For centuries women have used cloth as a tool of comfort and as an expression of beauty within their homes. Creating cloth for warmth, cloth for shelter, our female predecessors embellished these linens with hand stitch using laborious and time consuming techniques thereby enhancing the functional beauty of objects which enveloped and protected their families. Inspired by these women I hope my creations pay tribute to and recognise the devotion expressed in cloth by our female ancestors .







''the use of traditional often time consuming process alludes to the devotion of a mother''. c K. A. Ruane 2007







Monday, May 12, 2008

I'm Scared!

Don't worry, you haven't come to the wrong blog. My oh my look at all this colour! Someone told me once that I was afraid of colour......well I think they were right because this terrifies me!! Apart from sampling I don't think I have ever used this much colour in one of my projects. I always have to justify to myself the reason why I do x and y, why that pattern, why that colour, I can't function if I can't do that. The silk I use because it is a precious fabric, like the precious relationship between mother and child. The white I use because it symbolises purity in the same relationship. Part of the thinking behind my work is also the history of domestic cloth, how it was used, how it was constructed, why different surface patterns were used. Most importantly, how mothers through time have used cloth in different ways to decorate their homes, nurture and protect their families.
So, for my latest piece I have used a colourful vintage cloth as my starting point. I have decided to add surface embroidery in colours that match as closely as possible those in the old cloth.


After edging each applique petal with running stitch I am going to apply text to cotton tape and stitch this to the surface. Then I will add more surface embroidery on top of that, again in colours which match the vintage cloth. I am so far out of my comfort zone here that I may have sleepless nights. Oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained.

Yesterday I finished the applique and edging the petals with running stitch, this panel is now damp stretching whilst I embroider text onto the cotton tape.




Please let me have your thoughts, I really would appreciate feedback on this one. Yikes.......help!

18 comments:

Victoria said...

Well I am always impressed with your work, and this is no exception! The colors are beautiful, as is the stitching. So exciting to see its evolution!

It is only very recently that I starting to feel really comfortable with color. In art school, the only concern that my instructors had of me, was that I just wouldn't use color! I always think of Georgia O'Keefe, who started out only working in black and white. Most of it charcoal. She wanted to throughly understand how to communicate with that limited pallet before she ventured into color.

Sara said...

thank you for your comment, karen. I'm also somebody who was afraid of colour... I'm trying to get over this!

sparkle jars said...

It's beautiful!

jennyflower said...

Go girl! Pushing yourself into the uncomfortable is so often how magic happens, and I am loving this new piece. Just the selecton of colours is evocative of another era of domesticity which makes me feel nostalgic for a time when people personalised and adorned there surroundings themselves. It's really lovely. Lookinf forward to the next exciting installment.

Needles said...

I love the colours you have picked. Lovely.

Debbs said...

Hi, I think your embroidery is excellent and obviously you put a lot of effort and thought into your work. However, like many people today I see that you have cut somebody's work up to include in your own. I find this very sad and wish that more people would stop taking short cuts and embroider pieces themselves to cut up rather than destroying vintage pieces. I know I'm probably in the minority but from my point of view we are destroying history. I must say that you have used the pieces in a sympathetic manner, unlike many of the 'altered' artists that are growing. But as such a good embroiderer I think you could have produced this work using all your own needlework, yes it would take longer but then you would be producing a lovely piece created entirely by you and still have a beautiful vintage piece to admire as well.

karen said...

Hi Debbs. I appreciate and take on board all the comments I receive. I understand your sadness at the loss of a vintage textile but I don't see it that way. The motivation behind my work comes from extensive research into domestic cloth, mothers and 'home' embroidery with a strong desire to pay tribute to my female predecessors. It is my belief that rather than destroying these pieces I am preserving them in a contemporary form and that my pieces will then in turn become heirlooms for future generations. I do not believe that anything I do is for the sake of 'taking a short cut'. Rather it is the opposite. I strive to mirror the intensive time consuming laborious methods of the past. The text quote that I will place in this particular piece reads,
'the use of traditional often time consuming process alludes to the devotion of a mother'. That quote perfectly sums up my motivation and ideals.
Please visit my blog again and you will see other methods are just as prevelant in my work.

Francesca said...

i absolutely LOVE your petals and i like how you are working outside your comfort zone. I think it's important, we should all push ourselves more. gorgeous!

Claire said...

I really love the way you are pushing your work. That green is one of my favourites and works very well with the existing embroidery.

I can see Debbs point of view, but I don't hold the same opinion. Taking apart the old so we can see it with fresh eyes is a powerful way of telling a story about our past.

I can't wait to see the end product!

Camilla said...

OOh I love that you are venturing into colour- I am most drawn to colour, and yet I find that when I make my own work it tends to be black and white.I'm looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

Anonymous said...

Re- Debbs comment. As a professional textile artist myself I think it is imperitive that we preserve all types of vintage fabric in a modern and contemporary way for generations to come. I believe that Karen has created her own identity through her work that meets this need. I often use vintage pieces in my own work. Bev

greenbeanbaby said...

no need to fear, the color is BEAUTIFUL!!!! its funny that you say all white symbolizes purity between mother and daughter... that is such a beautiful reason.... but to me, color reminds me of MY mom :) it reminds me of life, beauty itself, CULTURE, emotions, growth, love.... my mom's love is colorful... her smile is too... so i dont know, using vibrant colors with white really ACCENTUATES the beauty in your art... and it's reasoning too:) your work still has the vintage quality too

jude said...

personally i think it is a great way to honor and use old textiles, and the work is exquisite. i actually think you have highlighted the beauty of the original stitchery with some delicate focus and given it new context... i would be proud if you would like to cut up some of my work.

Anonymous said...

I think anyone who visits and reads your blog on a regular basis would understand the time consuming work you put in, your need to preserve the past instead of these cloths being locked up in some charity shop or in someone elses attic until it may possibly come back into favour. So many of these cloths are becoming relegated into hiding and would never see the light of day if it were not for you and other 'altered artists'. i have to say this is not how I would view this work anyway. I also think you should turn your blog into a book as it is also becoming very beautiful to look at and informative. i know you have more work to show us and more information to share so if not yet, then aim for it in the future.
Jill

karen said...

I would like to thank EVERYONE who has commented on this post. Debbs certainly started a debate here. I am enjoying the response and am happy that you feel free to express yourselves in any way in this forum. I cannot believe that my little embroidery blog has provoked such a debate....Isn't it good.

jennyflower said...

I have been thinking more about this question of re-using old embroidery and I think that for me it comes down to two factors; the condition of the piece and the quality of the final product. For me a textile that is rust stained or fraying can be re-used with a totally clear conscience. I generally do struggle with people chopping up pristine work to make bunting or somethig of that nature where the stitchng is unlikely to be appreciated. I definetly feel that in te case of your work the ends justify the means 100%. I saw a cut work embroidered set in my local charity shop (usually expensive in my humble)this morning; a central runner and six napkins for £4.95! Anything that encourages people to give a higher value to this work has to be good.

jennyflower said...

I have been thinking more about this question of re-using old embroidery and I think that for me it comes down to two factors; the condition of the piece and the quality of the final product. For me a textile that is rust stained or fraying can be re-used with a totally clear conscience. I generally do struggle with people chopping up pristine work to make bunting or somethig of that nature where the stitchng is unlikely to be appreciated. I definetly feel that in te case of your work the ends justify the means 100%. I saw a cut work embroidered set in my local charity shop (usually expensive in my humble)this morning; a central runner and six napkins for £4.95! Anything that encourages people to give a higher value to this work has to be good.

jennyflower said...

I have been thinking more about this question of re-using old embroidery and I think that for me it comes down to two factors; the condition of the piece and the quality of the final product. For me a textile that is rust stained or fraying can be re-used with a totally clear conscience. I generally do struggle with people chopping up pristine work to make bunting or somethig of that nature where the stitchng is unlikely to be appreciated. I definetly feel that in te case of your work the ends justify the means 100%. I saw a cut work embroidered set in my local charity shop (usually expensive in my humble)this morning; a central runner and six napkins for £4.95! Anything that encourages people to give a higher value to this work has to be good.