Friday, 17 January 2014

Crewel Intentions

I have a new book coming out in June this year. .

Called 'Crewel Intentions' it will be published in South Africa by Metz Press. At the same time, it will be published in the rest of the English-speaking world by Search Press. So, that includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

As its title suggests, it continues the theme of my last book, Crewel Twists. That traditional Jacobean or Crewel embroidery motifs are empty canvases waiting to be filled with anything that inspires you. It uses stranded cottons, satin threads, perle threads, cordonettes, metallics, beads, crystals and absolutely no wool.

Along with up to date materials, the techniques featured in the designs are diverse and different. In Crewel Twists I used, along with crewel stitches; bead embroidery and needle lace techniques. Many of these stitches are used in Crewel Intentions and I have added Brazilian embroidery stitches, stumpwork techniques, a nifty way to add flat back crystals to your hand embroidery, and most important of all, some really interesting needle weaving.

I spent many hours investigating the world of loom weaving and, having done that, converted those techniques for use in embroidery. Apart from adding a whole new category to my repertoire of stitches, it has been absorbing. It is so fascinating to watch your efforts develop into a tartan or a check, a gingham or a houndstooth, or even a texture that resembles twill.

Eight projects provide the vehicle for the techniques and, like my last book, have been made into useful objects.

The first is worked on Dupion silk and is mounted in a small sherry tray. It is fine work and the weaving stitches are a lot less complicated than they appear. I will be teaching this project at Beating Around The Bush in Adelaide during September/October 2014.

The second, worked on Hopsack, is a large project and is mounted on a round footstool. I will be teaching this project at Koala Conventions in Brisbane during June and July 2014.

Designed specifically to be mounted in a music box, the third project is worked on Dupion silk. It is a small, quick project that should appeal to those with limited time. I will be teaching this project at Beating Around The Bush in Adelaide during September/October 2014.

Inspired by the colours in English bone china, the fourth project is worked on a linen/cotton blend fabric and has been mounted with handles on the picture frame, so that it can be used as a tea tray.

Also worked on a linen/cotton blend, the fifth project has been designed to form the face of a mantel clock.

Another project designed with the busy person in mind, the sixth project is worked on Dupion silk and mounted in a small paperweight, although the lady who has proof-stitched the project for me is going to make it into a pouch for her mobile phone.

Project number seven has the needle woman in mind. It forms the front cover of a large needlebook, guaranteed to accommodate many needles and pins.

Inspired by the colours in an African autumn sunset, the final project has been mounted with handles on the picture frame, so that it can be used as a drinks tray.

For embroiderers who want to mount their projects in the same objects as I have, a buyer's guide at the back of the book gives you the links to where they can be bought. From Australia, the United States and England, all of these accessories come from reputable companies.

Still at the layout and proof reading stage, the book has not yet gone to print. Although I don't have an exact date, publication will be in June 2014. Like Crewel Twists, it will be available on Amazon, Kalahari, through Leisure Books, the Book Depository, your usual embroidery book suppliers and, of course, from me. Because of my contract with my publishers, I will stock the Metz Press edition, so will only be able to supply those of you that live on the African continent. If you live anywhere else, you will need to look for the Search Press edition. The Book Depository is a good place to start.

With the publication of Crewel Twists and the increased traffic on my website, we discovered that was not as user friendly as we would like it to be. My Geek is hard at work designing a brand new website which, without compromising its security, will be simple and very easy to use. We expect it to come online in the next month or two and we will be asking all of you who are registered to confirm your username and password. You will receive an email from us when that time comes. .

And finally, Crewel Twists which is available in English, Afrikaans and Russian, is in the process of being translated into French. The anticipated launch of that edition is August 2014.

Intellectual Snobbery

Now that my children are all grown up, I can do things that I could only dream about when they were younger. One of those things is a 'series binge'. That is when you sit for an entire day (or even a weekend) watching every episode in a DVD box set. You make sure that you have every thread, bead and needle that you are going to need. You set it up around you, switch on the telly, start the series and then sit down. With your embroidery. There is no one to interrupt you because the children are no longer children, but adults off doing what young adults do. Pure heaven.

A few days ago, we watched a multi-episode documentary series on Russian art. I had been saving it up for a time when my husband would be available to watch it with me. Because we went to Russia and, as was to be expected, were blown away by the art that we saw everywhere. Sadly, this series had the wrong billing and I was bitterly disappointed. They should have called it Russian Painting and Politics.

The iconostasis dominates every cathedral or monastery that you visit in Russia. It is exquisitely and intricately carved, usually gilded and incorporates the icons, an integral part of the Russian orthodox religion. By far the most exquisite thing that you will see, in every Russian church, it merited only a passing mention.

The interior of the Church Of The Spilled Blood in St Petersburg is like nothing I have ever seen before. It was only when I was halfway around that it dawned on me that the murals are, in fact, mosaics. So superbly crafted, it is hard to tell the difference at first glance. Every available surface, even all the way up into the central dome, is decorated with these intricate works of art. On closer inspection, it is possible to see that each mosaic component is tiny, which is why the shading and colour is so masterful. Once again, mosaics received but a short mention in this series. Only to slot Kiev's St Sophia's cathedral into historical chronological order.

Even a visit to Arbat Street in Moscow is an art tour. When you look at what passes for a curio in our part of the world there is, quite simply, no comparison. Almost any souvenir that you may want to buy in the Arbat district is a work of art. Wooden Matryoshka dolls and papier-mache trinkets hand-painted by talented artists, with, seemingly, a single horsehair. Wrought or filligreed precious metal objects and treasures carved from all manner of semi-precious stones, so exquisitely crafted that you wonder at the affordable prices being asked.

From lamp posts to bridges, churches to shops, decoration is everywhere with gold onion domes peeping out of the cityscape, wherever you look. And this documentary saw fit to mention nothing of that. Because in the world of the intellectual snob, it is not art. In their minds, the only media that pass for art, are painting and sculpture with maybe a few additions like etchings, ink drawings, etc. It's only fine art if it can be analysed to within an inch of its life and, preferably, found to have deep political meaning. Art for the sake of mere decoration, is not at all important.

I can paint and I can sculpt. I studied art and I had to do things like this. The fact that my pieces were good enough to pass the practical examinations surely proves that I am reasonably competent in those media. But, I do not enjoy them. I would rather embroider. Having done the other stuff, I can say with complete conviction that a piece of well-shaded long and short stitch is finer art (in both the physical and metaphorical sense) than oil painting, or watercolours. But it's woman's work so, like the Russian craftsman, my creations will never be fine art.

It doesn't matter that the splendour of the iconostasis in any number of Russian cathedrals surpasses an abstract painting or something that is categorized as Modern Art. You can ignore the genius, the years of work, the forethought, the added inspiration for just a little extra of this or that to complete the object, to balance it and to take it into the realms of sheer wonder.

Universities and colleges the world over, are populated by people who would like to be able to write a novel, carve a piece of wood or paint a picture. They can't do these things well enough to derive an income, so instead they teach them, analyse them and criticize them. The problem with the exquisite art in Russia and with your embroidery is that it is functional. It's not supposed to mean anything, or say anything. It is made to decorate our environment, to enrich our lives and it has no hidden agenda.

I know it's art and you know it's art but it serves no purpose for the person who categorises it. The intellectual who has devoted his or her life to a nothing job. I don't mind. They have to earn a living somehow. I'm afraid, though, that you cannot spend ten minutes of a documentary telling us about Kazimir Malevich's 'Black Cube' and fail to mention the iconostasis in the Cathedral of Christ The Saviour in Moscow, even if you think you're an expert. (Google those two, you'll see what I'm talking about.) It means that you have inhabited your ivory tower for so long that you have lost your grip on reality, if indeed you ever had one.

What I do know is that before I again commit my limited time to a documentary series on any kind of art, I will find out more about it so that I am not similarly disappointed.