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.
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.