It has been awkward finding appealing interior spaces and decent natural lighting for a scarf photoshoot this past winter and the following grey, grey spring, but, eventually, I have some new photographs for my online shop.
It always takes longer than I think to start achieving interesting shots and then there is that moment when you capture somebody’s ‘selfie business’,
and, of course, there’s always capturing the odd rather strange scary expression – at least one if not more of those!
But if you were wondering what the ‘Back from Narnia’ title was about, well, it was wardrobes. In particular, it is about a partially dismantled Edwardian wardrobe (still, as I write, in pieces) that provided an obvious gateway between 21st century Ipswich and Narnia.
It was the Vernal Equinox on Tuesday and despite all the wintery and bitterly cold wind (a short visit from Mini-beast last week, the cousin of the Beast from the East) it is officially spring and just a little bit warmer today. And, furthermore, with impeccable timing the UK Handmade Spring Showcase went live on Tuesday too.
I have been lucky enough to be selected for this showcase and two of my scarves have been featured.
I think the two photos chosen are bright and colourful – hopefully capturing that optimism associated with spring. Who doesn’t need some bright cheeriness after the winter?
You may or may not have noticed, depending on how much you use Google, that earlier this week Google marked an interesting textiles red-letter day, or should that be purple-letter day.
The folks at Google uploaded the above rather charming Google Doodle to celebrate the birthday of William Henry Perkin who was born on 12 March 1838. Perkin was the man who discovered the first synthetic dye, aniline purple.
There is an interesting short article describing his pioneering work deriving a purple dye from coal tar on the Selvedge Magazine Blog.
The discovery of aniline dyes and, in particular, a purple dye, provided the opportunity for the mass production of purple coloured cloth. Up until the 19th century there was a long-held convention of royalty exclusively wearing purple garments. A tradition that originated with the royal and aristocratic families of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Imperial family of the Roman Empire. In Renaissance England Elizabeth 1, a shrewd monarch with a fine instinct for understanding the value of visual propaganda, added to the many Sumptuary Laws governing how folk were permitted to dress, and proclaimed that only close members of the Royal family were allowed to wear purple.
Purple textiles had been incredibly expensive as they were coloured with Tyrian dye collected from sea snails with approximately 10,000 molluscs needed to produce about one gram of the dye.
Looking through my recent work I have hardly used any true purple (as seen in the third photograph above) and it is a dye that works well on silk producing an extremely rich colour.
Furthermore, I only have three scarves in my shop at the moment that have lilac(ish) backgrounds. Of course, I might be very tempted now to use a lot more purple as I have just read that the Colour of the Year for 2018 is Ultra Violet (perhaps why Google chose to celebrate Perkin?).
Maybe, I am at the turning point of a personal ‘colour cycle’ as some of my older pieces feature purple accents and one of my favourite chiffons from about 20 years ago shows a saint dressed in deep purple and burgundy. Perhaps it’s farewell to pastels and pinks for a while, mind you I am not holding my breath on that one!
I have been having a serious clear out of cloth. I am trying to be disciplined about this. I am attempting to organise all my work materials so there is studio space that is conducive to work and not one that is so chaotic it drains me of all my creativity.
During this protracted endeavour I came across some of my old silk work. In the photo above there is a bird hidden within all the colours. The original idea came from a medieval bas-relief bird I photographed on a visit to a cathedral (possibly in Germany, but it could’ve been in France) a couple of decades ago. In my memory it was always Speyer Cathedral on the Rhine. However, I have just Googled Speyer and though the magnificent 11th century Romanesque church is the building I have in mind’s eye, I can’t imagine where I thought this bird was ‘perched’. Strange how our memory plays tricks with us, isn’t it?
Anyway, I can now see that my ‘stork’ and ‘heron’ phases had a long forgotten forerunner lurking somewhere in Europe.
Of course, a freehand one-off motif once designed doesn’t remain fixed for very long.
Over time my bird motifs have lost most of their definition and morphed into little more than blobs with spikes!
Might be time to track down my old photos and revisit the original ideas and try working up a new motif or two from the primary source material. I haven’t unpacked either box marked ‘photos’ yet, but I am hoping that I didn’t bin them all the last time I had one of my ‘once every 10 years’ clear outs.
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.