The funeral boat of Scyld Scefing

Progress continues with my first Beowulf ‘vignette’ depicting the funeral boat of Scyld Scefing.   In the end I’ve stuck to a fairly robust medieval color palette to help create that manuscript look.  The work is stitched with laid and couched work, stem stitches, back stitches and gold work.    Accompanying text in Old English comes directly from the poem.

A knotty linguistic problem to do with additional runes not yet appearing has just been solved with the help of some extremely talented and learned acquaintances in a rune writing/reading group on Facebook.  Those runes will shortly be added, along with more ‘ice’ beading, ship rivet beading or stitching (not made up my mind yet) and a lot more gold.  The goldwork has barely commenced at the time of these photographs.

Hopefully I should be done in a week and moving on to Hrothgar in Heorot.

Hunterian Taurus

This chap took a little longer than I’d hoped.    I needed to take 10 days off in the middle in order fully to recover from a sympathetic nerve block procedure (spinal injection) under general anaesthetic.    This was hopefully one of the last stages of active treatment of my chronic regional pain syndrome following injury in 2014.

My back was a bit unhappy for a while after that but is back to normal now and thus permitting me to get on with working again.

In the end, including prep time, framing up, designing, all of the stitching, couching etc and then assembly of the padded frame and stretching him onto it with upholstery staples, it took 47 hours.

I have an hour tonight before my daughter gets home from first grade and I’m hoping to have the next design drawn up by then.    I’m taking a bit of a break from the zodiac for a bit and focusing on something else.   To be revealed.

 

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Taurean Progress

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.

He definitely looks better stitched than partially appliquéd, but I’m paying the price in hours.  Phew.

Hunterian Zodiac

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.

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A Long Two Years

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.

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Medieval Mermaid

I continue to be dogged by elbow tendinitis, but have finally recovered sufficiently to do some careful embroidery work, so here it is!

This piece was completed in August 2014 after 40 hours and measures roughly 5″ x 7″. Design and photograph © Liz Heffner.

The mermaid, aquamarine in her hair, enjoys the sunshine while fish leap for joy about her, surrounded by sparkling motes.

Materials: canvas, tulle, alpaca/silk mix yarn, pure silk (soie de Paris), moss agate gemstone beads, aquamarine gemstone bead, glass beads, gilt passing thread, gilt spangles.  Techniques used: split stitch, couching, beading.

medievalmermaid mermaid detail

Smaug’s appearance

I’ve been dreadfully neglecting my blog, not because I don’t care about it but because there is apparently a limit to my ability to multi-task. I have been pouring out pictures and commentary on Facebook but of course I really should chat here too, not least because the mechanism here supports something a little lengthier on occasion than a Facebook ‘snapshot’!

So, in no particular order, here is the news since the last time I posted back in 2013:

My Gandalf piece went to Sevilla, Spain and was exhibited in the Infanta Eleña library during November 2013 as part of the Sociedad Tolkien Española’s Premios De Arte: Niggle competition for Tolkien related art. I was honoured to have made it even thus far, so was doubly delighted to find that I had been awarded the second prize in the competition!

My design for Smaug was intended to take about the same time to stitch as Gandalf, which was in the region of about 250 hours over five weeks. The dragon proved testy (and fiery) however and most definitely had a mind of his own. He refused to cooperate with some of the stitching techniques I had planned, leading me to abandon all inhibition and go for something that took much, much longer to execute. Finally, after 600 hours of work over the course of five months, he was completed at the beginning of 2014. He is now in the hands of my wonderful framers and will go on then for digital asset capture and print production. I hope to have prints available in the Spring.

In the meantime, here’s the picture that I took of him late at night in artificial lighting on the night that I finished the piece. It’s not the best photograph, but I intend to take a better one with an upgraded camera once it gets back from the framer. Since most of the beauty of the piece is in the fire-like glimmer of light movement over the variety of metals angled differently to one another, I will also take a video and post that at a later date.

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And here is a picture of me nearly at the end of the laborious task of stitching 200 Swarovski ‘pearls’ and more than 300 gilt spangles (I lost count).

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I tend to call the piece ‘He’ rather than ‘it’ in a term of slight endearment and respect, as, having worked on him for 5 months, we got a little close! He’s constructed in pure silk (soie de Paris), Japanese gold, gilt and silver passing threads, metallic yarn, gilt spangles and Swarovski ‘pearls’ on a ground fabric of cotton broadcloth stabilised with canvas. I ‘auditioned’ some linen prior to starting and ultimately preferred the broadcloth for various reasons. The stitch techniques used are split stitch, couching, padding and bead appliqué.

Last, but by no means least, I was recently interviewed by the Middle Earth News and interested folks may see the article at Middle Earth News interview