Tag: or nué
While I was stitching round and round in circles, I was also thinking about the rest of the design, and about what else it might be showing.
I had a thought that it might be nice to make a reference to the Cretan art that was so influential for the art of the Amarna period. One of the conventions of the art of ancient Crete was that women were depicted as light-skinned, while the men were shown as tanned, so I thought I would give that a little twist, and work the three daughters as light-skinned, and Akhenaten and Nefertiti as tanned, thus “bookending” the scene.
So I blended a lighter colour and got started on Daughter Number 1.
Only to decide I really didn’t like it, order some more flat silk, and try again. This is the lighter shade of Akhenaten’s skin colour, and as you can see, it is too light. It barely shows against the gold, and at that, the photo shows it better than it showed in real life – I had real trouble seeing it to stitch.
So that wouldn’t do, would it?
The next thing I tried was a blend of the light and dark skintones, and as you can see, there isn’t even a photo of that!
The videos are of course somewhat beyond this point – Episode 16 – “On the satisfaction of pattern building and the avoidance of confusion” is now up on Vimeo. Do have a look!
I recall from both the Hittite Amulet and Christus Natus Est that Or Nué projects are rather difficult to write about. They’re a little like those novels in which Nothing Happens, because one edges slowly forward, with the piece growing imperceptibly – until all of a sudden, it gallops to a conclusion. I am nowhere near that point as yet, but for the benefit of those who prefer reading to watching, I will attempt to provide occasional updates…
Here is one of the progress shots.
There are a few details I will have to come back to, as you will see if you click through to the larger image. I may have to adjust Akhenaten’s arm, for a start, and the pale blue I used to mark the creases on his kilt isn’t dark enough to do the job, so I will have to do find another thread and add some stitches.
However, the metal thread on the front of Akhenaten’s headdress shows up rather better than I feared it might. Although, as I said on one of the videos, gold thread couched with gold thread is pretty much Peak Ancient Egypt. Even Louis XIV, never an advocate of moderation in design, would take a step back, crying, “Here, I say, steady on!”
To which I reply, I am steadying on – it’s staying in!
This is a close up from slightly more recently. You can see that I’ve reached the designated edge of the design, and that rather than cutting and plunging my threads, I’m doubling back on myself, so all the gold remains on the surface. My intention is that this will be edged with some sort of braid when it is complete, and attaching a braid through the gold as it stands will be quite hard enough, without attaching it through plunged ends as well!
I’m also leaving the royal blue blocks in a sort of half-tone, with some of the gold showing through. I may decide, when the whole thing is finished, that the border designs need to be full strength if they are to frame the scene properly, but I felt that this might work, and would be an interesting experiment.
But, occasional reservations aside, I think this is going to be a very successful piece!
I’ve decided to work spiral Or Nué, as I did for Christus Natus Est, rather than the straight version I used for the Hittite Amulet. It creates more of a sense of movement, and that is very much in keeping with Amarna period art.
That, however, meant that I had to work out where to start the spiral, and as I mentioned on the first video, I had several options. The first was simply to start in the middle of the piece, but I felt that would either look very static, or, almost worse, create a rather 70s psychedelic vibe, not at all appropriate! The next three options could all be taken as emphasizing interpretations of the story of Akhenaten and Amarna. One of these was to centre the spiral in the centre of the Aten – but to be honest, for all Atenism is seen as one of the very earliest adventures in monotheism, that didn’t seem to me to reflect the stories that filter through Mary Chubb’s book.
So then I had a choice between centring the spiral on Akhenaten’s head, to reflect the idea that he espoused Atenism as a political ploy to break the power of the priests of Amun at Thebes, or centring it on his heart, to suggest that he believed he’d received a genuine religious revelation. You can see which I chose!
The second video is at https://vimeo.com/404608150, and will show you some of the progress to this point, as well as my musings as I stitch. I have a few more quandaries to sort out, but you’ll hear about those in the next episode, as I tackle them. As before, if you have any questions about what I’ve said in the video, or what I’ve done, please ask, and I will do my best to give you a sensible and useful response!
We left the design in a sort of semi-developed stage, and the next stage was to work out which border I was going to use…
So, the one on the right – no, the borders are too wide, and given the size I’m going to do it, they’ll take away too much of the design area from the family group. I do like that arrowhead design, though. I wonder where else I could put it?
I started playing around with the widths of the borders a bit more (computers are very useful for scaling fiddly things like this – more new tricks learned!), and ended up with something I think will work. You can see that there are some details I’ve not quite settled yet, and indeed, I think I’ve decided to reverse the colours in the vertical borders. The blocky colours come from having used the computer to produce a line drawing, and then coloured it in by computer as well.
The design is now transferred onto the calico, and coloured in with inktense blocks. Rather sloppily, I know, but none of this will be visible, and I will be tweaking the design as I go, in any case. This is just to give me a a better chance to keep track of which colour I’m intending to use where – that small section with Nefertiti and the two little girls on her lap was dismally confusing before I painted it!
I have begun to stitch, and just as I promised (threatened?), I’ve been recording my progress, and uploaded the first video to Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/402311907. It’s about twenty minutes long, spliced together from several files, because my camera kept switching off. I did say it would be a learning experience!
I hope it will be interesting, and maybe entertaining, for you all!
The eagle-eyed will have noticed that I now have a Ko-fi account. I’ve been meaning to do that for a while, but the current situation has given me plenty of time in which to do so. At the moment, the hope is that any “coffees” will help with the costs of running this blog, but in the next couple of years, I hope they could also help with venue costs to hold an exhibition of “Dreams of Amarna” embroidery.
I’m going to try to learn a few new tricks while we all need to keep safe at home, trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and one of them relates to this project. It occurred to me that people may need something gentle to watch, so I’m going to try to work out how to do little videos of the stitching. So, health permitting, watch this space…!
I had thought that once I’d done the Faience Necklace, and finished the Hunting Cat Fresco, that would be all for Dreams of Amarna, but then it occurred to me that the informality and intimacy of the depictions of the Royal Family in Amarna-period art was one of the reasons it has caught and held our attention. Mary Chubb describes the scene depicted on this stele in her book (there are several broadly similar scenes), and it came to my mind in conjunction with the bejewelled golden chair in Tutankhamun’s tomb which shows him with his wife in a similarly informal pose.
So I’m going to work it in or nué. I’ve been playing with my paints and some prints of the stele, trying to find a satisfying arrangement of colours, and work out what I’m not going to include – for instance, the hieroglyphs, at least half the rays of the Aten sun disc, and the gold torques in Akhenaten’s lap. I’m struggling a little with colourings, because the grey background of the print rewards the use of yellow (/gold) whereas on the background of gold used for or nué that colour becomes insignificant.
Then I need to plan a border for it….
Those who follow me on Twitter will have seen a Tweet full of rejoicings last week – I have finished the Hittite Amulet at last! He’s been quite a challenge, and required considerable stores of patience, but I’m very pleased with him. He’s looming out of the darkness very impressively!
I began working on him last July, and got rather less than halfway before I put him away in a boxfile before Christmas when I was getting ready for festive visitors. After Christmas, I decided to concentrate on the Glittering Nightcap, because I was beginning to fear that otherwise I would never finish it, and didn’t begin again on this fellow until May.
Since then I have simply persevered. I’ve not written about him, because in truth there is little to say. Or nué is a simple enough technique – in essence, satin stitch over a metal thread – it is just that there is a lot of stitching needed before any appreciable change is seen.
Although it is a simple technique to describe, doing it well is less so. As you can see from the close up of the head, I’ve not managed to keep the rows perfectly even in their spacing or coverage. Perhaps, although I used pre-shrunk calico as the basis, I should have used two layers to make it sturdier (I hope not, it was tricky enough already!) or perhaps the waverings are owing to stitching over two rows at a time.
Now he can doze quietly in my Dreams of Amarna box while I continue with new pieces…
I had a skein and a half left of the dark silk, after all that panic buying last year. Getting quantities right is almost impossible.
It is months since you last saw the Hittite Amulet. I put him away in a boxfile before Christmas and refused to get him out again until the embroidery on the Glittering Nightcap was finished.
Of course, it takes a while to gather ones’ wits, and restore the “flow” of a piece like thisl. Since there are two alternating tasks – laying the silver thread and then covering it with silk as appropriate – it is hard to develop a sense of momentum. If I succeed, I may find he gallops away with me – which would be gratifying, because I have a lot more ideas for Dreams of Amarna pieces that I want out of my head and onto fabric!
I’ve tautened the fabric again, and I am trying hard to remember not to let the lines of couching sag in the middle. Sometimes I forget and stitch too tightly, but usually only for one row, so the situation does not get out of hand!
This close-up, oblique view, gives you a sense of the ribbed, “grosgrain” type effect of the background, and the speckling of stitches across the Amulet himself that give the light and shade.
I really think it’s working!
There was a slight, panic-stricken, pause in progress on the Hittite Amulet recently. As you can see, I’ve barely completed a third of him, and I’ve used half of my darkest silk. This is a graver situation than I anticipated, because since I bought the thread – three years ago! – the master dyer at Pearsall’s has died and they have closed the company.
I can leave to your imaginations how I felt when that realisation hit home…
Fortunately, the remaining stock was sold to Tristan Brooks Designs in America, and while it is extremely frustrating to have to have thread dyed in England shipped back to England from the States, the two skeins I bought do seem to match well enough. I’m going to alternate strands from the new skeins with strands from the old, all the same – that should help to make sure any change is gradual.
When I was at the Knitting And Stitching Show in Harrogate, I bought an extra skein from Laurelin Specialist Embroidery. The colour is very slightly brighter than the darkest one I am using for the background, but I am hoping that it will help to add a bit of depth and strength to some of the shadows on the Amulet himself.
You can also see in the close-up that I’ve nearly got the rows straight again after their wanderings. Now I know I have to be careful, I hope that the problem won’t arise again.
Now that I have started on the main design element of the Hittite Amulet, I am entering a familiar and disheartening stage. There is so much more to do, it’s very concentrated work, and at the moment, I’ve not done enough to be confident it will work at all.
In fact there is a good chance that until it is completely finished, I won’t be sure that it is working, which in turn means I need to ignore my doubts and just keep at it!
The fact that I have several needles with different shades of thread in them, all working at once, will explain why I can’t do very much at a time – I need to avoid tangling the threads, and as soon as I start to get tired, the threads tie themselves in such convoluted knots they’d make a macramé expert think twice!
This close up should give you an idea of what is involved. I decided to allow the coloured silk stitches on the Amulet to be either across the same pair of threads as the background, or across pairs which are off by one. This should allow me to be a little more precise in colour placement. It may or may not matter, but I felt that since this is such a strange piece, I wanted to have as much flexibility as possible.
I have already discovered that in some ways the straight rows are harder than the spiral that I used for Christus Natus Est. As the backing fabric sags, and the stitching became more widely spaced over the Amulet, I found that the rows were no longer straight. I’ve spent several sets of rows geting the rows more or less straight again, which was just a little scary!