Puffball mushrooms. I’m sorry I don’t have any in-progress shots. So you’ll have to take my word for it that these are made of old tights. No really.
Sketched out these Mandrake dudes freehand, but did it so well directly on to the fabric that it was a bit tricky trying to cut out this eco-felt to match. Should’ve sketched it to the felt obviously.
Anyway, stitched them down and over-sewed it with these sort of shading running stitch. Wasn’t all that happy with this bit as I struggled to make it not look stripey.
When I was happy with that I added these little rooty bits with couched down string and stuff.
Sorry that one’s a bit overexposed.
Ok so next I had a genius moment when I realised my beloved 21st Century Yarns (my absolute fave thread designer) did space dyed cotton velvet in the same gorgeous shades as all their threads. Sigh velvet. So rather than fill in all these shapes with embroidery as normal I just selected the best shade of oily blue green and using the same shade of thread (genius) made my slips.
Raided my semi precious stones from my jewellery making days (oh how glad I am I hung on to these) and sorted through these lovely Ocean jaspers to find the perfect ‘Stone of Power’.
Druids believe that the frog or toad carrying a secret within is the possessor of a power object – a stone of magical properties said to be found in the heads of very old specimens. By carrying such a stone and using it magically, the druid would be able to contact the animal spirit.
//Frog / Ghost / Medicine//
Frog’s were considered by druids as representatives of water spirits and as creatures in contact with the underworld and the dark God. Frog brings medicine and also represents hidden power and beauty.
Frog is shown with puffball mushrooms representing inner connection and mystery, and the mandrake, the greatest magical reputation of all plants, with its ability to drive away illness, demons and misfortune. Also the rune Hagalaz which heals physical, mental and spiritual wounds and increases mystical experiences and knowledge.
Using a print out of an old anatomical drawing I sketched out the design for this one. A slightly different composition as there weren’t really that many plants associated with bears or their symbolism. But Oaks are perfect so given the overall themes a wreath suited it well.
I bought some fabulous spaced dyed cotton velvet to create the detached slips on this one and it saved me a lot of embroidery plus gave that gorgeous autumnal hue I couldn’t have really replicated with embroidery.
I made the stems with stem stitch (you guessed it), then embellished them with little french-knot lichen.
The crown was really cobbled together with goldwork remnants from my mum’s box of bits but I’m pretty pleased with it. Topped with vintage Swarovski crystals from a broken necklace
The Great Bear // Ursa Major.
The Bear was the first animal to be honoured and revered as Master of all Animals as far back as 70,000 years ago, and lived in Scotland until the 11th century.
The Bear represents primal power and intuition, and his ghost is shown here surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves, the king of trees. A golden crown represents sovereignty, and his significance in British folklore as King Arthur (Art = Bear). Above is the constellation of the Great Bear, and the symbol for Earth as a reminder that the Bear is both star and animal.
Second in this series, the bat started out in the very same way, with the white on white skeleton and glow-in-the-dark outline.
To make the stumpwork Deadly Nightshade I first took some wooden beads and enlarged the hole a little before wrapping it with single strand black cotton and securing with a little glass bead. For the sepals I couched down the wire in a star shape before covering the whole thing in embroidery then drawing up the sides to make a little cup for the berry.
The super shiny leaves were made in the same way, the sheen achieved simply through directional stitching. The stem is just some couched down string.
The opium poppy leaf was made in exactly the same way.
Guess what…so were the petals.
The seed head was just a piece of felt drawn through then embroidered.
I broke out the ol’ goldwork skills for this All Seeing Eye, first embroidering the eye, then edging in overstretched pearl purl, and filled with bright check.
// B A T / N I G H T //
Once thought to be physical manifestations of the souls of the dead, and messengers between witches and the Devil, this ritual burial shows the Bat with the rune Eihwaz representing death, and magical communication through dreaming. It is shown with Deadly Nightshade representing far sight, and Opium Poppy for vision in dreams to other worlds. The trio are linked by the full moon and the All Seeing Eye.
Around Christmas I had just gotten Marc Bolan finished and as usual had been hatching plans for a new series of ten embroideries for a few months.
In my usual style it’s now July and I’m half way through the series, which, if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know! But I decided as I’m halfway through I better start blogging again and share my progress on these.
The concept for the series explores the way we as humans share an ancient history of honouring animals in life and death, and invites the viewer to consider how the sacred place those animals once held, has now changed. In the transient nature of life and death, there are clues all around us of the importance and significance certain animals have – in the names of plants, in the folklore and mythology of global cultures. This series specifically looks at ten animals, all native to the British Isles at some point and all with special cultural or religious significance to pagan communities. Inspired by ancient Celtic burial rites, the composition of each piece suggests a burial ground where the spirit of each animal is ritually honoured.
The first of this series is the Hare.
Using anatomical reference I began by transferring the simple skeletal design onto my fabric and used a combination of split stitch, back stitch and french knots to embroider it. Finally the outline of the animal’s body is laid down in glow-in-the-dark thread; I like the idea that the ‘ghost’ of the animal has a second life at night.
Once this was done I used my favourite air-erasable pen to freehand sketch in the other elements.
Using simple paper patterns I created detached slips of the Harebell flowers and leaves then laid them out on my fabric.
I then embroidered the plant’s stem in stem stitch.
The opposing element in this piece was the Hare’s Foot Inkcap, which I created with simple felt applique oversewn with embroidered detail.
I wish I’d cut the mushroom cap instead of overlaying it and causing that lump.
Next I created the sun and moon by first padding the circles with felt then attaching rough silver purl and smooth gold purl.
Finally I added two Norse runes in iridescent filament:
// H A R E//
The Arctic Hare was the original Hare of Britain. For the druids the Hare represents rebirth, initiation and balance. This ritual burial shows the Arctic Hare surrounded by Harebells representing Spring, Hare’s Foot Inkcap representing Autumn, and the full sun and moon representing the two equinoxes. The rune Berkana further signifies balance and Jera for abundance and fertility.
Ten days since my last post. First of all lets deal with this here silk ribcage, which will go into the Midsummer Collection and which I completed on Wednesday. Then I gots some explaining to do.
I filled in the rest of the shape with my fine fine machine weight silk, chose a couple of other warmer shades for the spine and added some french knot spiny processes and (you probably can’t see this but) some subtle shading lines on the under edge of each rib.
Then I spent some time outlining the ribs in a dark grey cotton. Here’s a better view:
Finally I mounted it in a plain wooden frame:
I know this is well trodden ground for me, but I love to revisit a design and see what improvements I can make as my technical knowledge grows. I also LOVE how this version pops against the black fabric and how you can tell what it is from across the room.
So, back to my life and stuff. As you know, I have now been living in our ‘dream location’ – the south coast near Brighton – for not quite 2 months now. I’m currently into my third week at my new full-time job at the whole/health foods workers co-op. My daily commute door to door is only slightly longer than it was in Leeds except that it’s 5 days a week, and the work is pretty standard fare as far as all my years in retail jobs go; I like it, I love being in Brighton every day, I LOVE seeing the sea everyday and I love our flat, the light, the seagulls, the wildlife…all of it.
I do miss my friends though, and I do miss my time. After today it will be 6 days until my next day off, which is my birthday and I have plans for which don’t involve Mother Eagle. In SO MANY WAYS we are living the dream quite literally. I am so blessed to be able to sit here knowing that the uphill road to getting here, lasting nearly 2 years (or 16 years if you’re counting from when the intention was there) has resulted in such a reality. But I am a planner. Somedays a control freak, clutching at the world, trying to bend it to my will. That sounds a bit melodramatic doesn’t it? But my point is, as it pertains to the dropping off in steady work flow into this blog etc, is that subconsciously or otherwise I think I expected to be churning out the goods at a rate similar to when I had the same 4 days off a week as before. You may scoff, but this is the kind of expectation I set for myself. I now live my ‘life’ around a rota system and with that other responsibilities and choices have come up: Sometimes I won’t get home until 9 or 9.30pm. Usually it’s half 7pm. If I don’t want to survive on pasta with pesto and toast and cereal then I better get organised and plan meals and shopping and stuff according to the time I do have. Cook more. Also means when I get home (at the moment) I’m pretty knackered so usually fine hand work isn’t the best way to rest. I’m using my body a whole lot more in my job: lifting, carrying, pushing, and walking more, so I have taken up relaxing yoga again – daily as much as possible to help stretch and strengthen my body. Plus, it’s just a whole lot of new energy and stuff to assimilate in your life when everything changes.
I don’t normally talk about my life but it is useful to do so on the blog sometimes because I rarely write down my thoughts and feelings and live in my own head a lot. Some of these things have left me feeling like I’ll have to ‘give up’ Mother Eagle; I want it to be a business, to make a profit, not just an indulgent and expensive hobby which it has felt like lately.
I’m not going to give up though. It’s what I love, how could I? But I do need to listen to people who love me and stop being so hard on myself – it’s a big thing we’ve done, a big big change. I’m going to carry on producing my art as much as I can and as much as I WANT TO. I can’t let Mother Eagle become the mistress of me, I am the mistress of her. So, at least for the next 6 months, I will work at a pace that is still nourishing for me, share with you as always, and actually give myself the chance to experience and enjoy the life down here that we worked so long and hard for.
I’d love to know if any of you out there have ever felt anything like this and what you did?
Thanks for listening folks. I’m going to try and start this bloody Foxglove Stumpwork now.