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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Icons Project

,The Embroiderers' Guild is SA has set 'Icons' as the theme for its contribution exhibition for the South Australian Living Arts Festival in August this year. Partly triggered by that and partly by the Kantha work I did earlier this year, I have been working on an idea inspired by the events that lead to the defeat of the government led by Julia Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister.

Whatever the policy issues associated with that defeat, there was undeniably a great deal of misogyny and harassment meted out to Ms Gillard while she was PM. In an interview after her defeat she placed her treatment in the context of women generally, summing this up as "It's about all of us".

I, and many other women in Australia, agreed with her. Her treatment was sharper and more intense because she was the figurehead - but it serves as a symbol of an attitude and culture affecting, in less public ways, all of us.

I wanted to create an embroidery that expressed this notion. It seemed to fit the 'icon' theme.

I began by searching photos online. There are many photos of Julia Gillard available, but few full-length ones. I needed one that showed her easily-identified hairstyle and tailored look (the one of her in a chair knitting didn't quite do it!). 

I traced the photo and settled on on to a piece of fabric hand dyed by the Embroiderers' Guild. These are the pieces of cotton on which the Guild's hand-dyed cotton threads are laid to dry. The one I chose was quite pale with pinks and greens radiating out from the centre. I backed this with a thin wadding and calico.

I couldn't, however, get the facial features right, try as I might. Finally I hit on the notion of printing her face on fabric, using cotton printing sheets. It took a bit of adjustment but worked in the end.

I stitched around the edge in a reddy-brown and later padded the face from the back

I filled in her figure using chain stitch on the clothes and stem stitch on the arms and legs.I was able to get texture and light variation by the direction of the stitch, and by varying the tension.

I then began to create little outline or stick figures of women, radiating out along the colour lines of the fabric and embroidered the quote at the bottom.

These soon became addictive. I found myself looking at the passing parade of people in public places and sketching shapes.

The first figures were done in double running stitch. I then added some stem stitch, back stitch, French knots, bullion knots and a few satin stitches into the mix.
One night at the theatre, as the actors on the stage struck poses I took out my notebook and sketched in the dark. The sketches were rough but proved to be great guides for my stitching. Getting the basic shape was the trick.

The joy of stitching this, was in making it up as I went along. I could take my fabric, a few threads, needle and scissors and stitch it whenever I had a few minutes.

    I have purchased some fabric with which to bind/frame the piece.

I am not sure that it fits with what the Guild envisaged for Icons - but I'm pleased to have done it regardless.

I shall post the finish soon!


margaret said...

this is a very interesting project you are working on

Monica said...

This is a really clear indicator of the benefit of Guild challenges, because I think it has pushed you to make a wonderful and very meaningful piece. I love the way you have met and overcome all the challenges of the design. I'm looking forward to the finish!

JennyPennyPoppy said...

What a wonderful and creative piece and you've done such an excellent job on it! It will definitely get a lot of attention at the exhibit.

Katherine said...

I think it is fantastic and I love how you have used various techniques to make it too