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.

smaug2

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).

Smaugcoapic1

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

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Gandalf

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).