Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Transformation 3

Work continues on this piece towards it's final resolution.

In this section of the project I have been concentrating on my cast of ladies who will be the corner stone of the final piece.

The photographs I used for research from the British Pathe web site and Love Dungeness  web site  sometimes had little detail in the facial features. In order to make a connection with these ladies I have had to create an artistic impression of how they might have looked, and have therefore had to work very hard on my portrait sketching skills.

I have been using a very comprehensive book, Drawing and Painting People, the essential Guide Edited by Jeffrey Blocksidge and Mary Burzlaff.

And here are the results...

The bottom 4 portraits were taken from a line up of the ladies on a photoshoot (all looking back at the photographer) depicting them pulling the lifeboat. I had the impression that there was a mixture of pride and curiosity that their story would be told. 

While working on the portraits I continued to experiment with the digital embroidery and went back to a previous portrait and started by digitising the sketch.

This was a much more complicated sketch than the first one I tried and I found that I was treating it as a sketch, and not considering how the machine would stitch it out. As a consequence I had a very large number of float threads crisscrossing the piece.

The above photo shows the design half stitched, it took an hour to complete but cutting the float threads as it progressed added another half an hour to the process.

The embroidery was worked on a nylon sheer with a water-soluble stabiliser, which after washing out and displaying it against the light, gave this effect.

I put this sample against a previous piece to see how it would work with other lace like structures, and was pleased with the potential of this idea.

For my second sample I chose one of the newer portraits to experiment with.

This is a much simpler sketch and therefore easier to create a simple digital file for the machine to stitch. The runs between stitch stopping and starting were longer, so there were fewer float threads. I also had to concentrate on making the areas of dark shadow less dense with regard to stitch.

Despite my earlier thoughts that I wouldn't use the found tablecloth as it was a literal reference, I decided to see how it looked with the face superimposed on the surface.

Here you can see the table cloth sample has been inserted into a calico frame and is supported by a water-soluble stabiliser, the mount helps to save on the amount of costly stabiliser used.

I chose a grey multicolour thread to stitch the face as I wanted it to only be seen discreetly.

To light this sample I used a string of small LED lights as I didn't want any distraction with another background lace.

I think this sample definitely shows possibilities for further experimentation. I like the idea of using a fabric found on location at the sight of the initial inspiration source for this project. It links in well with the domestic side of these ladies' lives and it also provides that feeling of a possibly forgotten story.

While the lights were set up I also looked at the previous sample to see how it would look in isolation.

I have only just noticed that I missed the top lip definition in this interpretation of the portrait. It's very easy to miss such details as the process is basically sketching over the original sketch, within the sewing machine software. 

Having established a strong start with regard to the transformation of research and paperwork designs, my next challenge will be to design the structure for this piece in order to bring about it's resolution.


  1. oh I love how this is developing Sharon. The images of the lit lace like cloth with the face are amazing particularly the third one from the bottom....

  2. Thanks for your kind comments on my blog, Sharon. Finding it hard to get back into the coursework after a couple of months' break. Love to read your thought processes on this work too. The digitised portraits are so effective layered with the lace.

  3. Very interesting Sharon. Particularly interesting about you realising the difference between a sketch and a digital embroidery, with its own unique possibilities. All about learning the best way to use each particular medium in our personal 'toolkit', rather than just knowing 'how to do it' in a physical sense. Made me think also of a comment you left on one of my recent posts (sorry - haven't replied to any posts for last few weeks - rushed off my feet!) about not usually liking cross stitch. Well, I think that cross stitch is terribly over-used because it's very simple to do. And using cross stitch to simply reproduce, say, a fine art picture generally does nothing for the picture. Whereas cross stitch used for the right sort of image / design can be very appealing, to me at least. Just the same applies here, doesn't it - a digital embroidery might look like a sketch but needs to be approached differently. Time will come when it's second nature to you to see what needs to be done to make a design work well as a digital embroidery. And then that makes me think that being a successful embroiderer depends on us being able to use our tools or our favourite arsenal of stitches at the level of unconscious competence, so that we can put all our energies into the evolving design.

    Wishing you a lovely Christmas. Hope to get around to replying to your emails and comments soon, but am trying desperately to get the house ready for Christmas, after all the upheaval of this year. x