Saturday, November 29, 2008

An Exciting New Blog!!

Another new one to look forward to with morning coffee - or for late evening entertainment!! I was really excited this morning when Anne Stradal notified me that she has taken the "big leap" and started her blog, finally. I had been saving this lighthouse to show as I stitched (with her already telling me how to do the water), but now can use it to arouse interest in her wonderful work.

Anne sent me this several weeks ago when I was in a low spot in my life, and wanting to go back to north Florida. This is a truly great rendition of my beloved St. Mark's lighthouse. (Lighthouses are one of her specialties) I can see the alligators lurking just under the surface of the water in the 'gator pond at the bottom. Many times I have had to stop on the little dirt road you can see, while a big alligator was sunning himself for a little while. Off to the right, I can still see, in my imagination, the pier with the brown pelicans roosting on the pilings - and the boat house that was blown away by Hurricane Kate before I could do a watercolour of it. To the right, also, of the 'gator pond and the salt marsh, are some bushes that are covered with butterflies during Monarch migration - what a sight!!

Anyway - back to Anne and her blog! She has her education in Journalism, and her text is delightful and easy to read. The story of her beginnings as a designer is also rather amusing. She totally stitch paints, and has a terrific color sense as well. - Also, as a stitcher, she knows exactly what not to do as far as overkill on the decorative stitches and "fancy fibers." Very enlightening! I look forward to seeing what she is doing and why - and also, reading about her own adaptations to design on painted canvas. I was planning to do this as I finish her Pueblo pottery ornaments, but will leave this task to her now, as I would rather read about it than write it. She does it so well! Go visit her often at The Cape Stitcher.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Squiggee is now Stitching

Be sure, while blog hopping in the next few days, to see Gail Hendrix's latest endeavor. This is a lady, who about a month ago, was still insisting she could do nothing but basketweave with wool, as we did 35 years ago. She is primarily a designer of painted canvases - wonderful painted canvases, as they are stitch painted and otherwise beautifully done. Anyway, in desparation, as she needs stitched models to show, she decided to do her own - with accompanying stitch guides. I bravely (snif) packaged up a stash starter bag for her out of my own. (I think very highly of Gail and her work). It's unbelievable what she has worked out all by herself! Go take a look! This "jeweled" beauty is from her collection of crab frame-weights. As I don't use a frame for stitching (and neither does Gail), I would stuff it with BB's and make a paper weight for my desk.

I think this is a good example of what one can work out with just common sense and good taste - whereas too many classes contribute to confusion and overkill in decorative threads and stitches.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Moroccan Rug Progresses

I'm loafing and watching movies and stitching this evening - and checking out blogs. Please do go visit Thread Medley and see Jan's progress on this gorgeous rug adaptation. I have tried to figure out how to do this for years with my son's antique woven Bakhtiari rugs (Persia) - but have failed where Jan has succeeded. This is truly remarkable, and I look forward to watching it's progress.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Japanese Art: More Design and Adaptation

Adapting a design to needlepoint canvas is a matter of also researching the origins of that design. It is important to understand colors, symbolism etc., so as not to leave out anything important, or to emphasize something that isn't. Japanese art, particularly the antique porcelains, has been the mainstay of my portfolio since I first began painting needlepoint canvas.

This picture is of a woodblock print of the great artist of the Edo period, Suzuki Harunobu. (1725-1770) After centuries of warfare and unrest, Japan had finally settled into peace and productivity, and arts begain to flourish. Harunobu was the first designer of woodblock prints
to use a series of blocks to apply multiple colors onto a rice paper ground. He primarily made images of beautiful women and Kabuki actors. More typical of this period was a lot of negative space, which gave a feeling of serenity. (this particular print is filled, however)

I never worked from these wood block prints, as I don't do people well, and am better at doing my own thing. Gail Hendrix, however, has done some lovely canvases from them! It's easier to really appreciate and understand her design work and adaptations, knowing the source. Be sure to visit Chilly Hollow, where Jane is stitching one of Gail's canvases at the present time. Lovely thing, it is!.

Of course I had to investigate the porcelains of the period, and found the gorgeous Kakeimon, which was produced in this time period - by a man who learned from a Korean potter after a deposit of the pure white kaolin porcelain clay was discovered. There was a lot of kidnapping of Korean potters in those days, as their work was superb and they knew many secrets - and Japan was late to begin producing pottery. The Chinese had already been doing it for centuries before.

I wasn't able to do but one or two pieces in needlepoint from this style, as the design elements are rather small, and with the amount of negative space left to show the beautiful snow white of the porcelain body and glaze, it would have been extremely boring to stitch. Small pieces, even on 18 mesh canvas, were not an option, as the detail of the little motifs would not have stitched well.
In the next century, the Imari was produced and marketed - and by the early to mid 19th century, some totally gorgeous ware was made to export to the western markets. This is what I enjoyed most in my designwork. Not only is it beautful "organized chaos" with little or no negative space, but it was a joy to adapt to canvas and a challenge to maintain the design elements and put them onto canvas so that they would stitch properly. This canvas is one of a pair - the other had cranes on it, but I have lost the picture, as well as the plate I designed from. The date on them was ca. 1820. I had to make the design on canvas 15" diameter on 18 mesh in order to get all the small and significant elements.

The central "peach" (immortality or longevity) is one of my favorites. On the porcelains, it is conventionalized to usually the half navy, and half diaper pattern as on this one. The six divisions is typical of this period, and is an ancient format that also traveled the silk road through the Ottoman Empire to Spain to become the Spanish Talavera - which was Maiolica, the in-glaze firing of color into the lead white glaze that covered the red clay body - in imitation of the white of the Japanese porcelains.

The rectangle is a little over a quarter section of a pillow I designed from an Imari bowl - again, mid 19th century. It had a pedestal on the bottom with the design I took for the border. The central "flower" was in the bowl itself, and the fretwork was around the inside of the bowl. The rest of the design was on the outside of the bowl - beautiful thing! ( I sold it a while back to raise funds to buy more antique porcelain.)

Anyway - this is how a needlepoint designer goes about adapting a design from a source! I'm doing the same thing these days with the Pueblo pottery, but have much research to do first - I'm especially intrigued with the "fetish" critters of the Zunis.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thread Medley Moroccan Style

More interesting things to come! I was delighted to see another post on Jan's new blog about the adaptation of Moroccan textiles to needlepoint - and am so looking forward to watching her way of doing this, that I'm sacrificing my lovely book on African Textiles - it's on its way to her house! I knew the picture looked familiar, and then realized it is the same style as a Moroccan embroidery I had posted some time ago.

When I was in design school a very long time ago, we were told in a course dealing with the history and development of decorative accessories, that one must never force a medium to do anything not inherent in its nature. The medium should be exploited to make the most of its own kind of potential for beauty - so when needlepoint became my own medium, which it has been for the past 40 years, I sought not to COPY a thing (in my case, mostly antique Japanese porcelain), but to ADAPT the design and feeling to needlepoint canvas. Jan has chosen, with needle and thread, to adapt woven textiles onto canvas. This is so appropriate, as the canvas itself is a woven fabric - an openwork scrim through which colored threads may be worked for wonderful effects!

She is planning to begin the research and development (lots of research!!) - and to explain the method - of adaptation of the Moroccan weavings and embroidery, so do tune in and watch the process! (See her at Thread Medley.) I also have planned - hopefully on Sunday, to explain my own way of adapting ceramic designs to needlepoint, which seem to inspire me more than the textiles do. I have been studying intensely, and with great interest, the Pueblo pottery of the Southwest, and am amazed at the history and beauty of these ceramic pieces.

The world of design is never boring, if one reads and does the research - always something new to discover! It's good to be busy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Great New Needlepoint Blog!

What a wonderful surprise it always is ( and this doesn't happen often) to find a new blog with really great and original designs. Jan Fitzpatrick is a stitching designer with an active imagination and great competence at interpretation - and is presently working with replicating Moroccan textiles. This is the sort of thing I want to see progressing daily for my coffee time in the morning. (Instead of tending to my own.) It's very refreshing to see something that is different from so many others - original, interesting, and very well done. (I think that adds up to "tasteful.")
There are actually three of these quilt block coasters showing on her blog right now, but I only got two for show - see how just change of color can make an entire pattern look different! I couldn't get the whole squares when I klepped them from her (with her permission, of course) - so do go look at Thread Medley. There is also a web page, to which I have put a link under "Good Stuff."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

T.I.P.'s and Coming Attractions

The first of the Mimbres Pueblo pottery ornaments is finished - all complete with beads, (Anne Stradal's Design - see more here), so it is no longer a Thing In Progress, but a Project Accomplished. Only two more of these to finish, unless I can manage to beg her to drop everything and paint the little canvas with the insects for me.

The mermaid (Gail Hendrix) is next, and I think I'm seeing the end of this one soon - but have thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous colors! Since taking this picture, I have started stitching the arms and body - using Anchor floss, as I like the rather matte finish of the cotton as compared to the shine on the ribbon floss.

In this detail, you can see that I used (besides the honey/copper Ribbon Floss) on the tail, a bit of Accentuate for blending filament, along with Splendor silk, just on the darker shading on the tail fin. There is enough sparkle and shine on the rest of the figure, that making the entire tail sparkle too would destroy the effect.
The third "thing in progress" is the August Birthday crazy quilt heart that I had put aside - and now it's past time to start on January. (it's good to be busy.) I drew the arrows to point out the "seam" that isn't quite on the 45 degree angle - and also the dots I made on the patch with Hungarian Criss Cross, where beads will be placed.

The green diagonal mosaic was worked with the canvas turned, as it would not have been pretty going the other way, due to the angle not being exactly on the diagonal - but mainly because this stitch creates a strong direction, and looks much much better this way for this design.

The coming attractions include a series of beautiful little sea critters to swim with the Mermaid (Julia). The first of these on my work table, accumulating the necessary threads, is a pink blowfish, carrying quite a load of shimmering pearls. A delightful small project!

The next picture is a scan I made way before I had a computer and digital camera, so part of it is missing. This cross is 13" high on 18 mesh canvas, and will go to Houston when I'm finished with the painting. I'm awfully glad I won't be stitching it myself. It's enough work just to put it onto canvas, as everything on it is stitch counted and painted for symmetry of design. The inspiration for this cross came from a book I have owned and enjoyed for a number of years, "Faberge and the Russian Master Goldsmiths" - one of the best on this subject! The enamel cloisonne' and jeweled boxes, tea services, and other pieces are absolutely beautiful, and have furnished me over the last ten years or so with many many motifs and color combinations, mainly for crosses.

And now off to bed and the T.V.! Saturday night, and I have actually watched two movies I've never seen before. Remarkable - and I'll spend the time stitching. (No idle hands here!) Incidentally, I have no idea why there is a huge, long blank space under this entry - it has happened before. Oh well. Someday I will have this computer under my control. Maybe.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

TIF Challenge: "Name Art"

I have been too busy tending to business (painting, for a change) to apply myself to the November Challenge. However, I'm not good at that sort of thing - making art with letters, so thought I would pass this along. A friend of my daughter-in-law made the most beautiful frameable art for both my granddaughters a few years ago, just using their names - so I asked her to design covers in the same style for the books I had in progress - and here is the result. She uses words to create art and a "feeling." Do visit her web page (here), and click on "name art" to see these incredible things, as well as lots of other beautiful works.

I also found a blog she's doing, so I willl need to make a bigger pot of coffee now for my morning "cruising," as I don't have to travel to the other side of Austin to see her work!

Check in on Sharon Zeugin, and enjoy. This is a rare and true talent.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Swimming with Mermaids Again!

That is wishful thinking! It is finally cool in Austin - too cool for mermaids, and no clear blue/green water here anyway. But the mermaid puts me in a fine frame of mind, as her colors are beautiful to work with.

Some progress has been made - but needlepoint is slow, and this is on 18 mesh canvas, which is my preference. Gail put the beads on, and they furnish enough sparkle - like little colorful droplets of water - so I don't think she needs anything else sparkly. Instead, I have chosen to use Ribbon Floss for shine, as on her scales. The patterned green areas were stitched with Splendor silk for the grid, and Neon Rays for the Scotch stitch, as it has a lovely shine.

I put "bump" stitches on her mermaid "dress" to differentiate texture between that and the green areas. The close-up illustrates the little smyrna crosses I like to use on this sort of design, as it gives a bit of extra texture without overwhelming the whole picture.

The lines point to the "bumps" and to the areas where there are configurations of four stitches square - perfect for inserting Smyrnas. I haven't figured out how to put arrows where I want them, so these lines also point to her "shells" and her yellow hair. Disregard that, and look at the other end of the line.

This canvas is so pretty in it's entirety as a two dimensional painting, it's almost a shame to use it as a rollie - but the rollie will look sooo fine on a stand, as does the peacock! (see this on Gail's blog) Also, for another treat, see her web page here!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Design Source - Pueblo Pottery

Actually, the "design source" here is Anne Stradal of ABS Designs. (click here to see her online catalog). I have loved this pottery since I was a small child vacationing in Arizona and New Mexico with my parents - so begged her for several of her small ornaments to stitch. I thought beads would do justice to these simple, elegant geometrics - but couldn't find exactly the terra cotta color I thought I had to have. However, the one I used works well, I think, now that I have several patches done. (Sundance beads, as always) The black beads don't show up well in the pictures - but they look great! I didn't use hexagonal beads, as I didn't want "glitter" on pottery.

The white is solid, and without beads - Splendor #802. I will later go ahead and make 3 rows of stitching around it, as I have started on the second one. I was tired when I drew the extra stitches, and made a mess on the upper left side - but it won't show, as I have planned to have each one framed individually, using an ultra suede mat, and having the ornament slightly padded - which is why I added the extra rows.

There are clear beads on the reddish background, applied with Anchor floss in the same color as the silk - so the beads are not conspicuous, and don't interfere with the design. When you click to enlarge the picture, you will see that I marked the stitches for placement of beads to make it not confusing. (meaning I don't have to think as I stitch) I thought they needed to be there to relieve a rather plain area. The white is solid, again, as just background.

I chose a Soie Cristale (Caron) color that isn't as bright as it is painted, although the paint color is true to the actual pottery of this pueblo. I plan to use them close together on a wall, and wanted the terra cotta color and this one to blend well.

Now - off to bed to read my new books on "Acoma to Zuni" pottery - and also Zuni Rainbird designs. They have just arrived from Amazon, and I look forward to yet another fascinating learning experience about symbolism, slips, methods of construction and firing, etc., and differences in style among the various pueblos.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Joy of the Painted Canvas!

(The well painted canvas, that is.) When I first generously offered to stitch this for Gail Hendrix to use as a model for her Squiggee Designs, she didn't know that I would have wheedled, begged, even offered to pay full retail for the pleasure of working with the beautiful colors and fun subject matter. After I received it, I pulled out every thread I could find in my stash - which was considerable, as this is one of my favorite color palettes- the "Caribbean" colors. I had lots and lots of leftovers from my own binge of designing sea shells and reef fish five or six years ago.

However, as I began to study the canvas, and decide what to use, I realized that overkill on the novelty fibers would ruin it, as would a lot of textured decorative stitches. I put away most of the threads with sparkle, as the beads that were already attached with fishing line on the back (I LOVE this - different from my method, and more versatile for this purpose) are quite enough for the sparkle and glitter on a mermaid. So I have opted for threads with shine, as a lot of YLI Ribbon Floss. Also, not wanting to use metallic gold, even tho' there is metallic paint on the areas, I have used the Ribbon Floss in the Honey/Copper, which gives a great effect without overpowering. The hair is done with this as just simple outlining, and then basketweave worked around it in yellow Ribbon Floss.
Incidentally, the border across the top is made with long-armed cross stitch in Kreinik metallic braid - a great edging that rolls over nicely in the finishing.

A needlepoint canvas that is well designed by an artist who knows her business should not be considered just as individual areas when choosing stitches. Nor should choosing the threads and colors be done by separate areas, which is the usual tendency. It has to work as a whole, and this means sometimes having to change the color just slightly to make it work with the other elements. (When I paint a canvas, it seems I can never find the color I had in my mind for thread - my "made up colors." Oh well.) Also to be strongly considered is the surface texture of the individual threads - not just do the colors work well together, but do the textures enhance each other?

This little canvas is an artwork itself, in that it has the elements of design arranged properly - which is an automatic and unconscious with most "real" artists. It has movement, and the lines and areas and colors are arranged to lead the eye around the 2-dimensional surface and back to the focal point in a pleasing manner. If one were to break up and fragment this effect by smothering it with decorative stitches and more sparkling stuff, it would ruin it, and it would no longer work as a "whole." Granted - this is just a little needlepoint rollie ornament, but it has direction of line, repetition of shape and color, which lead the eye where the artist wants it to go. For this reason - and because of the gorgeous color scheme, it is pure delight to be stitching!!
Now, for a closer "close-up." Gail said all mermaids have a pearl for a belly-button, but only very special ones have a pink pearl. Stitching around these beads already attached has been really easy - I never would have thought of it, but the random scattering is so much prettier for this piece.

I have used nothing more in the way of stitches than just outlining, basketweave, Scotch stitch, and a few "bumps" in the way of Smyrna cross and my own little bump over 3 x 3 threads. I did that in Splendor silk on the aqua portion of her tail, to make it part of her "dress." It stands out a bit more than just using the simpler stitch. Where the lines point to the little Smyrna cross bumps, I simply put them wherever there was a configuration of four stitches square. It gives a little more emphasis to the area without being obvious and overpowering. The pale aqua bump stitch is more obvious - the space was already there and marked by the grid.

Now back to stitching, painting another pillow for my friend Marilyn, and beading Anne Stradal's wonderful Pueblo pottery ornaments (for tomorrow). It's good to be busy!! Be sure to visit Gail's blog - she now has the peacock I stitched for her finished and on his beautiful stand.