Tag: or nué
Since I finished the Lotus Flower Tile Fragment, I haven’t had a piece for the Dreams of Amarna to work on. I’ve been thinking about several, of course, but in combination with the Online University projects I’m working on and my sudden idea for the Vision Of Placidus, none of them really caught fire.
Then I filled very dull, dreary afternoon – pouring with rain, with no light to embroider by (remind me, it’s summer here in the northern hemisphere, right?) – with the preparations for working the solo version of the Hittite Amulet. He’s going to be worked in or nué – actually argent nué, since I’ll be using a silver thread! – so the first thing to do was prepare the base fabric.
There were two photos from the EES to choose from, one of them rather moody, with the amulet seeming to look out from the black background, and the other, arguably better lit, and full face rather than three-quarter. Guess which I chose?
Yes, of course, the moody, dramatic one!
It’s very hard to trace a picture that doesn’t show everything you know is there. You will see that the lines I’ve traced produce a sketchy effect, not complete detail. That’s because I decided to paint more of the details onto the background fabric to help guide my needle, and the lines were really only there to guide my brush!
It may seem that creating this painted panel is a lot of work that will be completely hidden, but while my other or nué panel, Christus Natus Est, had simple sweeping lines, and the coloured background was merely there to prevent cream calico from grinning through any gaps, the Hittite Amulet is a very much more intricate design. Creating my painted version putting darks and lights in the right places took immense concentration and I would hate to have to concentrate that hard on the design when the execution is going to be so challenging.
Wish me luck!
I’m pleased with the progress I’m making on the panel now, but I’m becoming slightly anxious that I might run out of the gold thread before I finish the panel. I don’t know how thick the core is at the centre of the spool, and I’ve noticed that the kinks in the gold thread are getting tighter and more stubborn. If I do run out, that will put paid to the idea of photographing the finished piece for this year’s Christmas card.
You can see from this shot that the extra thickness of the silk thread forming the star is creating an extra curve in the lines of gold. If I were working a classical piece of or nué, with straight lines of gold, I would be trying to space the lines to reduce the effect, or I would have chosen a finer silk thread, with the same aim. In this case, however, I am quite happy to add an extra couple of curves to the gold lines, because it will add life and movement to the background.
If I have enough gold thread, I will rework the corner that is infilling that triangle on the left-hand side. I don’t think that the bends in the thread work as well as they might, and they are revealing the core more than I like. I need to finish the rest of the panel first, though.
As you can see, my recent obsession with this panel is paying off. I’ve finished the two bottom corners of the panel, and sunk all the loose ends. The red of St Joseph’s robe is enlivened with the rust sprinkled through it. Under normal lighting it barely shows, but it does make a slight difference, and with a strong side light, it warms up the red and increases the contrast with the blue of the Virgin’s robe. Good. I’d hate to have to unpick it!
The view of the whole thing shows that I have now only got the star to do in silk – all the other design elements are in. I still have to add St Joseph’s halo, but I’m running slightly short on the cream silk thread and I want to get the star in before I start going back to the haloes.
I’ve also begun to correct the curve of the Virgin’s robe. At the moment it is much too straight, so I am trying to curve it some more.
In fact it is the tidying up of small details such as this which might interfere with my ambition to have this finished by mid-November. I’ll have to continue to tweak until it looks right, and who knows how much I will need to do?
I’ve now got to the stage where I’ve started to leave uncovered gold thread at the bottom, and the sections of silk are reducing in size again. I’ve introduced a third shade of red into St Joseph’s robe, as well. It barely shows in most lights, but I think that it will make a difference in the end, by creating a sort of “ripple” in the appearance of the colour.
While I’ve been stitching I’ve been trying to see whether this interpretation of my mother’s original design says something different to the other versions. What occurs to me now as I look at the photo is that the shape of the Christ Child reminds me of the many Renaissance Nativity paintings in which He is shown with arms outstretched, prefiguring the Crucifixion.
I’ve also been thinking about mounting the piece when it’s finished. I went to the framing shop and looked at their gold card (all much too green), and then thought, since it’s a textile piece, maybe the mount should be textile too. There’s a fabric shop just around the corner, and although they didn’t have anything that was immediately suitable without alteration, they did have a sort of flimsy “cloth-of-gold” which gave me an idea. I’ve overlaid two layers of amber net over the cloth-of-golf in this photo, and the trimmed the edge with a piece of braid I found somewhere else. If I do this it will be nearly as much work as the embroidery was, so I’m hoping that I might have another idea soon!
I’ve become rather obsessed with making progress on the Christus Natus Est panel. Now that the spiral is finished, and the gold couching only stretches from edge to edge, that progress becomes easier to see.
In particular, not only have I managed to finish the top of St Joseph’s head, and run two or three more rows across the bottom of the panel, but I’ve started to fill in the gap between the spiral and the breakaway line. In fact I’m not sure that I am entirely happy with it – I may have begun to use single threads on both sides of the triangular shape a little early, which leaves some gaps in the coverage.
I will have a lot of tidying up and corrective stitching to do, even when the whole fabric is covered with gold. I need to finish the Christ Child’s halo, and put St Joseph’s in place. I also need to correct the curve of the Virgin’s gown, which is a little flat and straight.
I don’t yet know whether I will stitch rays coming from the star. I think that decision will be made only when the rest of the piece is finished.
I’m beginning to think about the mounting and framing of this piece. I think it will need a wide mount, because such a vibrant piece will need plenty of air between itself and the frame. One possiblity involves a mount covered in cloth of gold or gauze, and trimmed with braid or crystals. If I can’t find a suitable fabric, I will have to hope for a mount card in the right shade of gold. A cream mount would look insipid, and a mount in one of the colours would contend for attention with the panel itself. It’s just as well we have a good framing shop nearby!
I’ve been making more progress, and in fact passed another milestone this past week.
I’ve reached the right-hand edge and started to stitch just on the top section for a while. Suddenly it feels quicker, because although I’m making progress at the same rate as before (the stitching itself hasn’t speeded up!) I sometimes manage two or more rows in a session, and the sections of design that are covered are side-by-side, and thus more noticeable.
So here is the whole thing to show the progress that I’ve made. I’ve unpicked and removed the line of gold I put in following the black line, because in fact it isn’t running exactly where I want it to, even if it is running along the line I drew.
I sink the threads in batches at the end of a session, which means they don’t slow me down when I’m nicely “in flow”, but it looks neat and easy to understand when I get back to it. When I’ve reached the black line (the correct one!) I shall stop working on the top section and work on the bottom section until that is done, then I will have the last section to work which should go more speedily as there will only be one colour to stitch.
I’m beginning to have hopes of finishing this in time to use it as a Christmas card. Now I just need to work out how to frame it…!
I’ve got to the point where the lower ends of the robes of Mary and Joseph have both been started, which also brings me very close to the other edge of the panel.
It’s been a little slow of late, partly because the weather has been frightful – grey and overcast. Stitching goldwork in bright sunshine is a recipe for eye fatigue (learn from my mistakes, Gentle Reader!) but at the same time the rich red of Joseph’s robe and the purple of the Christ Child both become quite difficult as the day turns darker. I’m finding that if I want to make progress, everything else has to come second to doing a row or two when the light is good. Sometimes I’m so busy doing other things that I only realise quite late that I’ve missed the best of the light. Very frustrating!
The other reason it has been slow is that I have so many needles in operation – ten of them! Every change of colour means putting one needle aside and picking up another, and while this is a tangible demonstration of progress, and therefore welcome, it does rather slow me down!
I’ve been talking recently with a friend who has been trained in icon painting, and it’s fascinating to hear about the layers of meaning and symbolism in the materials, preparations and even in the process. I’m working so hard on developing a technique here, that I’m not necessarily managing to turn my version into a spiritual exercise as well, although I do sometimes feel that I’m not a million miles away from stitching-as-meditation.
Well, St Benedict said “Laborare est orare” (“To work is to pray”). So maybe I’m onto something, after all.
Since the Christus Natus Est panel seemed to be so popular, I thought I’d provide another update.
As you can see, the curves that indicate the Virgin’s robes aren’t right at all. I can correct that later, rather as I will correct the Christ Child’s halo – and indeed, put in St Joseph’s halo, which I decided not to attempt to include in the first stitching, because the other two haloes presented such challenges!
You can see that I have loads of needles working with all the different colours of silk and several sections of gold. It’s always more difficult working from the far end of a colour section (relative to the direction of the spiral) and using more than one colour on the robes has helped me there, because I’ve usually managed to have at least one of the colours placed in such a way as to help by catching the gold thread in place. Otherwise, because it is so springy, it’s hard to keep the curve smooth, and in a couple of places the thread is longer than it should have been and creates a slight gap with the line before.
Don’t those rows and rows of gold create a gorgeous background, though!
I’ve been making good progress on the Christus Natus Est panel. I’ve had to re-stretch the fabric, which involved taking out all of the pins, and reinstating them. The stitching is much easier again now!
I’ve reached the point at which I decided to end the spiral, which has gone over the outline I originally drew for the panel but now delineates the new left-hand edge. This is rather an important stage, since apart from anything else just following the spiral was an easy thing to do, whereas now – as the gold thread along St. Joseph’s back is hinting – I’m moving on to the part in which I need to create a flowing effect which is linear rather than spiral. The points at which the gold changes direction, and the way in which the lines run will make or mar the design, I think.
I’ve also worked a little more on the Christ Child’s halo. If you zoom in on the picture, I hope you will see that there is now a gap, an incomplete pattern in the halo where I’ve outlined it to come back and fill it in later. I felt it was more useful – and more important – to work out where the edge was to be than to keep the infill going.
The close up shows the blue of the Virgin’s robe, the first hint of red of St. Joseph’s robe, and the combination of white and purple that represent the Christ Child. As someone hinted in the early comments on this project, this is a very addictive technique. I find myself trying to finish “just one more row” before the light fails, and muttering discontentedly when I have to stop.
It may even be finished in time to be used as the family Christmas card!
Recently I was sent a link to a page discussing Russian embroidered icons. It seems that for all we think of icons as purely painted pieces, embroidered icons aren’t new – it is simply that their relative fragility and the length of time it takes to create one have made them very much rarer.
As I can testify. There have been many hours already that have gone into this piece, and I’m not sure that the progress made is really all that clear. Still, the spiral is nearly touching the side (I’m going to cover all the black lines, because I’m not entirely sure how this will be mounted or framed), and in fact it won’t be long before I have to consider how the non-spiral lines will flow. If you go back and look at the design as I showed it in this earlier post, you will see there is an extra black line flowing from St. Joseph’s head towards the top left corner, and another in the bottom right. These lines are to change the direction of the lines of the gold in order to bring more life into the design, but now I have done some of the work I wonder whether the lines are in the right place.
There is also the section of the Virgin’s cape running up over her head where I have for now followed the line as drawn, but wonder whether I should perhaps in this one instance follow the line of the gold to maintain the clarity of the abstract shape. If I do that, it will provide some justification for using a line along the back of St Joseph’s head and cloak as one of the new lines for the gold.
In other words, more thinking needed!