Here’s an insight into the sort of thing that takes place during one of my new Sewing Bootcamps, where we get the opportunity to take time out to improve or plan new textile artworks.
This artwork is called ‘Reflections’, and it is one of a couple of designs I created for a two session workshop last year, designed to give students experience in trying different layering techniques and experimenting with threads and fabric to create shadows and reflections in water.
There are so many things I love about this design: the fish, the tree and its reflection, the water lilies and the layering of the sheer fabrics, but there are also things I’m not happy about, so, what do I need to do to improve it and turn into something I truly love?
A remake was needed, and here’s the journey of how the Sewing Bootcamp process developed this into something new.
Firstly, it’s important to look at what works in the picture. I love the effect created with the reflections and I wanted to keep the fish as an important part of the composition. The tree in the background is also a really nice focal point that I wanted to keep.
So what could be improved?
1) The reflection isn’t entirely accurate on the lakeside. Okay, it’s not a photograph and I am happy to use artistic licence where I choose, but in this case, there were certain elements in the composition and perspective which were making the picture unbalanced and therefore had to be addressed. So I decided I would begin by adding more foliage and reducing the amount of grassland, so that the waterside reflection was more realistic.
I have found that the best way to plan changes in a picture is to cut out some rough sketches of the things you plan to introduce, so that you can immediately see whether your hoped for improvements work out as planned. So here’s my new row of foliage.
You can see the amount of grassland that is exposed is now reduced and the new foliage adds more interest to this area. I don’t need to worry about making changes to the reflection, in fact, my changes will improve the reflection because it corrects the perspective.
2) I needed also a focal point within the middle of the artwork, as currently there was none. This lack of detail made the gap between the distant waterlilies and the foreground waterlilies too disjointed.
So what about a boat? I drew a rough sketch and cut it out – here you’ll see just how useful it is to cut out shapes when deciding on what will work best. Far more efficient than having to redraw the whole picture time and time again.
I thought my first boat was too small, and also decided I wanted the fishing figure facing inwards. The second attempt felt much better.
Now there was a nice diagonal line in my picture (background tree, boat), balancing out the composition with the fish in the foreground nicely. I should add you don’t need to perfect each element at this stage – that comes later when the actual sewing begins. So for now, my rough sketch is fine.
3) My final niggle related to the foreground. I wanted to frame the foreground and what better than reeds or some other vegetation.
I first considered using bulrushes against a grassy edge, but then decided they would be too out of scale with the fish.
So I decided mid size grasses would be better, with a long row of grass in the bottom left corner, interjected by a nice group of three shorter tufts breaking up a longer straight line (remembering the rule of three in good compositions)
The tall grasses on the bottom left would also continue the diagonal from the background tree, to mid ground boat, if I moved the boat a little nearer to the centre.
And so here it is, the new composition, something I am much happier with. I'll add the boat's reflection in thread and I’ll probably also add a couple more waterlilies to better link the foreground lilies with the mid ground lilies.
Now I just have to work out how to create these various effects and get sewing!
Will update you with progress in due course!!
Sewing Bootcamp is a two hour workshop run by Heidi Meier.
No formal sewing tuition is given but the idea is to bring along work which you are struggling to complete or work which you have fallen out of love with, to decide what action is needed to revitalize it.
Students get advice from Heidi as well as input from others in the group, and then we can work how best the action required can be progressed.
Some sewing might be undertaken as students have access to my two machines, but the idea is this is more about sharing ideas of how to improvement work, and sharing techniques which could be useful.
Sewing Bootcamp is just £15 per session – message Heidi for details of when the next Sewing Bootcamp is being run.