Akhenaten’s Headress Rethought – stage two

The Cobras Hood
The Cobras Hood

Having decided that all those delicious manipulations of brass mesh weren’t going to help in this case, I cut out the shape of the cobra’s hood from the brass mesh, (not getting too close, in case I cut the thread attaching it!).

At this point I realised it wasn’t quite strong enough, and attached the bent piece of pearl purl from the first attempt to the back in order to provide more support.

Bending back the brass mesh helped to conceal the supporting pearl purl – although whether anyone will be able to notice it is a moot point!

Cobra In Place
Cobra In Place

The final stage of the cobra was to attach the same piece of silver spiral with gold band to take the place of the snake himself, in front of the hood and to a new piece of gold kid. This time I looked again at some pictures of cobras, and made sure the hood was set back a little from where the mouth would be.

New Version Of Headdress
Cobra and vulture heads in place

I used the same “vulture’s head” as last time, but helped it to stand out slightly by winding some blue wire from a tiny bit of blue purl around the large gold rope I used for the vulture’s neck. You can see how small it is, but it’s surprising how much difference it makes to the final effect!

Once I’d attached the gold kid, I could cover the bottom edge with gold spiral, and then trim the upper edge to create the shape I wanted. This is the stage you see here. However, I then decided that the upper edge needed a trim, so at some point I must tie myself in knots to attach some sort of trimming to a curved shape stretched over a padded base.

Wish me luck!

Akhenaten’s Headdress, Rethought

Original Headdress
Original Headdress

Of course, I had to take off the gold headdress when I decided to make another attempt (and another, and another!) at the face. Then, when I looked at it again, with my new version of the face in place, and still more new ideas swirling around in my head, I decided that it wasn’t quite right, either in shape or in conception, and needed a little more help…

Blue Twist And Brass Mesh
Blue Twist And Brass Mesh

First of all, I think the first piece of gold kid I cut was the wrong shape, but secondly, and more interestingly, the cobra doesn’t really stand out against the gold kid, so I decided to try again.

So I began by folding a piece of brass mesh and attaching to it a loop of the same blue twist I used to emphasize the edging of the belt. I had thought that this might be rather tricky, but the brass mesh is fine enough to take stitching without too much trouble.

At this point I should probably say that from the base to the top of the loop here is no more than a centimetre. This is all very small and very fiddly indeed!

I also experimented with some pleating and crinkling of the brass mesh. I like the various effects, and I’d love to fit them in somewhere, but unfortunately I couldn’t quite work out how to make them work in this context.

The whole piece is so striking that I am finding it particularly difficult with the last little details, because they need to have enough personality not to be overwhelmed, but I don’t want the final piece to feel “spotty”. The eye needs somewhere to rest occasionally, rather than zooming frantically in all directions!

Akhenaten’s Face – Yet Again

Needlefelting A Different Way
Needlefelting A Different Way

Having found the last attempt didn’t result in quite what I was aiming for, I tried a new approach.

This time I took the outline of the face from the main piece, and needlefelted around it to get the shape to fit. Then I tried to get the features in place again, but having learnt from last time, I tried to leave the felt padding a little softer so as to be a bit easier to embroider. When I was trying the wet-felted versions to be further needlefelted, I used several different wools to see whether it made a difference, but with my level of inexperience, it didn’t, so this time I just used the first that came to hand.

Face In Progress
Face In Progress

Then I stretched silk over the top and began to stitch again.

When I tweeted this picture in a frustrated I’ve-had-enough-of-him pause, one of my friends replied “It’s Cassandra O’Brien!”. Which gave me a much-needed giggle – although I have a lowering feeling that Akhenaten and Cassandra might have got along quite well. Not necessarily the most admirable of people, either of them.

And don’t my lovely copper/rose-gold headed pins disappear beautifully against the fabric!

Face In Place
Face In Place

This looks rather better, I think.

I would have been happier if I could have made the brow heavier, and the nose more forward, but by now I feel I’m entering a world of diminishing returns, and may even start to make negative progress, which would be disheartening to say the least.

Now to see how this face copes with all the fuss of headdress and accessories…

Akhenaten’s Face – Again

Needlefelted Faces
Needlefelted Faces

As you may recall, my last attempt at a face for Akhenaten wasn’t entirely successful, so I started again… This time I needlefelted the shapes very fiercely (which I enjoyed more than I expected to!) until they were quite solid and strongly shaped, only to discover that they were far too deep and I had to saw off the back half with a penknife!

Another Face Attempt
Another Face Attempt

Then I stretched another fragment of silk over the top and worked the features.

When you consider how deep the eyesockets are in the felt, I’m a bit surprised that the eyes on this version don’t appear more deep-set, but he does have nice heavy brows, and the rest of the features aren’t too bad..

The face is also as narrow as it appears in that purple watercolour from a couple of weeks ago, so I felt quite optimistic when I turned back to the frame he sits on.

Too Narrow A Face
Too Narrow A Face

However, you can’t say that this face is much better than the apoplectic trumpeter – it has turned out by far too narrow for the space left for it, and I suspect that the detached buttonhole stitch with return used for the wig has done too much damage to the fabric to take it out.

So this is not the one to use, and I have to try again.

Again!



Watercolour investigations

AkhenatenCollage
Akhenaten

There’s more than one way of thinking about a project. I’m still trying to feel my way to an understanding of Akhenaten’s face, and this is one way of doing so. The purple one in the middle is the most recent, and most clearly shows the strong shape of the face. So I might be making progress.

People
People

But the watercolours also give me a chance to show things that I’m not at all sure I want to attempt in embroidery. Of course, I’ve already done “Loading The Felucca”, which shows people, and the background of the second panel does too, but in all honesty, I think that difficult as they are, the watercolours were actually easier than the stitching!

Artefacts
Artefacts

The felucca, and the Hittite Amulet have both appeared in stitch already. I’d like to do more of the jewellery (I’ve got an assortment of goldwork supples to play with, after all!). I’m planning to do some more fresco fragments, and I’m sure another idea or two will occur to me soon!

More on Akhenaten’s Return

Trying Again for the Face
Trying Again for the Face

I’ve felt the face was rather weak, so I decided to try again.

This time I needlefelted the padding underneath, to try to get the nose, the heavy brows, and the mouth in place.

Twice.

Separate Face
Separate Face

Then I covered the padding that seemed the better with silk, and stitched the features again. In some ways, this is better than the first attempt, but it still looks a bit twisted. The eyes are certainly staring, but the nose isn’t straight.

In my defense, it became harder and harder to stitch, even though I began to feel that the shaped padding wasn’t shaped enough. Or even padded enough!

I think that before I attempt another version, I need to work out a way of keeping the silk under control while I add the features, without actually attaching it all the way around

In spite of that, I decided to attach this face in place of the last, and see whether I felt that a face “stuck on afterwards” would be a problem.

More work needed!
More work needed!

Well, no, I don’t think it is, although it’s hard to be sure. Not least, it involved removing still more of his headdress. That will need more padding to sit well with a more padded face.

I am sure that I need a new version, though. At present he looks like an apoplectic trumpeter, and that is not a good look for the Heretic Pharoah!

Getting back to Akhenaten

I’ve not written about the Colossus of Akhenaten for a while, but that isn’t to say I’ve stopped thinking about it. Unfortunately Akhenaten is proving obstreperous (as in life, so in embroidery…!)

The Crook
The Crook

I decided to try to sneak up on him by playing with details such as the crook and flail regalia.

I don’t want these to be couched to the fabric in bits, I want them to seem like miniaturised regalia, so I’m planning to thread various coloured purls onto wire and then poke the end of the wire through the fabric to the back.

This heavy purl – called “Rope” on the Golden Hinde website – seems to work perfectly for the crook, but single wire wasn’t strong enough to support it, so much of the experimentation was to get the right number of strands. I’m so glad I have proper goldwork scissors – the rope is tough and springy stuff.

Flail Experiments
Flail Experiments

You may recognise the materials in some of these experiments for the flail!

The two on the left use silk-covered purls in blue, with heavy gold pearl purl. The two on the right are coloured and gold purls, some of those used in the chipwork on the belt.

The potential handle is a gloriously stiff, over-the-top purled pearl purl in blue and silver, named something like “winter spiral”. I have my doubts about it in this context, because it’s silver rather than gold, but we’ll see…

Regalia Placement Experiments
Regalia Placement Experiments

I couldn’t resist trying the crook and flail trials in place.

I’m happy with the crook, but the flailing bits of the flail are giving trouble. None of the options really looks the right scale – the purls are too small, the pearl purl may be a bit too heavy, and the “winter spiral” handle doesn’t look quite right, either.

So I have some more thinking to do. Again…

Now, where had I got to…?

Starting After The New Year
Starting After The New Year

What with one thing and another, it is quite some time since you last saw Ankhsenpaaten. I had got quite a long way, and was pleased with progress, but still not entirely sure about her.

Then, of course, we had the Christmas period, and I don’t even attempt to stitch anything that requires serious concentration during that time. There are simply too many other things competing for my attention.

And besides, my favourite place in which to stitch is occupied by the tree….

Details Crisper
Details Crisper

So when I came back to her, I was full of trepidation. This seems like such a simple way to create an image, but in order for the “Stare Hard and Then Stitch” approach to be really successful, I need to have some sense of the whole thing in my head, so that the stitch sizes and threads all fall naturally to hand as each element is worked and reworked. The long break, and a variety of other things happening in the background, mean that my mental “map” of this piece had fallen out of my head, and needed to be painfully clawed back in again.

And “painful” was indeed the word. I’ve not regained the sense of surety I was beginning to feel at the point when I stopped working on it.

Moment To Pause And Think
Moment To Pause And Think

However, I continued to juggle with lights and darks, adding some of the details in the extension of the head and neck at the back which supports the stone in an upright position, staring and then stitching, and stitching and then staring.

I’ve brought the strong darks around the ears a little more to the fore, emphasized the light area down the side of the face, and brought a little more detail around the mouth and the line of the jaw.

There are elements of this I’m still not entirely confident about, but I am also becoming afraid of going too far, and ruining it by doing too much.

Time to stop, turn my back, and come back when my anxieties have stepped into the background and I can judge more truly. I’m declaring her “provisionally finished”.

Head of Ankhsenpaaten – more progress

Starting Second Layer
Starting Second Layer

Once I had a single layer of stitches I removed the running stitch outline. Not as easy as you might hope, because my “real” stitching had caught some of them, but doesn’t it look better without!

The angle of the photo shows but doesn’t over-emphasize the slightly elongated skull the family had, and you can almost see this little girl as a daughter of Nefertiti – the same fine-drawn features, softened by youth and lack of care.

More Darks
More Darks

The next thing to do was to add in some of the mid tone darks. The photograph I’m working from does have some quite strong shading, and I felt that in spite of my early Dark darks, there wasn’t quite enough form.

However, this point I had a bit of a wobble, because I was wondering whether I’d done too much dark. Looking at the photo, I now think not, but I do need a mid-mid-tone to blend in the curves of the face a little bit more.

More Lights Too
More Lights Too

However, I put in more lights to help myself back on track.

You can see, if you click to enlarge the photo, very light cream stitches around the highlight on the temple, on the eyelid and around the curve of the nostril and the light areas around the lips.

I need to extend some of these, and add those pesky mid-mid-tones. But I do think it’s going to work.

And I’m completely astonished at myself. I’ve approached this almost as I approach a watercolour, and you wouldn’t have thought embroidery – certainly not my embroidery – would be amenable to such treatment.

Gosh.

Head of Ankhsenpaaten – progress

GettingStarted
GettingStarted

There is relatively little to say about Ankhsenpaaten, because the form will be created with loads of seed stitches in slightly different shades of silk thread, so there will simply be more of the same.

However, you may find it interesting to watch it come into focus, so I will post a series of pictures, along with what comments I feel I can make.

Do click on the pictures for a closer view, and a better sense of what is happening.

Eye Socket
Eye Socket

You can see from the earlier post that I only transferred the most basic of outlines, so I am using the photograph as my reference and working the various shades over one another to develop the layers of colour and shade.

I have started by trying to understand the most basic  planes of the face and the shades needed to bring them alive.

Complete First Layer
Complete First Layer

I tend to find it much easier to get my bearings if I can get some of the darker areas in, because that gives me the beginnings of a sense of depth and form. It is, however, a slightly terrifying approach, because there’s something so very definite about a truly Dark dark!

One of the shades of silk is very close to the fabric, but there is just enough difference that the light bouncing off it creates a sense of difference between inside the lines and outside the lines.