Hand Embroidered Unicorn Jumping Jack Puppet
I created this puppet from some white woollen fabric and cotton thread. The fabric is stretched across a wire frame that it’s stitched to in a similar fashion to the way in which stumpwork embroidery is constructed. The limbs are jointed using a simple French knot stitch and then activated at the back using a simple string mechanism as is used in traditional jumping jack puppets.
30 Shades of Flesh
So having recently finished my Synchronous Hermaphrodites embroideries which I’ve been working on for the last six months I’ve spent finally gotten around to making a start on a new project.
Up until now I have predominantly worked with a split stitch in my embroideries. However this new project will be cross stitch based. It’s a classic stitch that has been used to produce embroidered samplers for centuries. I’ve been having a little practice with cross stitches over the last couple of weeks which resulted in this embroidered periodic table.
This new work should be a challenge as I’ll be working with a much wider variety of colours than I have done in my embroidered work to date. I’m making a start today with 30 shades of flesh coloured threads as pictured above.
Periodic Table Cross Stitch
I’ve just finished my first attempt at cross stitch. I have plans for a more involved cross stitch project but having not used this method before I though it best to embark on a couple of smaller test pieces.
This piece is one of two new works that have been embroidered with black cotton on a linen ground. I do like the classic look that the black on linen achieves but I don’t think this is something that I’ll carry forward into the next cross stitch project that I have planned.
image via www.arnolfini.org.uk
Aping the Beast by Serena Korda at Arnolfini Bristol
I made a trip over to Bristol this week to go and see Aping the Beast by Serena Korda at Arnolfini arts centre. How could I resist a performance desribed as an ambitious, theatrical rendering of animal symbolism and folklore featuring a towering monster puppet… and a live soundtrack by Grumbling Fur.
We were a little anxious about making it in time for the performance as our train was delayed en-route but luck would have it that the performance got off to a late start so we didn’t miss a thing. Our intrigue was roused as we entered into the performance space as we were ushered in in small groups via small dark holding space – apparently this was to prevent ‘the haze’ from escaping.
The first half of the performance involved children dressed as ‘Boggarts’ (pictured above) who were involved in a ritualistic performance to rouse ‘The Beast’. The beast was a giant puppet of a green dinosaur-esque monster best described perhaps as a Godzilla puppet. It was more cute than terrifying though and even roused a few quiet giggles as one of the operators reached up with a big stick to wiggle it’s jaw.
The second half of the performance involved two girls in blue body suits carrying model gun ships on their shoulders. They strutted about around the beast circling it until they were batted aside by one of it’s loose limbs.
And that was it.
We looked at one another quizzically and stayed sat in our seats a little longer willing another act of the performance to burst forth and deliver on the expectations set by the publicity blurb. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever left an arts event feeling so disappointed.
The Boggarts were played by children from a local school and were by far the highlight of the night. Their boiler suits and latex masks de-personalised them and gave them a very creepy edge almost reminiscent of Chris Cunningham’s video for Aphex Twin’s Come to Daddy. The unpolished way in which they delivered their routine worked really well and helped in convincing me, as a spectator, that this was a ritual and not a performance.
But from this point on it was all downhill. The blue ocean girls moved with little grace following an uninspired routine and when the monster was brought to life it did little more than meekly flap it’s arms from side to side – despite being operated by at least four people.
The performance followed a clear narrative arc but the exploration and presentation of this was woefully lacking. Yes, the narrative was simple but it offered so many ways in which the different themes at the core of the performance could have been explored in much more interesting and thoughtful ways.
In reality all we were presented with was – Boggarts raise beast, boats circle beast, beast destroys boats. There was no visual, performative or sonic cues that indicated anything beyond that what we saw had been considered.
The Arnolfini website described the performance as an ‘ambitious theatrical rendering’. Were this an end of term school play then it would have been very ambitious, but we were in an institution that describes itself as ‘one of Europe’s leading centres for the contemporary arts‘ to view a performance co-commissioned by the Artsadmin Jerwood Commission, Camden Arts Centre, London and Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool. With that in mind this performance just didn’t cut it.
My feeling is that this production would benefit from a back to basics approach giving more thought to the ways in which in themes and ideas were communicated to the audience. Yes the dinosaur puppet was big but it didn’t appear to be well made and certainly wasn’t terrifying as we were promised. The gun boats similarly lacked any real craftsmanship and it was questionable as to whether they really brought anything meaningful to the performance at all.
Bigger isn’t always better.
Facial Recognition by Colleen Toutant Merrill
I’ve come across quite a bit of work over recent months that makes use of the process of embroidering onto photographs. The majority of embroidered photographs don’t seem to delve much deeper than an aesthetic level and simply serve to prettify the photographs with colourful threads – often in trendy geometric patterns.
Facial Recognition by Colleen Toutant Merrill is by far one of the most interesting series of such works that I’ve come across. Colleen is an American textile artist primarily working with quilt making methods.
Facial Recognition is comprised of a series of photographs sourced through social networking sites that have been stitched and quilted over in order to obscure the subjects faces. This creates “unsettling images that question the impact of social media on the formation of our personal and collective identities” (C. Martin, Director Institute 193).
The quilting methods in these works relate to the social media networks from which the images were sourced. Prior to the mechanically reproduced the designs that we are much more accustomed to today quilts were often the produce of collaborative work from members of a given community – a hyper-local social network of sorts.
You can view more of Colleens work on her website: www.colleenmerrill.com
Following the production of my first video work I’ve been exploring some of the editing techniques and software that is available to me. I’ve no plans to create anything more substantial with any green screen shots just yet but this clip is a short 30 second test I produced whilst looking into the process.
I picked up a video camera at the start of the year. One of the first things that I did with it was to set it up to record my stitching in action. Given that the series of embroideries that I’ve been working on this year is made up of seven rainbow coloured panels I followed through to record a snippet of each work in progress to produce this spectrum of split stitches.