Sunday, 30 April 2017

At long last...

There's a reason why I call this blog Slow Threads, and this project reflects that.

I started working on this piece in January 2014. It began with a challenge from a friend after we'd visited an exhibit at a local gallery showing the work of 10 textile artists.  The challenge was to take three elements from the show and create an original piece.  And to keep it interesting, we each chose an additional element for the other to incorporate.

After careful consideration of some of my favourite pieces, I decided to start with a woven foundation of unfinished strips of bleached and unbleached muslin and cotton in various neutral shades.  This was a more subdued take on some of the multi-media woven pieces in the show.  I like subtle.

Another artist had worked a collection of simple hand embroidered squares.  These were mostly running stitches, but there were a few others used in smaller quantities.  Very subtle.

And, my third element was the colour - blue.  There was a lot of blue in the show including a collection of pieces made from faded and altered denim, a pair of multi-media assemblage works incorporating an amazing range of blue textiles, and a string of beautiful prayer flags representing the sky and water.  Beautifully subtle.

My imposed element was ... wait for it... bling.    glitter.  beads.  Anything shiny and textural.  For someone else, this wouldn't be a big deal, but it is for me.  I don't do bling.  I do subtle.  And that was the point.  My friend thought that I needed to take a big step and start to move outside my comfort zone. I needed to start working with more dimension.  Needless to say, I retaliated with an equally uncomfortable challenge.

Since these were truly experimental projects using unfamiliar materials, we agreed that we would work from stash and rescued material where possible.  And that there would be no time limit.  The point was just to do it.  To try.

So, I tried.  While I thought about how to incorporate that final feature, I began to stitch simple circles in running stitch.  Initially, I didn't even use blue, just picking up the neutral background colours in various thread weights.

Then I started to add some blue circles.  I started to vary the stitches with a bit of stem and chain stitching.  Then, I decided I'd done enough pussy footing around and that I would embrace the challenge, and if it ended up in the back of my closet, so be it.

In the end, I used beads, sequins, and buttons.  I stitched over plastic rings and metal washers.  I used a variety of ribbons and mesh.  And I went to town with metallic threads of every weight.  Since this was an improvisation piece, and didn't undo anything.  If I didn't like something, I kept stitching until it worked.  For example, the pearl beads looked awkward and tacked on, and I really wasn't happy with them, but after stitching around them with ivory rayon (shiny) thread, they became integrated into the piece.

I probably could have continued this way for another 3 years, but I finally decided that it was finished--that I had learned what I needed to learn from it--and now it's time to move on.