It feels as if I should call that Herculean progress, because it seems quite slow-going and labor intensive at the moment. I’m happy with the way the bull is taking shape, but there is still a huge amount to stitch and this has already taken 27 hours. I have a feeling this chap is going to push closer to 50 hours in total.
After 15 hours, Taurus is finally starting to take shape. Actually he’s looking somewhat demonic at the moment, accidentally, because my husband is going to be away on business for a few days and so I needed to check that the beads I was planning for the bull’s eyes would work. If they didn’t, I’d need to get more tonight or wait a week.
I’m hoping that I’ll have finished him completely by the time another week rolls around and that I’ll be hip deep in Gemini instead, so I went ahead and beaded Taurus’ eyes before I normally would have done. I’m happy with that bead choice (yay!) but until things get a little more filled in there remains a stark contrast between the whites of the eyes and the red of…well…everything else. It makes him look like something else entirely.
My adaptation of the Hunterian Aries was completed today. His fleece had seemed never ending at times and I had occasion to regret choosing the method for it that I did. My reasoning was to add texture and alternating angles for the play of light on silk and in retrospect I’m glad I stuck to this. It was somewhat laborious to do though. I listened to a lot of series one of Outlander (I call it listening because my eyes are mostly on my work except for glances up every now and then) in order to get through it.
Next up is Taurus, while Cancer gets ever closer and I really need to make a decision about how to render that particular grotesque. That has been in the back of my mind ever since I decided to do the series.
My current project is one in a series based on illuminated signs of the zodiac from the York Psalter, sometimes known as the Hunterian Psalter due to its inclusion in the bequest to the Glasgow University Library by William Hunter in the early 19th Century. The psalter itself was written and illustrated in the 12th Century in roughly 1170.
I picked these pieces to adapt and interpret because they are relatively easy to produce in a 10 inch square format, which is much easier for me to work with currently than something needing my huge floor-standing embroidery frame. The physical needs of my recovering ankle mean that positioning at the floor frame is still somewhat problematic.
I initially picked appliqué with surface embroidery embellishment but felt, after completing Capricorn, that this could be improved upon. I tweaked the techniques employed for Aquarius and was much happier. Pisces again was adapted and executed as a mix of appliqué and embroidery, with the consistent circle of goldwork in synthetic leather and gilt threads with bugle beads that all the pieces share. I decided to do something very slightly different, however, for Aries.
The shape of the ram was just not one that would skip happily around the pasture hand in hand with appliqué, so, having applied a suitable background, I set out to work the whole animal and his decorative surrounds in silk split stitch.
I’m almost finished now, with only the goldwork to go. Here’s a teaser with a photograph taken when most of the silk embroidery had been completed, with the exception of a few details and the hooves.
This blog has been silent for what feels like almost forever! After an injury to my right ankle in 2014 that at first nagged and refused to get better and then resulted in two lots of major orthopedic surgery, finally leaving me with chronic regional pain syndrome and permanent disability, I have largely been unable to work.
For the first 18 months after November 2014, which is when I had the first surgery, I spent the lions’ share of the time confined to bed, 24/7. The at that point undiagnosed CRPS kept setting my progress back every time I tried to rehabilitate with physical therapy, so I kept getting ordered back to bed by my physicians. A DVT in my recovering leg further complicated matters and left me unable to sit upright at all due to the level of pain unless my foot was above my heart.
I’ve tried to explain this to a few people, but embroidery and textile work isn’t something you can do when flat on your back, especially when you are trying to minimise repetitive stress to your elbows. It isn’t even particularly easy to do without strain if one is sitting with both feet up when one is sitting upright.
An epidural nerve block procedure and a second orthopedic surgery in Jan and Feb respectively of 2016 meant that I could recover sufficiently to be able to walk short distances in my house and once again sit long enough to be able to attempt some work.
I started to work again in August 2016 though still at somewhere between 30 and 50% of my usual capacity due to the need to take breaks and put my feet up at regular intervals. I am however finally able to work a little bit, which feels lovely after so long a desert of creativity.
I am due to have another spinal nerve block in February and hopefully will be slightly closer to normal after that! The ultimate goal is for me to be able to attend craft shows and display/ vend my work in person, but I’m not quite there physically as of yet. There will also be the matter of how and if I am able to drive or whether I’ll be dependent on my husband for all chauffering, moving and lifting. It certainly seems that way at present as I’m still in need of a wheelchair for distances longer than about 40 feet or even less on a particularly bad day.
In the meantime, here are some pictures of work I’ve managed to complete since August – and yes, I am now flirting with wire weaving and jewelry making as well. You can also find me and photos of work in progress on Facebook here: Liz Heffner Artisan on Facebook.