Thread Mania

My journey studying for the City & Guilds Level 3 Certificate in Embroidery

rainbow

A huge disruption to my study

This blog has three posts published on the same day, all dating from the end of 2010. Unfortunately ill health put a big hold on me getting ahead with my course work. However I am now better and able to concentrate on my course again.

Punakaiki rocks

2.3.1 Terns on the Punakaiki rocks

During October and November 2010 I was fortunate enough to enjoy a number of artistic activities, which although not contributing directly to getting my course work done, have been generally enriching.

Kelp at Punakaiki rocks

2.3.2 Black Kelp at Punakaiki

First off was a trip down the west coast of South Island, NZ.  We had beautiful spring weather and stopped to view many areas of outstanding natural beauty. The Punakaiki rocks were amazing in themselves, but I loved the movement of the sea swell and surf through the ribbons of black kelp around the base of many of the formations. The shining kelp, pale foam and eroded rocks made wonderful contrasts that my photos do not do justice to.

Many gardens in the country towns we passed through had wonderful displays of spring flowers and rhododendrons. Perhaps the mild winter we had this year, along with the modest rainfall of 2,200mm help things along.  (I quote the west coast tourist brochure for the rainfall total, no typo !)  But more impressive than the gardens was the wonderful artwork available at the many galleries and craft shops. I couldn’t take photos for copyright reasons, but Alison Hale at Reefton and Hester De Ruiter at the Punikaiki Crafts are two examples of the wonderful artists in the area.

I enjoyed a special evening when my local framing shop displayed 40 works by 20th century masters. These were from the collection of a local resident and were simply stunning. The collection is of early or lessor known works (not the multi-million museum stuff) and it was awe inspiring what the artists achieved with simple lines and a splash of colour. Around half the works were by Picasso, with others by Pissarro, Cezanne, Chagall, Dali, Klee, Modigliani, Matisse, and Utrillo.  I especially liked the early Picasso’s painted over newspaper articles, advertising labels or other papers that the then poor fellow could acquire. The owner gave us a talk about his collection and stories behind some of the paintings, which made for a wonderful evening.

My next visual feast was watching the New York Met performance of Das Rheingold via their HD cinema series. WOW, what an amazing production using modern technology. I especially liked the light effects on Loge’s costume. The flickering on his hands and around his feet greatly added to his performance as the god of fire.  And no comment about the latest Das Rheingold can ignore the wonderful use of the stage “machine”. Changing the topology of the stage and using light on the polished metal gave us everything from under the rhine, then the depths of the underworld as well as the heavenly gateway to Valhalla.  I really enjoyed the screening, the music and the singing, and thoroughly appreciate the efforts taken to get world-class performances to remote areas of the planet.

Nov/Dec is the end of the school year in New Zealand, I attended some wonderful student performances. My daughter studies singing and piano and her music school concerts were delightful. Then of course there was the high school prize giving with amazing performances by the school choir, orchestra and other musical groups and then the entertainment at the formal graduation night. It was wonderful seeing so many talented young people but they get little public recognition, it is a shame that our newspapers seem to only report crimes committed by teenage ratbags.

Finally, in February 2011 my daughter and I went to Wellington to see the exhibition of European 19th & 20th century masters from the Stadel Museum. The exhibition was at the Museum of New Zealand and it was wonderful to see so many wonderful artworks without having to travel to the other side of the world. I really appreciated seeing the progression of styles from late 19th century realistic work. The incredible accuracy of the 19th century masters, the beautiful impressionist works and mind blowing shapes, colours and power of the early 20th century works.  I especially enjoyed seeing artworks “live” that I’ve only seen in printed art textbooks before.

Star shapes from the coloured papers

The final task for chapter 2 is to cut out star shapes from one of my coloured papers and make a display page with them.  The star shapes were taken from the types of stars I discovered during my research activities.

I cut out lots of regular stars, based on 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11 pointed stars. I am intrigued by the variety of star shapes that can be obtained by joining differing sequences of equi-distant points on a circle, two different 8-pointed stars, three from 9-points, four from 11-points and so on. One of the 7-pointed star variations I made is solid while the other is in outline to achieve the greatest contrast.
Two examples are from interleaved, outline shapes. The first is a version of the Star of Solomon using two triangles while the other is an attempt at an enneagon using 3 interleaved triangles. The criss-crossing lines do add extra interest to the star shape.

Star shapes based on research images

2.2.1 Star shapes based on research images

Using some of my ancient star images, I have made stars by overlapping different shapes , three tissue triangles, two squares – one paper the other tissue – and a paper square overlaid with a tissue 4-pointed star shape. Having the tissue on top gives a better definition of a star shape. One interesting combination is three tissue 4-pointed stars overlaid to give a 12-pointed star.
Overlaying 4-pointed stars gave other successful star shapes.

Two identical paper 4-pointed stars made an interesting 8-pointed star and the curved lines of the top star shape provide lots of stitching hints. This combination could be made into a very decorative shape.  Another combination of 4-pointed shapes is based on the ancient Babylonian Shamash star, with a 4-pointed star overlaying an inclined cross. The arms of the cross are made of parallel lines.  The variety of shapes making up this star could also be made very decorative. A 16-pointed star was made by overlaying a regular 8-pointed star over a skeleton 8-pointed star, both in paper.

My final experiments were with using raggedy shapes, with a skeleton 5-pointed star cut using patterned scissors and an asymmetrical star-shape built up by overlaying many 3-pointed shapes torn from tissue paper.

Making Coloured Pages

The first task for chapter 2 of my C&G module is to create a whole pile of coloured paper to use for the design tasks in subsequent chapters. The first step was to choose a colour scheme based on two complimentary colours. One of my favourite NASA images is of baby stars. This is a typical false colour image produced from x-ray telescopes.

NASA photo of newly formed stars

2.1.1 Newly formed stars (photo courtesy of NASA)

In these type of pictures newly formed stars are typically shown in bright cerise and remnants of super-novae are shown with a yellow-green.  So my colour scheme is a range of red-violets and a range of yellow-greens.

I have used this image as wall paper for about 10 years but have lost the correct attribution.  I would love to give the correct reference so if some reader can recognise this image in the NASA archives and let me know I will be very grateful.

Anyway, I have used inks and sponging to colour a range of A4 sheets of cartridge paper, tissue paper and portions of newsprint.  Producing these sheets was a lot of fun and very liberating. I have not “mucked around” with paint for decades. Sponging colour onto paper is a very tactile experience, almost as good as I remember finger painting in my kindergarten days.

One hurdle was actually getting the inks. My local art supply shop had tiny bottles of very expensive inks, and the bulk buy chain store did not have anything suitable. I asked my tutor Sian who recommended a UK brand and luckily I found an importer in Wellington. I am happy to recommend the Creative Craft Supplies folk, not only did they accept my order out of normal office hours, it was delivered very promptly.

My cerise coloured papers

2.1.2 Cerise papers

I also like the Brusho brand inks, a tiny amount of the powder goes a long way and it is easy to achieve tints as well as stronger hues. The colours blend nicely as well. Brusho inks clean off with water, well they clean off everything easily except skin! I had to really scrub my hands very hard to avoid going to work with dark green fingers! (I used plastic gloves for sponging the cerise papers)

My yellow-green coloured papers

2.1.3 Yellow-green papers

So here are my tinted papers, both the greens and the cerises… (all pages are A4 size)

The next task was to create a rubber stamp and use it to decorate some papers. I decided to use three points of the regular 9-pointed star for my stamp. However the making also caused a problem as none of our art supply or stationery shops stock any rubbers large enough to carve a shape into.  In the end I cut out a couple of pieces of very compressed foam rubber and glued them together.

My stamped coloured papers

2.1.4 Stamped papers

Here are my stamped pages, using cerise acrylic paint on both cerise and green papers. I produced patterns using both regular and random stampings, as well as seeing the type of shapes obtained by combining the stamped images.

I found that all-over repeats worked the best with this shape, especially when the shape was reversed in alternative rows, see the close up of the stamped tissue paper. Alternating reversed shapes also made a nice border, as can be seen on the light-green A4 paper.

A close up of one of the stamped papers

2.1.5 Close up of stamped paper

Grouping the stamped shapes in circles or squares did not achieve any nice patterns, I much prefer the random stamping on the lower portion of the green tissue paper.

Line Drawings from research images

The final task for module 1 chapter 1 is to make some line drawings from the images collected during my research.

The most common star graphic is the 5-pointed regular star. It is very easy to draw and makes a chubby little star beloved by advertising and religious/mystical folk.

Sketches from ancient star images

1.3.1 pentangles and ancient stars (click to see full page)

The 8-pointed star made from four crossed lines lends itself to all sorts of embellishments and elaboration. The four upright points can be joined to form a enclosed star graphic while the diagonal lines develop into ornamental “rays”

Of course we don’t have to stop at just four intersecting lines, there are many examples of star graphics formed from eight, ten or even twenty intersecting lines.

Stars can be made from intersecting shapes, the most common being 2-intersecting triangles forming the hexagram (aka Star of David, Seal of Soloman or Shatkona). There is also the quarter-group made from intersecting squares and the Star of Auseklis from intersecting pointed shapes. In modern times this star graphic is much used by quilters but it is an ancient European symbol of magic.

Star sketches

1.3.2 Stars from Intersecting Shapes (click to see full page)

Star shape from driftwood

1.3.3 Driftwood and beach pebbles star shape

The intersecting shapes do not all have to be of the same size, an interesting “star” can be made from intersecting rectangles or from sticks and stones at the beach.

My beach play made a shape about 40cm across, as can be estimated from the camera lens cap, lower left.

The Star of Auseklis (above) is also interesting as, like the pentagram, the elven star and the Star of Babylon, it is drawn using a continuous line. Both the elven star and the Star of Babylon are 7-pointed stars based on seven equi-distant points on a circle (septagram). The lines forming the Star of Babylon join every second point, while those forming the elven star join every third point.

There is a whole branch of geometry investigating the star forms made by intersecting lines joining equi-distant points on a circle.

four versions of regular 11-point star

1.3.4 Four versions of 11-pointed stars (click to see full page)

7-Points and 8-points provide two different forms, 9-points (the enneagram) gives us three different forms and 11-points (the hendecagram) has four forms.  Not only mathematicians are intrigued by the stars formed by continuous lines and over the past millennia many religious/mystical groups have taken various regular star forms as their logo or assigned mystical meanings to them.

Drawing the regular stars can be quite additive, especially while experimenting to see which versions are made from continuous lines. Two of the enneagrams and all four hendecagrams are continuous lines. See the full page for all my variations.

Moving away from simple star forms allows for an almost infinite variety of ornamentation and elaboration but having repeating elements allows us to still recognise these shapes as “stars”. The pentagram has many different anthromorphic religious/mystical forms as well for advertising logos.

I was intrigued to see the pentangle as a possible source of the Star Trek logo. The traditional compass rose is based on a regular 8-pointed star.  If the enneagon consisting of three overlapping triangles is made from three intersecting solid triangles we can get interesting knot-like effect. Very few star shapes have just three or four points, but the ninja throwing stars (beloved in martial arts movies) are an exception.

compass rose and enneagram

1.3.5 Elaborations of simple sketches (click to see full page)