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

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Certificate Module 4 Chapter 11 . . . and another little step . . .

I must confess that Sian's last feedback kind of stopped me in my tracks.  I was thinking that things were going well, all major decisions made and this module was nearly done.  Instead, Sian suggested that the plain painted canvas would be a very large part of the finished composition and so should reflect some of the content of the module.  My feelings were mixed: a feeling of "Oh no, I thought I was nearly finished, now I've got lots of thinking to do, experimental samples to try, decisions to make and a lot more work to do."  At the same time, I realised that Sian was right and, as she has done so often, she had got right to the heart of my slight feeling of unease about some aspect of the project, although I couldn't think what.  I realised that a "that will do" attitude in order to get the project finished by Christmas would devalue the whole thing and that the only way to continue was to make this project the very best that I could do.

It prompted me to think again of how to display my little books.  I wondered about making a box to contain the books, perhaps in the shape of a bucket, with perhaps the first or last lines of the poem written on the spade.  The books could nestle in the bucket, perhaps on a bed of sand.  Another idea I had was for a large book with hollowed out spaces to contain the little books.  However, neither of these would use the fishing net, which I very much like as part of the whole thing.   A friend suggested using the fishing net as a hammock which could contain the little books.  That seemed a good idea too, although I didn't particularly want to do it.  However, considering other ways of displaying it helped me to realise that the picture background of sky, sea and sand was important to me as an integral part of the whole work.

So, following some of Sian's suggestions, I tried out various ideas for backgrounds, things that used some of the topics and techniques earlier in this module.  Laying the net over some drawn thread work samples made me realise that this would be too busy and detract from the net and little books.  The same applied to a large square frame which I had wrapped with string and applied paper pulp.  The latter, however, was closer to what I had in mind. - a rejected idea

I did like the look of the net over the paper pulp, although I wanted something simpler with bands to represent the sky, sea and sand.

One thing I realised was that my original canvas was too large for the size of the little books.  I tried a smaller canvas and tried Sian's idea of using bands of paper pulp.  I covered it with strips of hand made paper, some which had been bonded onto drawn thread fabric, and spooned on some dyed paper pulp as well.  I was pleased with the result. The canvas background.  (Note that the mottled beige background is not part of the piece, just the window blind I leaned it against to get the photo.)

While thinking about the background and trying out ideas, I had also been working on the first of the four little books, Maggie's shell book.  I made the front and back covers of stiff card (the back of an old pad of cartridge paper).  The back cover I covered with silk, tea-dyed silk crepe for the inside and cream dupion silk for the outside.  The front cover I also made of cream dupion silk,   I embroidered a piece of cotton  with close rows of stem stitch in various colours for the markings on the outside of the shell.  This I stretched over some self hardening clay made to the right shape and size and then applied this onto the outside of the front cover. The front and back covers of the shell book

For the pages, I tried making some silk paper and then painting it with a mixture of acrylic wax and irridescent acrylic medium to capture the irridescence of the nacre inside the shell.  I machine embroidered the wording in a dark blue metallic thread (echoing the sea).  I made each page double and bound the book as a simple signature.  I attached the pages to the book by stitching the front and back pages to the inside of the front and back covers.  This stitching (simple oversewing on the edge of the page) made the page look better and so I hand oversewed each page of the book.

17.4, 1..5 and 17.6 show various views of the completed book.  An overview of everything I've done so far.

My next tasks will be:

  • Make the other three books
  • Decide how the first and last lines of the poems will be displayed.  The first line I thought could be written in the clouds, the last on a piece of "seaweed" caught in the net.  I tried making a piece of seaweed out of silk paper but it was too fluffy to have the right texture, I think perhaps painted tracing paper - some experimenting to do...
  • Work out how to secure the net and books to the canvas board securely but discreetly.  My thoughts are running along perhaps jewellery findings so that each book could be unhooked to look at.
  • Assemble the final piece.
I'm pleased that I'm once more out of the doldrums and voyaging on once more.

Just a final thing.  I'd love to quote what the poet David Whyte says about procrastination:

is not what it seems. What looks from the outside like our delay; our lack of commitment; even our laziness may have more to do with a slow, necessary ripening through time and a central struggle with the core realities of any endeavor to which we have set our minds. To hate our procrastinating tendencies is in some way to hate our relationship with time itself, to be unequal to the phenomenology of revelation and the way it works its own quiet way in its very own seasonal and gifted time, only emerging when the very qualities it represents have a firm correspondence in our necessarily struggling heart and imagination.
… Procrastination when studied closely can be a beautiful opening to the way we are; a parallel with patience, a companionable friend, a revealer of the true pattern - already, we are surprised to find, caught within us - acknowledging for instance, as a writer, that before a book can be written, most of the ways it cannot be written must be tried first, in our minds; on the blank screen on the empty page or staring at the bedroom ceiling at four in the morning.
Procrastination enables us to taste the single malt essence of our own reluctance.
An endeavor achieved without delay, wrong turnings, occasional blank walls and a vein of self-doubt running through all, leading eventually to some degree of heart-break is a thing of the moment, a mere bagatelle, and often neither use nor ornament. It will be scanned for a moment and put aside.
What is worthwhile carries the struggle of the maker written within it, but wrought into the shape of an earned understanding.
Procrastination helps us to apprentice ourselves to our own particular reluctance, to understand the hidden darker side of the first enthusiastic idea, to learn what we are afraid of in the endeavor itself; to put an underbelly into the work so that it becomes a living, satisfying whole, not a surface trying to manipulate us in the moment.
Procrastination does not stop a project from coming to fruition, what stops us is giving up on an original idea because we have not got to the heart of the reason we are delaying, nor let the true form of our reluctance instruct us in the way ahead. To properly procrastinate is to be involved with larger entities than our own ideas, to refuse to settle for an early underachieving outcome and wrestle like Jacob with his angel, finding as Rilke said, 'Winning does not tempt that man, This is how he grows, by being defeated decisively, by greater and greater beings.'
The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.
© David Whyte & Many Rivers Press 2015


  1. It was super to read your blog and recognise precisely the same thoughts about getting things finished that I've been feeling. I've just produced a completely new set of Tyvek beads after giving myself a firm talking to. You do look as if your happily back on track.

  2. Hello Catherine, I hope you're doing fine. I finally took the time to have a look at your blog, I love your shell book, what a great idea. Youy work is so inspirational. It was with great interest that I read the words about procrastination, something we all have to struggle with, well most of us.... It's also during that time that I do other creative things, so the time is never really lost. It's just hard to get going again, and sometimes life also comes in the way... I look forward to seeing more of your fantastic work