Thursday, September 6, 2018

From Inspiration to Fruition

That Spring [1992] I was able to participate in a pilot class slated for that Fall’s EGA National Seminar taught by Katherine Colwell, “Drawing and Design for Embroidery.” I was very impressed by her teaching skills and especially her techniques. Up until then I had ideas and dreams of “art” swirling around in my head, but no means to express them. I had even given up thoughts of finishing my art degree at university. Her methods opened my eyes to ways of using pattern and value to express suggestions of ideas instead of minute detail.

All of a sudden, everywhere I looked, I saw possibilities! And pattern and value could be expressed best, I thought, by using Blackwork techniques–even using reverse or negative values–white threads on black grounds.

While looking through an anthropology journal I spied a photo of a Welsh lake in which a possible crannog was located. Now crannogs were known from Ireland at the time [1989 Antiquity, 63, pp. 675-681] but not Wales.

The reason the crannog caught my eye was that I had just seen that morning a stand of trees on a knoll that suggested to me the outline of the trees on the crannog. I was needing an idea for an entry in the National Advanced Study Group (NASG) which would later became EGA’s Fiber Forum [1992] and I was consumed with using Blackwork stitches to interpret negative space as a means of creating an art piece.

I had no idea what kind of trees covered the crumbling remains of buildings that once stood there, but I could see that they were rounded and low to the ground. Out in the country was a stand of trees growing close together and eaten from the underside by cattle in the field–I could only get within 3/4 mile as it stood on a hill deep in the pasture. By squinting at the tree mass, I picked out patterns of branches growing together, as opposed to separating branches and leaves. By drawing an outline around each group, I could assign a different Blackwork stitch to express the mass patterns.


When I drew the detail from the photo, I realized I had to do major refining and elimination of detail. I then zeroed in on the crannog and drew just a suggestion of hills and foreground. I knew the detail in stitching the background would be too heavy–so I chose to use various lack nettings and layer them to achieve the depth in the background.


I chose a mat circle to finish the picture and drew a line within upon which I stitched a line of machine stitches to anchor the nets at the edges outside.

Next I traced a set of tree patterns and placed this over the nettings and used a red thread to stitch outlines of the Blackwork patterns to delineate the branch groups. I pulled away the tracing paper and filled in the red outlines with my chosen stitches–this in turn held down the nettings.

To achieve even more depth, I added a few black stitches to the tops of the ridges of some of the background hills. I also used a liquid embroidery pen to paint in some depth. The reflection in the water was made by using a reverse tracing of the tree patterns and placing it under the linen and painting to suggest the reflection.

The only straight line in the piece is the dock. I wanted all other lines and patterns to be rounded and “shrouded” in the mist of antiquity.

Layers of nettings, a few stitches and some traces of fabric paint later and here is the result. Llangorse Crannog by Carolyn Smith Vasquez, my name at the time.


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