Taking Smaug Seriously

I’ve finished the preparation for my Smaug project and it’s lying in wait for me like its namesake, framed up and stabilised on canvas backing fabric.

Meanwhile, I’ve had something of an emotional 48 hours, debating the subject of cost of materials with my husband. He, being the lovely man that he is, has now assisted me in drawing up a strategy that means we can afford to get better materials for my next three pieces. (Pause for much W00tage, as some of my friends would say…and another pause to marvel at the fact that the Word Press spellchecker doesn’t balk at that word at all!) I love the way Gandalf turned out, but my Smaug design is a different animal entirely and practically begs to be taken seriously – and with a different level of seriousness to boot. That means silk and it means 100% silk.



I’ve just about finished the line drawing for my next piece – another original. I must confess that I find working to my own designs much more satisfactory than working straight from the historical sources. My style remains very much influenced by those sources – as you will see once the next design makes its way to being photographed – but other than that I feel very much that I have ‘cut loose’.

I meant to do a fabric collage of Galadriel next, but she refused to cooperate despite having a design that I’ve worked on in my head quite a lot over recent weeks while stitching Gandalf. I am instead working on a ‘Coming of Smaug’. Not the original coming of Smaug when he turfed all of the dwarves out of their mountain realm, but the time when he comes to Esgaroth after the dwarves and Bilbo have enraged him. Not a good night for Esgaroth, generally speaking. I could have called it ‘The burning of Esgaroth’ or ‘ Smaug enraged’, but ‘The Coming of Smaug’ just seemed to fit, so those are the words featured in the picture. Actually, it’s ‘The Coming of SMAUG’. The size of the text fits the immensity of the flaming dragon. At least, that’s the idea.

Things have a way of changing as they get made, I notice. Gandalf started as he finished up, briefly held tongs in his hand, then ended up with them taken away again. I do that a lot as I’m working, but I’m hopeful to avoid it this time, hence spending a lot longer on my design phase.


Gandalf, completed June 2013 after roughly 250 hours. Image and design © Liz Heffner.

The intent was to capture some of the style and essence of Medieval manuscript illustration, which hopefully has been successful.

Working with spangles was quite amusing as they wanted to act like tiddlywinks and spring off in all directions. I was certain that I would find some in my hair at the end of the day, but luckily this was not the case. This is also my first attempt at working with Japanese gold and I must say that while it is indeed time-consuming, especially when couched singly rather than double-stranded, I think it is safe to say that I have now been ‘bitten by the bug’.

For those who are not able to read the inscription, it reads:

By the light of the small hearth fire,
Gandalf took the ring from the tongs and was
not burned for it was quite cool.

This references the point in the Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien, where Gandalf tests the ring in Frodo’s hearth fire and discovers the final proof that it is indeed the One Ring. I note that fan conversations are multiple on the subject of whether or not Gandalf actually handled the ring in the book, because the movies of course took quite a different stance on the matter. To me it is clear and not at all ambiguous that Gandalf did indeed handle the ring and pass it to Frodo. He just never put it on his finger!

Gandalf, completed June 2013

Design measures 22cm x 42 cm

Stitch techniques: couched goldwork, laid and couched ground work, split stitch and French knots.

Materials: Japanese gold, gold and silver metallic threads, gilt and silver spangles, 100% silk and cotton perlé.

A few other close up ‘detail’ pictures are available on my Facebook page (Liz Heffner – Artisan).