Firstly, sorry for the long time between posts. We are a clergy family, so passiontide and Easter are particularly busy for us, which means progress on poor old birdy has been rather slow. By the time Easter day came around, our whole family was exhausted. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (my disability) is painful and exhausting at the best of times, but we keep on top of it. I say we – everyone in the family helps with this. The Revd Dr does most of the household hard graft – laundry, washing up, tidying, bathing the Frithlet. The Frithlet himself (aged 6 at the present time) prides himself on being a “young carer”, and insists on helping, especially when it involves pushing my wheelchair at speed. He’s a also quite good at nipping up and down stairs, and picking things up from the floor. When Holy Week comes around, the Revd Dr is kept on his toes with liturgical commitments and pastoral visiting, and the Frithlet and I do our bit by trying not to get in the way, and being self sufficient. It doesn’t sound like much, but for me, it’s a lot more standing, walking, climbing stairs, bending and lifting, which pretty much guarantees me a big flare up. It’s a twice yearly (it happens at Christmas too) wake up call – my seemingly serene ability to achieve all sorts of things despite my disability is actually highly dependent on the support I get every day from my family. So it was pretty much a given that poor old birdy was going to have to take a back seat while I struggled with more mundane things, like getting out of bed. My arms became like lead weights, and my fingers like sausages, and neuropathic fizzing, zinging and nagging meant that even if I had had time to embroider, I would have been on a hiding to nothing. But fear not – time was not wasted! whatever time I had, including late night lying on my back in bed not sleeping, I devoted to figuring out the Pomegranate Problem.
Remember the pomegranate? It took long enough to design, and when it finally landed, it was a strange thing. The pomegranate is often a symbol of the sensual, even the carnal in art. I wanted something that reflected that, and this is what I came up with. A friend described it as “practically indecent”, and I know what she means! It is part fruit, part corset. The question is, how to render it in threads and stitches? I wanted the outer parts, the “skin” of the fruit to be raised or padded and maybe textured to give some depth to the “slashes” that reveal the flesh, which I wanted to be a close lattice of some sort. My tutors helped my bat some ideas around, but the slightly irregular shape was a bit limiting. I tried some padded satin stitch but I didn’t like it; in my opinion the solid block of bright orange was too overpowering, and as a solid filling there was no way to indicate contours. The corset-like ‘cinching’ as the fruit morphs into delicate flower was totally lost. I pulled it all out. That was the stage I had got to when holy week hit, so I couldn’t fiddle and experiment with different fillings. But I went to bed every night with my embroidery books and lay there in the dark, distracting myself from the pain in my body by worrying and puzzling at the pomegranate problem. I ended up getting myself into a bit of a lather over it, it got out of proportion in my head and I decided that the whole thing was never going to look like I wanted it to.
At some point, an Idea started. It grew. It developed. And then the worrying and puzzling gave way to itchy fingers – not (for once) neuropathic tingling, but a desire to try out the Idea to see if it would work. But there was no time, and I couldn’t use my hands. Even when Easter day came, and Easter Monday, we were all in a heap. But I had the Tuesday off as well, and finally, finally, got some time to try it out. And this was the outcome:
The Idea was to use Cretan stitch (essentially a series of offset fly stitches) to give the texture and contour, but outline and pad the centre section with split stitch in the darkest red. This variation on cretan is not a technique that I have found in any of my books, but I hoped it would gove me the dimension and the contours that I wanted. I think it worked – what do you reckon? I like the way I could increase and decrease the size of the stitches to give contour, and it kind of looks like boning like you might find in a bodice. I do wonder what my tutors will make of me going off piste though! the lattice in the middle isn’t finished, and the rest of the flower needs to be worked, but it feels like we’re on the move again 🙂