Saint Benjamin

Saint Benjamin

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Right back in January, I had intended this to be the second Icon I was to make. But some friends and my better judgement persuaded me to enter the Women’s Hour Crafts Council prize, and this was my entrant for the piece I would display if successful. I wasn’t. Here he is.

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It’s an interesting facet of working like that though: I designed it months before, and at the time I had envisaged all the icons having quite similar halos and design elements. But as always I evolved throughout the project and so when it came to realising my original design, I was initially worried it now seemed too simple.

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As I’d progressed through the series, I had incorporated a lot of symbolism as I usually do, and now looking at and researching the Thylacine, I couldn’t find many threads to pull on, to weave into this design.

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My original design took as its focus the physical appearance of the Thylacine, a brown and black stripy animal, as the main characteristic of the Icon.

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By this point I had also amassed a wealth of bronze and copper materials and deciding not to second guess myself, proceeded with the shape and composition as I had originally envisaged it.

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I actually found designing with these colours quite challenging, as balancing the metallic tones of rose gold and copper, and bronze and brown, with black was tricky to not have them fighting with each other.

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It was the goldwork that was the star of the show though.

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I was using a basic cutwork technique, but alternating copper wire check with smooth purl over felt padding. Each one of the rays took about an hour.

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Truth be told, I actually started this piece before Our Lady of The Flowers but had to abandon it about this stage as I was waiting on materials to come which ended up taking forever to arrive. Not ideal.

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Here I have edged the alternate rays in copper pearl purl and then used two types of check to fill them in chip work – copper bright check and bronze wire check – and arranged them in an ombre pattern.

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Again I was worried about the two tones clashing but was actually quite pleased with the way the bronze picked up the tone of the bugle beads.

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I carried on with this ombre motif with the infilling of bronze and black 3mm sequins.

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Pleasing.

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The finishing touches:

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Although I fretted about the apparent lack of symbolism in this piece as compared to the others, out of curiosity I looked up where Carnelian comes from, and was pleased to find one of its sources is Tasmania.

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Knowing the obvious great stretches of time it takes for the earth to ‘grow’ these minerals, I felt quite moved when considering the (albeit remote) possibility that these carnelians could have come from Tasmania, and could have been in the ground when Thylacines still roamed wild there.

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\\ Saint Benjamin //
The Thylacine was the largest known carnivorous marsupial, and the last member of the family Thylacinidae. Also known as the Tasmanian Tiger or Wolf, it was a shy, nocturnal creature similar to a medium/large dog except for it’s pouch and dark tiger stripes on its back.
Intensive hunting encouraged by bounties, combined with the introduction of dogs and human encroachment into its habitat wiped them out in 1930.
The last captive Thylacine, Benjamin, lived in the Hobart Zoo for 3 years. He died on 7th September 1936 as a result of neglect – locked out of his sleeping quarters, he succumbed to exposure. Last year (2016) was the 80th anniversary of the loss of this species.

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I now have poster prints and art-cards available of this series in my Etsy shop. The Witch of St Kilda poster is already sold out so be quick if you want to grab anything!

*** Workshop spots still available – details here!***

Our Lady Of The Flowers

Our Lady Of The Flowers

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This one started differently, and with a lot of stumpwork again.

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After it was confirmed that I would have my work on display at Onca Gallery for their Remembrance Day for Lost Species I wanted to make an Extinct Icon that specifically related to their theme for this year – Pollinators.

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I knew immediately that it had to be a fruit bat. The importance of bats as a species has been close to my heart since I took part in a conservation project in Malaysia in my early 20s.

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Bats are the bees of the tropical world, is something I’m fond of saying.

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Three of the most important crops they pollinate are cocoa, banana and agave, amongst over 500 others we in the west are used to enjoying.

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Bats are massively threatened by habitat loss – rainforests cut down for palm oil plantations being a big one.

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So I was inspired by religious iconography from the tropical world, usually the Virgin Mary surrounded by very colourful flora and fauna (think Our Lady of Guadalupe).

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I’ve not made detached slips so heavily beaded before and they were obviously a lot heavier than just embroidered ones.

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I knew this one would be smaller given the comparative scale of a bat’s skull so I switched to my hoop.

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The moon is a nod to the nocturnal habits of this species.

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As is the starry sky here.

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Assembly…

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To combat the heaviness of the slips they were both plunged to the reverse as well as sewn along the sides, creating sort of cups.

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In the United States bats provide an estimated $3.7bn in insect control, but in much of the rest of the world they are woefully under researched.
Many pollinating species of bats have already become extinct, like the Dark Flying Fox of Mauritius and Reunion, or the Guam Flying Fox, due to hunting from settlers, or habitat loss from mono culture farming like oil palm. But we just don’t know how many species may be threatened.

*** 25th November Masterclass is SOLD OUT!
BUT the good news is, due to popular demand I’m running another one on 2nd December! Only 3 spots left so move fast if you wanna make your own homage to the pollinators – details here!***

Upcoming Exhibitions, Workshops and Commissions

Upcoming Exhibitions, Workshops and Commissions

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Lots of exciting news happening with me at Mother Eagle Towers.

First up, join me on 29th October in Worthing 10am-4pm for my Embellishment Workshop, where I will teach you the techniques to make one of three exclusive Halloweeny designs pictured above.

You will learn:

  • Felt padding
  • Applique
  • Embroidering over relief
  • French knots
  • Sequin techniques
  • Beading techniques
  • Wire wrapping
  • Plus lots of one-to-one coaching in applying your own creativity to textile design.

Suitable for all abilities, places are extremely limited and cost £75 which includes fabric, hoop, instructions, needles and use of my entire embellishment cache! Plus I can promise it will be a fun and informal day and there will be pumpkin themed snacks.

Contact me here to confirm your place!

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Exhibitions this Autumn

Catch pieces from my Ugly Gods series at Stitch-Up at Brush in Brighton from 19th September until 3rd October.

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I am also delighted to announce that you will be able to see the entire collection of Ritual Burials and Extinct Icons at ONCA Gallery in Brighton from 22nd November to 3rd December in the largest exhibition of my work to date. The event runs as part of the annual Remembrance day for Lost Species programme and promises to be a really dynamic and exciting curation of my work. The private view will be on the evening of 23rd November and I would invite you all to come along, I’d love to meet you.

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As part of the programme of events for this exhibition and Lost Species Day I will also be running a Hand Embroidery and Embellishment Masterclass on Saturday 25th November at ONCA from 10am-4pm (times TBC). The theme of the workshop is Pollinators and I will be teaching techniques used to make one of 2 designs – a beetle (see above) or a moth/butterfly.

The day will be an exclusive chance to have a private tour of the exhibition with me, and a close look and explanation of the techniques used in my work on display. We will then get down to business customising and creating your chosen design, and will cover:

  • Felt padding
  • Applique
  • Embroidering over relief
  • French knots
  • Turkey Rug work
  • Surface embroidery techniques
  • Couching
  • Sequin techniques
  • Beading techniques
  • Wire wrapping
  • Plus lots of one-to-one coaching in applying your own creativity to textile design.

This will be a special day for textile art enthusiasts and due to the very limited nature of the places available, all abilities are welcome as I will be able to give lots of one-to-one attention. Places are £75 and will include fabric, hoop, instructions, needles and use of my entire embellishment cache. There will also be a special goodybag for each attendee!

Contact me here to confirm your place!

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Last but not least!

After a hiatus of many years, commission slots are now available for purchase in my Etsy shop. Head on over there for all the details!

 

The Witch of St. Kilda

The Witch of St. Kilda

This piece was a lot of fun to do. Which was helpful because the story of the Great Auk’s demise is incredibly sad and has had me in tears more than once.

I spent quite a lot of time designing this piece mainly because I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to white, clear, pearlescent beads and sequins. I wanted the colour palette to suggest the icy homes of this penguin-like bird, as well as lending a magical, ethereal feel.

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There was also a lot of scope for different techniques; goldwork:

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Lots of beading:

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Just in this crown we have (bottom to top) plastic pearls, glass cubes, diamante, iridescent seed beads, silver seed beads, pearl rhinestones, plastic teardrop, silver pearl purl and lovely big diamante rhinestones. I just used Guttermans polyester buttonhole thread for all of this.

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Everything in monotone is quite tricky to photograph.

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These are long vintage glass silver lined bugle beads.

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I bought a lot of opalite chips after completing the last piece, using semi precious chips. I knew these translucent, opalescent stones would be perfect.

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Then I used tiny pearlescent 2mm sequins to fill the centre circle.

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Finally I embroidered the beak in split stitch.

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The Great Auk was a flightless bird, similar to a penguin. It bred on rocky, isolated islands, foraging for food in Atlantic waters. It ranged from northern Spain to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Faroe islands, Norway, Ireland and great Britain. Great Auk pairs mated for life, and estimated to have a maximum population in the millions.

The species had great significance for Native American cultures as far back as the Neolithic age, both as a food source and symbolically.

Overhunting, and mainly massive European exploitation and demand for the birds down, skin, and eggs led to it’s demise, and was finally and cruelly obliterated by 1852.
The story of the Great Auk is one of the saddest, in fact researching this piece and even writing this now brings me to tears. I won’t repeat them here, but there are several truly appalling tales of man’s cruelty and thoughtlessness dealt to this harmless and trusting animal on Wikipedia, including the story behind this piece’s title.

12″ x 19″

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I hope you enjoyed this post, thank you for following my work! As always you can follow me on Instagram for (usually) daily pictures of my work in progress and all the latest updates on exhibitions, classes and workshops.

Extinct Icons: The Divine Beest

Extinct Icons: The Divine Beest

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By this point I had increased my stores of beads and sequins quite considerably, mostly due to the kindness of strangers donating their unwanted bits and pieces.

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The elongated, more simple skull and horns of this animal gave me a lot of opportunity to continue with my embellishment experiment.

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I accidentally started embroidering on the wrong side of my cotton drill. Which is annoying because the diagonal weave on the right side provides lovely guide lines for shading.

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I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but the photograph of the skull that I used to trace my design from provided little texture, meaning the skull was particularly ‘clean’. However in the overall composition this balanced really well as the horns were so embellished.

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Holographic gold sequins. Sigh.

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This photo is a little shaky but for this piece I wanted to exaggerate the Hartebeest’s spiritual significance in North African culture with, amongst other things, the choice of semi precious lapis and turquoise stones. 

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As usual, I made it up as I went along, alternating blue and turquoise, inspired by an ancient Egyptian palette.

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I used red accents very sparingly. Although this was fun, it was harder than it looks, trying to keep each section unique, and the lines relatively even.

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Once the horns were done, I just had the halo to complete.

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For this I chose gold passing.

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Ugh, the pain of tying back your ends.

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Finally I used flat black sequins to create a motif around the gold halo, in a nod to the aesthetic of the sacred cow Goddess in ancient Egypt Mehret Wehret and Hathor.

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The Bubal Hartebeest was a social animal, formerly native to the land north of the Saharan desert. It’s main predator was the also extinct Barbary Lion.
It was an animal of significance in ancient Egyptian culture. Remains of Bubal Hartebeest have been found in archaeological sites as well as hieroglyphs (the sacred form of writing) representing the animal. Possibly a sacrificial animal, it is also mentioned in the Old Testament.
It’s numbers sharply declined in the 19th century after the French conquest of Algeria, when entire herds were massacred at once by colonial military. The last captive animal died in the Paris zoo in 1925