Progress on the sculpture is coming along. I’ve spent many hours on the project, mixed between the physical construction of the armature – my scratches from the wire mesh have almost healed now and my fingers tips no longer hurt from the threaded end of the fine beading needle puncturing them.
I started this morning to incorporate some of the new colours that I found yesterday. What I have here represents about two and a half hours of work. This free-form technique is quite mesmerizing and relaxing as there are no guidelines to follow other than a sense of shape and direction. It is a very fluid process similar to painting. I use the darks and lights to push and pull the canvas and choose the colours of buttons and beads to represent the stratification of the sedimentary rock formations. As the word “flashback” is used for this assignment, there are certainly moments of thought that link with the past and to cultures that have traditionally worked with this bead medium.
I have photographed part of the label from a packet of beads – found at one of the Dollar stores. They incidentally have a useful selection both in the above photograph and in my other supplies. Chinese women have laboured at the task of producing beaded trade goods as well as the product itself. I have other beads from Japan. I think too of the Métis women who produced the most wonderful beaded moccasins and items of clothing, most of which were worked on fine Caribou leather using their own designs – initially from their traditional designs, then later florals from the European cultures who bought the finished work . http://www.ameriquefrancaise.org/en/article-476/Floral_Beadwork:_A_Métis_Cultural_Heritage_to_Rediscover_.html. The women themselves were a product and a resource of the fur trade. All of the above is active as an industry today and represents those who labour out of necessity.
I could also visit women of a privileged feudal culture. Reading any of Philippa Gregory’s novels set in Medieval Britain, it does not take long before the reader is introduced to the pastime of nobility in fine needlework. A flip of the same coin might also introduce the working class and their labours to provide the fine couture demanded of the aristocracy that continued to the fashionable beadwork of the Victorian era. There are grim histories of women who laboured at home with this form of “piecework” and others in the “fashion” trade who worked in the formidable conditions of mills and factories with materials that contained toxic dyes and flammable materials. The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto houses fine examples of these “flashbacks.”
I am going to get my mind off such negative thoughts by working in my studio. I have more background texturing to work on that will provide a setting for the “stone” beadwork and lichens.
February 1 update.
I continue with the rock outcrops, with a slightly different perspective. As with most artists and artisans I know, I have saved and collected “items” for most of my life. I have opened my treasures with a renewed sense of history and am excited about incorporating them.
I have also introduced small French knots worked with 6 x stranded Metallic (polyester fibre), Silk (rayon fibre) and Pearl (cotton fiber) threads. Each has its own challenges. The technique is easier worked with a single strand.
I have now worked toward the largest and most sculpted section of the outcrops. On the top left of the base above is the section that represents a “shoulder.” Earlier the silk fibres were laid across this section in 4 layers, each crossing the previous to provide strength. Wallpaper paste was used to bond each layer. Now dry, it has retained the sculpture’s form and with a backing of cotton quilt backing, the combined layers will provide sufficient strength and thickness to hold the beads.
As I work each outcrop with beads and embroidery, I must envision a continuum from once section into another. As I work up toward the top of the sculpture I am thinking “lighter”, in weight and colour, and “smoother” in texture.
I am also departing, in some respects, from the original source of inspiration (the Beausoleil rock) and imagining the sculpture as a separate and new entity. However, I must continually revisit this source to ensure that the sensibility of the piece remains intact.
When I next blog, you will see how this process in unfolding.
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