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

White blossoms

I've not done much stitching over the last few weeks, but I have got some time in. I've been working on some of my own new designs but they are still at the drawing stage so until they get to the point of being transfered onto silk and starting the embroidery I'm working on White Blossoms from JEC.

This is embroidered on black shusu and uses only black, white, and a bit of gold. I've had this piece for a while and it includes some variations on techniques which I've been looking forward to learning. The large chrysanthemum above looks a bit 'gappy', I'm hoping this is just because the fabric is black and it's showing through more than normal. The spacing was fine before I put the knots on the top. I've done another chrysanthemum on another section of the piece and have put the foundation a touch closer together. We'll see what it looks like once the knots have gone in. If it looks better I'll take this first one out and re-do it. One of the techniques I've been enjoying is this two tone katayori. I love the stripey effect it makes. A slightly thicker black and white katayori is used to outline the large chrysanthemum petals. I wound both of the katayori onto koma to help to keep the tension on the thread. This has made it much easier to work with, particularly in working the turn at the top of the petal.

I've done a bit more on this since these photos were taken and it's starting to come together very nicely. I was looking at my photos from my Japan trip this weekend and came across this photo of a decoration on a huge door at the Meiji shrine in Tokyo. Look familiar?

Saturday, 7 August 2010

MC Escher and other thoughts

I've been thinking recently about what influences our taste in art, design, and craft. Why do we consider someone who paints an 'artist' and someone who embroiders a 'craftsman'? Why is one considered better than the other?
I'm not going to get into this discussion, it is being held in lots of other places, except to say why can't we be both?
Visiting my brother, a very talented architect (another field in which you need to be both artist and craftsman), last week he was showing me a book on Lucienne and Robin Day who are influential designers and artists of the 20th century. Lucienne is famous for her textiles and Robin for his minimalist chairs (though this isn't all they did). Looking at some of the textiles Lucienne designed and learning from my brother about how the technology of the day influenced the finished product has brought me back round to this artist v craftsman question.
Fabrics by Lucienne Day
I don't have an answer to this question and don't suppose we ever will, but I think I'd like to consider myself both - at the moment I'm a better craftsman than artist. Actually I should more accurately say I'm a better at embroidery then drawing - but I'm working on the drawing part.
All this has brought me back to an artist/craftsman whose work I have always enjoyed. MC Escher. A little while ago I had a thought about embroidering a mobius strip and this thought has been percolating away in the back of my little head ever since then. I've seen lots of mobius strips over the years but the first one I remember being fascinated with was this one by Esher.
Mobius II
This morning I went on-line and did some searching. I have a book on Escher but it doesn't go into his history and for some reason doesn't say how he created his pictures. On the MC Escher website I found that information - lots of his work was created by wood block prints or lithographs - another artist/craftsman. Don't you love it when things just seem to link up without any rhyme or reason.
Mobius I
I think I prefer this version of his mobius strip to the one with the ants. I like how the two colours work. This one, the Escher website tells me, was printed from 4 blocks. What artistry to design it in the first place and then the craftsmanship to carve the 4 separate blocks so they match up.
The more I looked at the gallery of images the more they seemed to remind me of Japanese embroidery. I can't quite put my finger on why, maybe it's the use of shading which we get with our flat silk and Escher creates with his printing.
And the more I looked the more I thought some of these would look wonderful worked in various JE techniques. How about either of these sprial designs worked as cords?

Sphere sprials

They remind me of the JEC phase piece - Resonance cords. This fabulous example was embroidered by Iris who lives in Australia. So I will continue to ponder on how to interpret a mobius strip in JE techniques. I'd love to do as suggested by Michelle Griffiths, a shibori artist based in Wales, and embroider a giant one 6 feet or so across but not really sure how I could do this. So I'll start on a smaller version and work up to the giant one (maybe!). In the meantime I am working on the JEC piece white blossoms - I have to have something to stitch. I am finding this piece very restful. No pictures to share yet - watch this space.

This last photo, also an Escher, is just because it's lovely. It has just the right level of 'catness' don't you think?

PS - have been getting some spam comments recently so have had to switch the comment moderation back on - sorry

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