Smaug, work in progress

I must be a glutton for punishment in deciding that I would fill in Smaug’s night sky background with, of all things, split stitch. It’s the fault of the Two Trees for this really: that was a picture on a much smaller scale than Smaug, but I liked the woven texture that the split stitch sky imparted in that piece. I could use Bayeux stitch (laid and couched work) and it would progress farther faster while using a lot less silk, but I just don’t feel right about the texture it would lend to the piece in that specific place. Bayeux stitch will work nicely for the mountain side, but that’s a way off in the future at this juncture.

In Smaug, the split stitch for sky is only a background layer, as I will be stitching details (e.g. clouds, expanded lunar corona, rising smoke, stars) on top of the black, but even so there is a lot of work involved. Cue my latest ‘work in progress’ picture, which also manages to showcase my use of vanishing pen in order to mess about with cartoon lines that I later decided I didn’t like. I’m deliberately aiming at giving a very slightly uneven texture to these ‘sky’ stitches, as I intend to whip around some of them with filament silk, which would be more difficult if every stitch were flat to the fabric.

Anyway, here he is so you can see how he’s coming along after a week:

Smaug, WIP

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The Two Trees

While I was waiting for my materials to arrive so that I could start Smaug (who is now on my frame at last, hurrah!) I worked on a picture of the Two Trees, Laurelin and Telperion, from JRR Tolkien’s Silmarillion.

Here is the result. It is styled as a Medieval miniature and stitched in cotton and silk on broadcloth, with glass beads, gold and silver metallic threads, gilt and silver passing thread and Japanese gold. Techniques used are padded couching, couching and split stitch. I’m pretty pleased with how it came out, though I’ll be even happier when it comes back from framer and printer after a professional image has been captured.

Two Trees cr

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).