It is now November and I think we can safely mention ‘Christmas’ and yesterday the Winter/Christmas UK Handmade Showcase went live. One of my silk scarves has been featured, and, I love the way the UK Handmade folk have chosen a scarf that complements the beautiful flowers by Larkspur Floral Designs.
I didn’t submit any pictures of chiffon scarves this autumn, but seeing recent photographs from Vogue reporting on the forthcoming fashion trends for next spring, it appears that chiffon is going to be popular again.
Dolce & Gabbana
It is odd looking forward to spring when we’ve only just had the first full frost of autumn, but that’s the fashion business.
Autumn is most definitely in the air. We’ve passed the autumnal equinox and the late summer blooms are looking ragged and at the end of the their displays. I have found myself choosing colours from the warmer end of the spectrum, adding more images that feature browns and oranges to my Pinterest board ‘October Living‘. Early autumn is also the time when craft folk start preparing for the Christmas Fairs they will be attending. I have been reviewing my current stock and remembering some of my favourite scarves that have been sold.
Considering how long it takes me to paint a scarf, strangely, once they have been sold I can hardly remember what they looked like. It has been surprising to rediscover them whilst searching through various memory sticks seeking suitable images to use for my Christmas promotional material.
A quick review suggests that black and pink designs have been appreciated by others as well as being a personal favourite and scarves featuring blues and greens are also popular. All my work pictured above has been sold, but this long crepe de chine ticks all the boxes, pink and black and blue and green, and is currently for sale on my shop.
I use photographs a lot for my work. I am always looking for inspiration from the world around me and use my camera to capture these moments. Recently, when reviewing and rearranging my current online shop collections, I recognised subtle influences from my photography. I had been searching through my various memory sticks of stored images to freshen up my product listings. It was clear from comparing dates on the files that after a few sessions of photographing some summer garden flowers, shades of peach started to appear in the pink scarf I was painting at the time. Although I was not directly using the flowers photos as source material their influence was quite obvious with hindsight – up until then peach was not included in my work.
I also opened my Bury St Edmunds memory stick. There were plenty of photographs of the glorious stained glass in the cathedral, both motifs and colours from the glass I have since featured directly in my silk scarf designs. However, after working in the cooler tones of the glass for a few months I can see I gradually moved to a palette of warm, rich colours. This was not the conscious process as before but I think the beautiful rich red windows had left their mark. Looking at the dates on these files I think the autumn weather was also a factor.
It hasn’t only been colourful images that have unconsciously influenced my work. When you are looking for a good shot you examine your surroundings with more attention and details so often overlooked are literally brought into focus. Shapes I hadn’t thought I had noticed at the time have been added to my stock of motifs such as the details on these sculptures.
In the end though sometimes there is no obvious inspiration for the colours of a scarf. With one of my favourites, this blue and green scarf below (long sold), I worked up the design layer on layer adapting my choice of dyes after each layer was steamed. A less controlled more serendipitous process. . . . . . . but I had been recently photographing seascapes!!!
Accurate colour representation, strictly speaking re-presentation, on screen-based devices is, I have now decided, impossible. But before I get bogged down in the philosophical depths of reality and the perception of reality, let’s just say that we don’t all see the same colour in the same way.
Shades of pale blues and pale greens are well-known for instigating disagreements between two people both looking at the same blue or is that green? I selected Colour One and Colour Two below from the pictured scarf and have placed them on different backgrounds – personally I’d call Colour One duck egg blue! Any takers?
And, as any other folk who regularly take photographs will know, the ambient light certainly makes colours appear different. It is also why there are a selection of lens filters (and photoshop equivalents) to adjust for the ambient light.
But one thing I didn’t particularly notice until I was reading about how we see colour is that (and this is blindingly obviously really) the same coloured object will look different against a different background!
This brings me back to presenting my work online using photographs. Silk has a lustre and this lustre varies with the weave. A crepe de chine has a subtle sheen and a flat crepe de chine almost no sheen. Satins and charmeuse silks are so lustrous that they could be called shiny whereas silk twills and taffetas are somewhere in the middle.
In the blurb accompanying my online shop I try to explain that silk looks different in real life not least as the slightest movement makes a lustrous scarf reflect light in an ever changing subtle way. Add this information to the variety of screens people use to shop online and people’s individual perceptions of colour I conclude that accurate re-presentation of my work is not possible.
Applying these observations to the wider world of online shopping in general (and I am sure most people have already realised this) if you are considering buying anything online and a precise shade or colour match is of paramount importance then either ask for a sample, a swatch or an off-cut, or read the returns policy so if it’s not right for you it can be sent back and you will be refunded. One small point unlike big retail brands, ASOS, Hermès and Liberty and so on, most small businesses, crafters and artisans are unable to offer free returns.
Living in East Anglia there are many parish churches that still retain both medieval and Victorian church art. Painted rood screens and colourful stained glass provide a wealth of inspiration for my silk scarf designs.
Detail from St Lawrence, part of rood screen paintings. St Helen’s, Ranworth, Norfolk.
Decorative detail from a Victorian stained glass window. St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
I like to steal ideas for motifs and also re-work various colour combinations. Often I will just use a tiny part of a much larger stained glass window whether its from a Tudor pane or details ornamenting a Victorian light.
Detail from the Susannah Window at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
Design drawn out on silk using coloured gutta and resist paint brush daubs.
And, once I have created the whole design and transferred it to the silk I then steal colour combinations from a completely different medium such as the oil on board paintings of local medieval rood screens.
The finished work may not obviously look either Victorian or medieval in style, but if you look closely you may be able to spot a motif or two and recognise the ‘dirty pinks’ from the painting of St Lawrence’s robe.
As we approach Mother’s Day (here in the UK) I have been lucky once again to be selected by UK Handmade to have a couple of my scarves featured in their Spring Showcase.
As you may already know I take all my own product and publicity photos. I have been photographing my own work for four years now, but try as I might I still can’t get my head round photographing in advance, in preparation for the next season. I always marvel at the wintery Christmas television adverts that were most likely shot in high summer.
The best I can manage is to create the feel of a season. For spring this year I initially had a go at working with yellow, but in the end I have chosen pink for the main colour. I’m going all out with spring pink. In fact I have even rearranged my shop homepage to start with all the pink and mostly pink scarves. Who doesn’t love a little double pink cherry blossom?
Scrolling through various Instagram accounts for craft marketplace platforms, I noticed there was almost a ‘house style’ for images. This is despite photographs being selected by different platforms and originally uploaded by many different crafters. Neutral rules the day with plenty of white. Is this style just for the world of handmade, or, are some of the luxury brands presenting themselves in a similar manner?
Naturally, I looked at the Instagram accounts for Hermès, the world’s most famous brand of scarves, and Liberty, a store famous as purveyors of pattern and colour. And, it is easy to see – hardly any computer white and plenty, plenty of colour.
Now, how about an Instagram account promoting the work of specialist, artisan crafters. Displaying craftwork that is neither particularly homespun nor high-end, big brand luxury – I chose to look at the feed for the Craft Council.
Images chosen by the Craft Council do have more white than the luxury brands, but also considerably more colour than Etsy, DaWanda and Folksy pictures. I made a comparison with my own recent postings to Instagram and although I don’t stick rigidly to scarf photographs the overall feel of my account is most like the Craft Council.
Now I have attempted to put this insight to use. I have experimented adding and subtracting colour to one of my scarf photographs aiming to make the image more interesting.
Firstly, too much colour with no white in sight. Next near enough devoid of colour altogether. Then finally, a corny compromise – the colour pop!
Last autumn I felt like renewing how I approach my work. Nothing major, but some adjusting here and there, some tweaking and a few small changes in how I create my silk pieces. I have been developing using some of the more regimented medieval motifs into less restrained pieces, combining the stylised forms with looser more naturalistic ones.
Then when introducing the colours I started by wetting the silk with water first and then adding the dyes in a painting style more similar to working with watercolours.
The results – after steaming to fix the dyes – were okay. I was happy with the outcome using this type of medium weight flat crepe and this scarf is now listed on my shop.
It’s just under two weeks’ to Valentine’s Day. Naturally, there’s plenty of red merchandise filling the shops, but I’ve noticed there’s more choice than ever and if red Valentine’s cards, red flowers, red boxes of chocolates, and so on, are perhaps too traditional, you can now find similar in pink.
Currently, I do have several predominantly pink silk scarves listed on my online shop. However, perhaps a combination mixing it up – pink with accents of deep red is less obvious and slightly more memorable??
Mind you choosing a scarf that is not overtly considered the traditional Valentine’s ‘colours’, say, grey (altogether more muted with the merest hint of pink), could be just the ticket!