This one was going to be a challenge given the habitat was granite boulder caves, and so a little bit of artistic license was needed to make an interesting texture study that still read as giant slabs of rock. It started as a fabric collage to make the basic shapes.
I had some images of caves and so wanted to explore the idea of the point of view being from inside the cave with a small entrance to the outside world visible.
I began looking at creating texture in the rocks with height, layering, and beginning to describe lichen with french knots and different surface stitches.
It was really fun to create these lichen patches in the gorgeous peachy tones.
Next I added some of these smooth jasper beads using a woven peyote bead stitch technique. I sort of wanted to suggest mineral deposits, like stalactites.
Adding more texture with velvet and french knots:
It was at this point I started to feel a little more confident about how things were turning out, although I was still worried about what the upper hemisphere was going to look like. This piece definitely pushed me out of comfort zone.
I think the lack or control in terms of ‘neat’ regular embroidery was both scary and liberating, as I allowed myself to explore more random ways of mark making with thread.
I started to experiment with sequins to suggest wet rocks, or layered minerals against the matte felt.
That big scary white space was solved by basically shoving a load of cotton scrim in there.
But seriously, it was the perfect thing to create instant texture and dimension and achieves a lot.
I started working into that and adding more ribbons of beads, and a bit of couched metallic thread.
I also spent about a week adding this clump of bullion knot lichens. It was not fun.
Pretty much there at this point, just one final touch to give a little narrative.
This is the Kudzu vine. Native to parts of Asia, elsewhere it’s an extremely invasive plant subject to several eradication schemes. In the Seychelles they are contributing to the sheath tailed bat’s decline by growing at the entrance to their cave roost sites, blocking them and also reducing availability of insect prey.
One of the world’s rarest mammals, only found on the Seychelles islands of Silhouette and Mahe, it’s estimated the Sheath tailed bat has only 30 to 100 individuals remaining.
Roosting in coastal granite boulder caves, the introduction to the island of predatory barn owls, and a decline in insects due to pesticides are amongst the threats this species faces.
I did really struggle with this one. Creating this habitat was a big challenge artistically and I felt quite disconnected from it. I didn’t enjoy making it very much and didn’t have confidence in my choices for much of it.
Even though I make a drawing of each piece before I start, and sketch out my ideas and decisions, the cave being basically just ‘rocks’ pushed me to make this the most real/unreal habitat of the series yet. I was excited to create lichen forms and texture as I always do, but there’s much about this piece I felt is ‘wrong’
It’s healthy to share when things are difficult and don’t turn out as you would wish, on this platform where so much is edited for highlights.
It’s good to pull things from ourselves and see visions through, even if you’re not totally comfortable at the end, and this is one of the pieces I feel most proud of in many ways.
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