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.