Work done for City and Guilds Level 3 Certificate in Embroidery with Distant Stitch.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Certificate Module 3 Chapter 12: Research Three Artists

Catherine Slater
Certificate Module 3 Chapter 12
Research Three Artists

Zandra Rhodes

There can be very few people living in the UK, or even overseas, who have not heard of Zandra Rhodes.  Her unique and exuberant style, in both her designs and her personal appearance are widely known and loved.

Since graduating from the Royal College of Art, specialising in printed textiles, her colourful and exciting designs have burst onto a delighted world.  She broke away from the conventional all-over patterns, producing hand-drawn, directional prints and playing with contrasting colours.  She produced her designs in many colourways and this, along with the careful placement of the prints, gave them many different looks.  Some favourite themes, such as spirals, feathers and what she calls “wiggles”, the latter possibly inspired by a family love of jigsaw puzzles when she was a child, crop up time and time again in her designs, each time combined with new elements and looking fresh and new.

Feathers and spirals


Spirals and wiggles

She very quickly started designing her own garments.  Although the prints were designed flat, Rhodes was fascinated by the fact that they would not be seen in that way, but would be placed on a garment.  As she explained: 

“I was excited by the idea of things divorced from themselves, prints designed flat but never used in that manner.  In learning to design for dress fabrics, I was involved in a special adventure, that of patterns which would not hang flat but would be cut and put together again in many different ways.”

This led her to experiment with pattern and shape, treating herself as a canvas: pinning samples on her body and studying the results in a mirror.  For Rhodes the pattern was the important thing, the shape of the garment being secondary and devised to show off the print to best advantage.  

 Here, the placement of the flower print on the shoulders and the handkerchief points at the hem and sleeves work very well with the chevron shawl print

I was very interested to read what Rhodes thought about the print being the primary thing and the form of the garment deliberately chosen to show the print off at its best.  It made me reconsider the shape of the belt decoration I was making for my fashion accessory in Module 3 of the Certificate in embroidery so as to be more sympathetic to the shape of the motif decorating it.

Rhodes is passionate about stitch and many of her garments include hand-stitched embroidery and beadwork, as in the beautiful evening jacket below:

"Zandra Goes to Hollywood" collection, hand-embroidered and beaded sheer evening jacket

I find Zandra Rhodes’ work fascinating – exciting, innovative and showing that a deceptively simple motif, like a lightbulb, a wiggling line or a medal can be used to make an exciting fabric print which can be made up into a stunning garment.  Her self-confidence in treading her own path and being brave enough to do something new and revolutionary is also a great inspiration.  Rhodes puts herself into her intensely personal work and the hand-drawn patterns on her garments make the viewer feel touched by the soul of the designer.

Deirdre Hawken

I was very pleased to see that Deirdre Hawken was one of the three artists we were asked to research for Module 3, since I have very happy memories of a two-day Embroiderers’ Guild workshop with her at Galashiels about 30 years ago!

Deirdre Hawken is a hat maker whose exuberant creations sing out across a room or even from out of the computer screen.  Her hats are FUN!

Hawken had a traditional millinery training and believes that this is important  for the construction of her hats, which is always immaculate.  Although her training was traditional, her hats are certainly not.  With a Deirdre Hawken hat, your head can be adorned by anything from a plate of salad to a tin of sardines!

Broad Bean Salad hat

Sardine hat

Hawken’s hats are constructed meticulously,  some, such as Nasturtium, pictured below, built up on a traditional straw hat base.

Nasturtium hat
Others, like the liquorice allsorts hat  and prawn hat below are headpieces, constructed with wire as well as other materials.

Liquorice Allsorts hat

Prawn hat

Like Zandra Rhodes, Deirdre Hawken’s work is unique, innovative and exuberant.  Like Rhodes, Hawken’s work is meticulously crafted.  The techniques used may be traditional ones, but she makes the work her own and adds her own inimitable style and sense of humour.

Chocolate Box hat

This is something that all of us who are embroidery students should try to learn.  We need to have a sound grounding in basic techniques and to be able to use them to a high standard, but we should also try to let our imaginations soar within that technique and to be able to use them in a highly personal, innovative way.

Michele Carragher

Michele Carragher is perhaps best known for her exquisite embroidery embellishing the costumes for the television series A Game of Thrones, based on the novels by George R.R. Martin.  She has also worked on other television and film costumes, notably that of Channel 4’s mini-series Elizabeth 1.

The series A Game of Thrones  is set in a fantasy world, medieval in character.  Various families are involved in a power struggle to rule their world.  Each family has a distinctive symbol which is embroidered on their clothing.  House Stark, led by Eddard Stark, has a wolf as a symbol, while Eddard’s wife Catelyn is of the Tully family, whose emblem is a fish.  House Lannister’s symbol is a lion and House Baratheon’s is a stag.  Perhaps the most interesting costume for me, was that of Daenerys Targaryen.  Her father and brother both killed, she was the only survivor of her family and had to fight for her right to rule her kingdom.  Her family traditionally had a history of being able to control dragons and, as Daenerys matures and gains in power and confidence, her costume becomes more dragon-like and scaly.

Carragher on her website, generously shares how this was achieved, by a type of smocked fabric, with the smocking stitches worked on the reverse of the fabric and then pressed and lock stitch added using metallic thread.  She explains it in detail in her website:

Dragonscale dress

Dragonscale dress details

Another of my favourite costumes is that of Catelyn Stark, whose dresses are fairly plain, but, on special occasions, enhanced by a wonderful padded and heavily stitched and beaded collar.

 Her daughters too wear a fish collar.

Michele Carragher’s website says:

As a Costume Embroiderer Michele specialises in hand embroidery and surface embellishment, using traditional hand embroidery techniques, smocking, beading and surface decoration. She works directly onto the completed garment or starts with motifs and textures on silk crepeline/organza, which are applied to the costume and then worked into once on the actual garment. Michele finds hand embroidery has more flexibility and diversity than that of embroidery created by machine, as there is a greater variety of thread choice and colours to use. It is also possible to work more easily on garments that are already constructed. 

The costumes for “A Game of Thrones” were designed by Michele Clapton and Carragher worked closely with her, interpreting in detail Clapton’s thoughts on the general feel of each garment and what she wanted them to say about the character wearing them.  Carragher makes extensive use of beads and metal thread embroidery, producing three dimensional effects, often working slips which are then applied to the garment.

Like both Zandra Rhodes and Deirdre Hawken, Michele Carragher’s work  involves meticulous traditional techniques, but used in a creative way to produce stunning results.

Below are some more images of Michele Carragher’s costumes.




1 comment:

  1. What amazing artists you've chosen to research, no 'less is more' here! I think I might have to start watching game of Thrones!