This is the first of a series of posts about the making of 2018’s Hallowed Ground project, starting with the first completed piece, Rio Pescado Stubfoot Toad.
Being a whole new series, I begun with a few more challenges of how to resolve my vision of a realistic habitat, with a convincing negative space. I played around with scale, and drew reference from as close as I could find ‘Lowland Forest’ imagery.
This type of environment – forest floor – does not want for variety of texture, shape, colour etc so I had endless inspiration for describing all that in textiles.
With a piece like this – any piece really – the ‘rule’ is to start with your foundations, work low to high. So, the outline of the toad stitched down, some strange felt and card shapes.
I used cotton scrim for the first time, and it couldn’t have been more perfect to quickly start describing the forest floor. With minimal holding stitches, and some simple velvet scrap leaves, I was already achieving interesting dimension.
In fact this was a first for me to use fabric in any kind of sculptural way and it was hugely freeing and encouraging to be able to work so loosely yet achieve ‘realism’.
Here you can see I decided to describe roots or vines by playing with household string simply couched in variegated thread, as I continued to ground a sense of scale with the velvet leaves around the toad’s outline.
One of the real pleasures of this piece for me was the freedom to be able to work on a different section, and play around with different textures. Here I have used buttonhole stitch to attach jumprings, then surrounded them with french knots.
At this stage I began to work on the bottom section, a muddy stream or puddle, but using the orange toned fabric to reflect the red clay earth.
I covered some cardboard with linen scraps for rocks, and to hide the join line in the fabric, not having a big enough piece. I was also very pleased with the beaded french knot texture.
You can see the clear sequins at the bottom to suggest bubbly, moving water. I attached these with french knots.
The ‘log’ now covered in brown velvet, I began to add texture with beads, sequins, french knots and detached buttonhole bars, for moss and lichen and mold. These ferns were also created with detached woven picots.
At this stage I had pretty much completed the bottom half, and had moved on to the top portion, covering the larger log with cotton fabric, and using more scrim to continue the dark forest floor.
Keeping with the aerial view, I added lots of embellishments for the detritus of the forest floor, and made these little velvet fungi.
For the large log, I simply stitched the wood grain in back stitch and began to add more lush moss texture.
This is perhaps my favourite part of the whole piece. I used velvet scraps which I then embroidered french knots over, and created tufts and added buttonhole bars for the growing lichens.
I made detached wired slips for these scarlet elf cup fungi, and plunged them into the log.
You can see the high relief at this stage.
Finishing off this section, I was adding more ‘dead’ leaves, and using iridescent filament to create fungal strands around the mushrooms, continually adding texture and interest.
To be honest, when I’d got to the final section at the top, I struggled a bit to know what to do that I hadn’t already done.
Finally, I played around with more leaf shapes, and some couched silver passing – slime trails, or damp roots perhaps.
I absolutely loved making this piece. It just seemed to come together so easily and successfully, and was a real joy to bring to realisation.
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