I haven’t been sewing at all for a few days in a bid thoroughly to dispel my tendinitis. Meanwhile, here’s something I made earlier. Sadly, I didn’t think to photograph it before it was framed and, even with museum quality glass, there are reflections which detract from the work. This is a mistake that I shall not be making again!
The design is my own and is based upon a small detail of one ‘carpet page’ illumination in the Book of Kells, though I gave it a colour scheme more reminiscent of the Book of Durrow. It took a horrendous number of hundreds of hours to complete, despite the relative simplicity of the design in terms of stitch types (just full cross stitch, no back stitching or half cross stitch) and colour palette.
Having said that, the sense of satisfaction upon completion was immense. It was all I could do not to stroke it and say ‘My Precious!’.
I had it framed by a lovely lady named Diana, who took six hours to do the job justice. She even padded it carefully so that the few ripples in the fabric were removed.
I was inspired to create this picture by the Codex Manesse manuscript (319r). My version is somewhat slimmed down from the original, with the removal of the heraldic identifiers and two of the fish, leaving the remainder more symmetrical.
I used DMC cottons: mouliné and perlé, with additional detail in gold thread and beading. The stitches are a modern version of opus anglicanum, comprising of laid and couched threads and split stem stitch. One maiden’s flowered headdress is constructed from French knots. Faces, hands and the central woman’s veil are stitched in mouliné so that the finished texture appears finer and smoother than that of the clothing and, of course, the boat and paddles!
The border is machine appliquéd felt. I chose to machine this because I had managed to give myself tendinitis in a thumb and two fingers when I was sewing the later stages of the main embroidery section. Painful lessons learned and I have since adapted my technique to avoid this in future.
About eight weeks ago, I decided to set up in business as an artisan, making items associated primarily with embroidery, weaving, quilting, appliqué and beading. I’ve been doing all of these things – and others – for a few decades as hobbies; in fact, I started embroidery at the age of six in a fervent desire to emulate the neat cross stitches produced by my talented mother. I feel as if I have been growing and feeding these hobbies throughout my life; now the green shoots are rising firm and surely, though the blossoms are a little way off as yet.
Another interest that I have stoked over the years is that of history, from Antiquity to the Medieval era. I don’t really know why more modern history has never been as inspiring and exciting for me, though it might have something to do with the fact that my secondary school taught only modern history, when I was craving details of Tudors and Stuarts, of the Bayeux Tapestry and Norman invasion, of Aethelred the Unready, Aethelstan and Alfred the Great. I got my fill of Classical history as a consequence of my studies in Latin and Ancient Greek, but I always wanted to know more of post-Roman Britannia, Ancient Persia or Egypt and its beguiling hidden treasures.
When I went up to Oxford at 18 to study Literae Humaniores (Latin, Ancient Greek, Ancient History, Philosophy and Archaeology – in a nutshell), my horizons expanded. I joined university societies such as the Oxford Arthurian Society and Tolkien Society, celebrating a shared love of myth and legend. We drank mulled wine dipped from a cauldron, clambered up Bronze Age earthworks to see in the dawn on May Morning, squeezed into Wayland’s Smithy in the pre-dawn darkness and sang songs. Arthur, the Once and Future King – Rex Quondam Rexque Futurus – became a lifetime companion.
Now at last I am combining all of my interests – history, mythology and fabric art. My inspiration is history and thus the art works of yesteryear are guiding my creative voice and expression. The art that once was shall be so again, albeit in different form.
Ars Quondam Arsque Futura.