I finished Wild Rose the silk shading piece last friday, and as I sit down to blog about it, I find myself reflecting on the timeline of a project, and how a design brief and a spark of an idea gradually develop and grow into a finished embroidery. For me, a project falls into several recognisable stages.
The planning stage is luxurious and fun. I usually poke around google and other internet sources (a week or so back I finally joined Pinterest), as well as my own photographs and memories. Amorphous ideas bubble up to the surface and coalesce, usually far too many at once. Luckily, I have the Royal School of Needlework design briefs for the various modules, which stop me getting too carried away. The key to ideas gathering and planning is to lightly graze on things that interest you, trying to notice the common factors that connect the ‘hits’, gradually narrowing down and honing the idea. When the source image presents itself or the idea comes together, it is like all the lights go on. After that, I tend to fixate on the design, daydreaming, sketching and generally wearing it in like a pair of new shoes. By the time I am ready to start stitching, the design is already an old friend.
Beginning to stitch is a time of impatience. It takes a while for the first elements of the design to come together. It is also a time of hope. The design obsession carries through to this stage as I start to put some of the ideas in train, and there is a little nervousness- always wondering if I will be able to pull it off.
The tipping point comes about two thirds of the way through, when the thing under your needle reflects, mirror-like, the idea in your head, and you realise that it is coming together, there is more of it already worked than there is work left to do. Rather than feel this to be liberating, I start to feel a weight of responsibility. Hours of work have gone in to it, and so far, the piece looks good. Don’t stuff it up now, Emma. Every spare second goes into stitching now.
The end sneaks up on me. The very last job is to add a tiny circle of felt padding and cover it tightly with a lot of tiny, single strand french knots in various shades of beige and khaki, which had to be found in the stash, and shaded carefully to give the impression of it being a rather lumpy dome shape, rather than a slightly raised disc.
It is absorbing work, but suddenly I run out of places to put french knots. I put off the end for a minute or two, fiddling, tidying, fixing up, but there is no getting around it, Rose is finished. I open up the protective tissue paper to get a proper look, turn it around, and look from all the angles. Yes, definitely finished… Oh dear. Because there is no denying it, the first feeling is one of loss. This time around, I was prepared for this. With my last piece, I had a big rush to finish before moving house, and the end of the project marked the end of my time with my tutors and and my friends at Hampton Court. The sense of loss was quite intense and took me totally by surprise. With Rose, I finished on time with no great drama, a happy new studio with many modules ahead of me, but I still had that twinge of loss. It wasn’t until after I shared some photos and the congratulations started coming in that I started to think about the rose with a degree of satisfaction. This is my first go at silk shading, my first flower, my first attempt at some form of realism, my first module with Tracy in Durham, and my first piece since moving here and making the step towards serious embroidery. It still needs to be properly assessed for quality (as does the bird) by the RSN people who know their onions. But however she fares in the marking process, I am pleased with Rose, and she has taught me a vast amount.