Followers on social media will probably know that I’ve been extremely busy over the last couple of weeks getting kits together for the launch of my latest Textile Art Box design – the Peacock Spider!
Keep reading to find out how blog readers can get their hands on a kit before anyone else!
If you aren’t familiar with this tiny arachnid, it’s worth a search on YouTube to see their incredible little mating dance! Although not an endangered species, I am still donating £2 from every kit to buglife.org, Europe’s only charity dedicated to invertebrates, who have a specific campaign for the UK’s rarest spider, the ladybird spider!
As with my other kit designs, this box is 100% plastic packaging free, and entirely vegan friendly. It’s also a kit for all levels of embroidery experience, and I believe that with a little patience and care, everyone can create this design. It does however present a greater challenge than my other kits: There is more intricacy involved, with lots of tiny sequins, and around 10 grams of lovely Miyuki Delica glass beads to work with!
As always everything you need to create your own peacock spider art is included in the box, except embroidery scissors, and you’ll also need strong PVA Craft glue or similar fabric/embellishment glue. I also highly recommend a seat frame or barrel clamp to hold your provided frame, or to use instead. If you don’t have one, or can’t source one, working at a table where you can set your hoop down will work okay.
Pre-order now for first release!
I’ve just released 10 kits only to my shop for blog readers – I’m not telling my social media followers yet!
These Textile Art Boxes are available as a pre-sale only – the rest of the shop is temporarily closed whilst I take a little vacation for a week. When I return your pre-orders will be the first to be shipped out on the 29th and 30th July! After that the remaining boxes will be made available – only 50 in total! I’ll also be releasing another 35 Stag Beetle Boxes in August – currently sold out!
Oh yes – and worldwide shipping on all kits is now FREE!
Finally, I’ve made it to this year’s work on the blog. Thanks for your patience.
As I completed the Hallowed Ground series, arguably the most ‘multi media’ of my projects to date, I craved a palette cleanser of clean, plain, surface embroidery.
I have had a fascinated love for all sharks since I was a child (I wanted to be a marine biologist for a bit), and the clean elegant curves and beautiful colours of the Blue shark was the perfect subject.
A meditation in single strand split stitch.
I like to remind myself that I can ‘just sew’ from time to time.
After I had completed the body I began the same technique of filling the disembodied fin.
It’s eye is an opalite bead.
Stage one complete. Now for her divinity.
If you look really closely at my brick stitch you’ll notice I haven’t done this for a while.
If you know, you know.
The pain, the anguish.
And this was my workstation for this project.
Now I’m going to share a blog-only exclusive:
The main reason for padding the fin was that my original intention was to include this glass bead fringe. However I decided in the end that it was shouting rather than telling, and I changed my mind. Sometimes things don’t go to plan and it’s good to interrogate your ideas at all stages.
I wanted to be freer with my practice this year, make more work organically with subjects that I was drawn to, not over thinking everything. I also wanted to explore making portraits again, like I was in my 2015 Ugly Gods works, because of the joy of surface embroidery really.
After making so many textured and multi-technique pieces, the process of just working in one stitch – split stitch with one strand of DMC – was very calming and rewarding. I wanted to see how ‘special’ I could make it feel, without all the bells and whistles of multiple surfaces, materials and techniques.
There’s also an intention to continue to refine my style as an artist, and so my subject is again the precious nature of threatened animals and the symbols of the divine. But again, simplicity. Just the silver passing halo achieves this.
Finally, I’m interested in composition this year, and decided to add the inverted triangle (water) described with what I call ‘distress lines’. Simple lines of iridescent filament that suggest behaviour displayed by sharks in distress.
Finally, he needs a web. I was well into my pyro at this point, so I got the incense sticks out again.
Synthetic organza, melts pleasingly.
The critically endangered Gooty Tarantula (aka peacock parachute spider, metallic tarantula) only exists in a single, small area – the dry, deciduous forest of Andhra Pradesh, India. It’s habitat is rapidly degrading due to logging and firewood harvesting. Another threat is specimen collection of this stunning arachnid for the pet trade. Population size is unknown, but the combination of its small natural range and the habitat threats indicate a declining population trend. I urge you to google this species, even if you’re not a spider lover. It is otherworldy beautiful.
Animals – of any kind – are not possessions, not objects. It was shocking how many websites and YouTube videos belonging to ‘owners’ and collectors popped up in a simple Google search, when researching this species. Perhaps even more offensive is how I couldn’t find a single one of those sources that mentioned the fact that this is one of the most threatened and rare insects in the world, and should be in the care of conservation projects, not hobbyist’s garages.
I guess I always knew this, final piece on my Hallowed Ground series, would never be the crowd pleaser of, say, the riot of colour Geometric tortoise or the forest floor of the Rio Pescado toad.
It’s a bit of a Monet this one – looks a bit crude close up but takes on its charm at a distance. I wanted to describe the dry, peeling bark of the forest where it clings to existence. Imbuing aesthetic appeal was more challenging with such a limited range, both in colour and environmental variety.
I hope I’ve done these species some tribute. I hope you’ve learnt something and thought something and felt something.
Please contact me if you’re interested in purchasing any of these pieces.
Truth be told, I always thought that little flower shaped, ‘novelty’ sequins were really tacky and had no use in my work. How wrong I was.
I started with a circular piece of cotton as my ground, stitched onto my usual white drill. The cotton had been dyed in a ‘landscape’ – green at the bottom and blue at the top.
As you can see, I had a lot going on with this piece, and initially felt quite overwhelmed. Normally I pretty much know I’m going to start working on a particular area and build up in sections. But other than knowing I was going to be covering the circle in as many different flowers as possible, I really didn’t have a plan. Challenging and liberating (by the end).
I really wanted to use this piece as an opportunity to not only use embellishments but also experiment with some decorative surface stitches, something I rarely do.
One element I knew was absolutely key, was the giant King protea, national flower of South Africa. I started with the basic purple shape in cotton applique, then began layering up long purple purls.
It is amongst the oldest flowering plants on the planet, dating back over 300 million years.
It was very important to me to feature it in this piece for obvious reasons, especially when I learned it symbolises hope, change and transition.
Then it was a case of appliqueing the spiky felt crown of petals, and some bugle bead embellishments for the flower stamens. I was very pleased with how this turned out.
I continued to build up the coverage with using the sequins and beads in as many ways – colours, heights, combinations, as I could, and made sure that I didn’t repeat the same (clump of) flowers twice.
To provide a bit of structure, I couched some string down on the left side of the piece, as decorative grass or stems to accompany these daisy type red flowers, which I used detached woven picots to achieve.
You can see here I’ve also used some pom poms, long bugles, herringbone stitch for the leaves, and started to build up the french knots around the tortoise to depict the dry soil of the habitat.
I made sure to fill gaps with french knots too, to tie the textures together.
Nothing is ever wasted. Here I used a pair of stumpwork detached slip leaves which I had made for a discarded project. You keep everything because it can always be reused!
Next I wanted another feature flower, so created this one by using sequins and beads stacked up to make semi stiff tassels, built up to create the blossom.
It took me a good couple of days and hundreds of beads to create.
Another look at this second King protea, but in bud, using velvet quilted down to create the texture.
It was very tricky at times to maintain consistently interesting textures and colours. I wanted to make sure that wherever you looked there was something interesting or unexpected to see. I used fluffy pipe cleaners here.
You can also see here the different heights I was working with.
The final quarter. It was getting really tricky to reuse sequins in different ways. I really liked these hyacinth type clusters.
All the threats the geometric tortoise faces pale into insignificance compared to the loss of its habitat.
Destruction of more than 90% of this environment has occurred due to urban and agricultural development. In addition, alien invasive vegetation, fire, poaching for the illegal pet trade, and even bush meat have pushed this tortoise to such rarity.
I wanted this piece to reflect the extreme biodiversity, and magic of such a habitat, but also communicate something ‘unreal’, as so many species here already do not exist.
Although only 4-6% of the former span of the Cape Floral Kingdom remains, there is a more hopeful future to the story of the Geometric tortoise. 75% of the remaining population now exists in protected areas.
What can you do? It may seem like a simple thing, but if you’re buying flowers, be aware of what you’re buying – more and more it is fashionable to include the stunning and exotic flowers of South Africa in bouquets, but please spend the time to discover if they have been harvested legally, fairly traded, and with ecological sensitivity. What we do, matters.
Contact me to enquire about purchasing this piece.
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.
Contact me to enquire about purchasing this piece.