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.
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.
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.