Sunday, 18 September 2011

To Iran and Back via Wembley Part I

I know I never said this was going to be a travel blog, but travel I did, and the journey is still so present in my mind, that I cannot escape talking about it. I did say though, that this is a visual journey.

Indeed, after explaining the title of my blog, I wanted to tell a bit about the story behind the panel I used to set up my little working corner in the kitchen, optimistically rather than grandiosely, dubbed 'studio'.

It started life as my daughter's bedroom curtain, cheap and cheerful, bought just after the era of pure baby cutesy and before that of the pre-teen and teen fanciness.
Very good quality cotton and good finishing too.
Did I want to get rid of it just because it had overgrown my daughter's taste? Not really.
The 'fruity' pattern blends well in a kitchen set. It was made in Bangladesh I learned from the label, even though the design most probably originated in Sweden as it was bought in Ikea at their Wembley store.

Ready to be transformed into a panel with pockets with minimal intervention, it was a wonderful occasion to allay concerns about disposing too easily of a piece of textile that had already undergone quite a lot, one of those global objects that you cannot stop interrogating yourself about how many people have been affected by its making and in what ways.
Not to mention the wonderful feeling of not needing money to buy something because you are actually able to make it.

So far so good, not a big story, only one typical of so many textiles through the centuries, with design, manufacture, trade, and of course, consumption, going in all (sometimes unexpected) directions.

But then Iran took over, a journey attempted for years, with the plans always falling through at the last minute for one reason or another.  The return of my husband to his homeland after twenty two years of absence, the much anticipated meeting of his family with me and our daughter for the first time. A trip so emotionally charged that we could be forgiven for not organizing it properly, or at least this is my excuse.

Two questions above all occupied my mind over the weeks leading up to it. What to bring as presents and what Sara and I should wear in Iran?
After months of asking for advice everywhere and scouring the web too, we still weren't sure at all, and my husband, as they do, didn't have a clue (or if he did he managed to keep it well hidden).
So, I decided to make myself something between a kaftan and a kamiz, as in a Punjabi suit, to go with and then we would buy something according to the local fashion, once arrived.

And here Wembley comes into this other story too, for the first time:

After finding an address for a good Indian fabric shop on the Ealing Road off I went to buy the material.

For another little twist of fate, the three pieces of coordinated fabric were padded with a piece of newspaper folded inside, The Times of India, reproducing an article from the English ' Independent' about the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and why he should resign (and that was 2008!)  Could not stop laughing! It would be nice to show you the photos here if some evil influence hadn't obviously managed to make them disappear from my drive!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Klimt inspired embroidery: stitching up 'The Bride'?

While I am working on some post about recent things, thought it would be nice to show and share some mixed media/ hand-embroidery work that I did some time ago and for which I was visually inspired by Gustav Klimt's unfinished picture 'The Bride'.

Watercolour pencils on wc paper, gold leaf, acrylic wax, markal oil stick, applied sequins, lace, mesh, reclaimed sari thread, sari scrap fabric, fibres, couched gimp, rayon and silk thread, tyvek painted and ironed on rubber stamp, puff paint, stitch (french knot, couching, running, chain, long) mounted on a green hand-made paper background

The process that I followed is pretty simple and more 'design' based than my work usually is.
Gustav Klimt is one of my favourite painters, so it was almost a natural choice while I was looking for something that I could reproduce on paper, mixed media and stitch.

Gustav Klimt The Bride
I went through some of Klimt's paintings and was particularly attracted by the Bride.
There were some other floral patterns that I was considering from another painting, which funnily enough belongs to the same period: The Virgin.

Auditioning imagery and details on brown paper

But in the end The Bride won.

I suppose that what drew me to it was the pattern, besides its 'unfinished' status, which lent it an air of mystery and seemed to leave a little unexplored corner for somebody to go in and partake of it.
So I started by isolating the design elements that struck me most and that could be better reproduced according to my media of choice.
There were basically two choices: the floral pattern decorating the trousers at the bottom of the left unfinished side and the unfinished dreamy figure at the top:
I considered both:

In the end I went for the dreamy figure part, which would still feature some flowery patterns

I made a sketch with a simplified design and highlighted the details that could be rendered in my chosen media. I then went back to my experiments with the materials, which eventually I recorded in one of my sketchbooks.
Pages of sketchbook showing a scan of the finished embroidery and opposite some tyvek experiment: painted with Dye n'flow on both sides (Green Yellow and Purple) + ironed onto a rubber stamp mat.  Stuck with Copydex glue

Experiments for rendering imaginary flowers

Another example of imaginary flower in tyvek, heated with the heat gun

Detail of an imaginary flower pattern in tyvek, painted, rubber stamped and pressed under the iron

And this is the end result in more detail: