Category Archives: art

Stitched Illustration

I’ve always sewn clothes, made pictures, sculptures–tactile, physical objects that I could share with others pretty easily.

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The lakeshore, formerly at 76.5 metres above sea level had risen by 15 metres and was lapping at Queen Street West. From The Bones, Chapter 2, by Laura Wythe

For a number of reasons, writing has become a great creative and personal outlet for me.  But how to show and share words? Contests, blogging, writing plays and joining writing groups have worked for short fiction.

Recently I finished a novel, inspired in part by a street in Wortley Village. Tecumseh Avenue is the only native name among so many traditional English names. It took a lot of research to find out the story behind the name, and I used the presence of this First Nation man in The Bones.

The main character is Catherine Blackwood, the textile curator at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. She grew up on a farm next to the battlefield north of Chatham where Tecumseh died in the War of 1812. She heads back to the farm, now in Flood Zone 4, obsessed with making one last search for Tecumseh’s bones. (I’ll blog more about the Tecumseh story.)

I’m used to showing and telling what I’ve been up to. The logical thing — for me — was to make a series of illustrations and launch a book with pictures! Catherine, the textile curator, came to mind as having the perfect point of view for the illustrations.

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gathering materials for The Bones Laura Wythe

For more than 2 years, I have collected textiles–table linens, threads, and other bits and embellishments. I have pored over maps and charted the travels of the characters through a flood ravaged land. I have joined London branch of the Canadian Embroiderer’s Guild to bone up on my stitching techniques.

I have 4 months left to finish the illustrations, and literally thousands of stitches to go.

 

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Joy of colour

It’s been a grey monotone winter, and I’ve been working on a large project with a theme of rain. More greys and damp and sombreness. Every now and again, there’s a tiny break in the grey blanket of sky, shadows, even a bit of blue. It doesn’t matter if it’s morning or night, it’s all a progression of grey.

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Detail of Sari Splendor square by Laura Wythe

Into the grey came a workshop called Indian Splendor led by Donna Funnel, hosted by the London branch of the Canadian Embroiders Guild. Step by step we were led to a guarantee of colour harmony and wonder. It really is important to trust the instructor, especially when they say, choose your colours, any colours will work.

Sari ribbon is a new material for me, and of course, the ribbons came in brilliant colours and textures. Donna also had some sari silk yarn that matched the silks but brought another layer of texture when all was done. We created a base with the ribbons, then cut and embellished. Of course, I bling-ed my project up with shiny yarns, sequins and beads–and some variegated silk thread.

So, here’s the finished project.

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Full size Sari Splendor square by Laura Wythe

Donna has used the squares in an entirely different way to create a stunningly detailed wall hanging. Simple structure, amazing results.

What a riot of colour for a dull winter’s day.

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Take Away Art

On the way out of the Central Branch of the London Public Library, I noticed a table with a sign: Take Away Art. An man of many years with a walker noticed the same table, and instead of avoiding it, as in avoiding contact between strangers, we both stopped and checked out the artwork in a basket: screen-printed canvas, black on natural canvas, likely cotton.

The man told me he had made artwork many years ago, up in Kincardine where he lived until 25 years ago. He had a favourite piece, one he’d painted on glass. He’d lived at home until he was 22 because there was a dance hall across the street from him, no need to leave for some excitement. In his “old” age (he confessed to feeling quite young at times) he was studying Greek and Hebrew, and “all the universe,” which, if I understood him well enough, boiled down to the number 5. Then he had to go, but as with many long-lifers, he gave me his opinion that young people weren’t active enough, and how it was a shame. There had been too many teens drowned in the lake up his way in recent years. He didn’t remember anyone drowning when he was a youth. Young folk, pay attention and get a life outside your media devices. Such was our encounter, a rambling circling chat between generations.

But, he wouldn’t take a piece of art. He wanted to make something himself.

I took a piece of art–it seemed too much good fortune just to pass by. The back of the canvas is signed, and there’s details about the print run. Only, I would ask Charles Harris (working on his MFA at Western University), if he’d  be really upset if I embellished his Take Away Art. Not sure how to reach him. I have been putting away the devices for more and more of my days, and I’m embroidering. Not like my mom or gran, but like me. And if ever there was a piece of cloth needing embellished, it’s this Take Away print. Like fries needing ketchup. Sorry Charles.

Or maybe I shouldn’t. Should I let it stand as a statement, now a statement of private art in my eclectic collection. I’d like to find ways to make it public again, like the case of the “Traveling Pants.” Perhaps send it on a journey among friends who embroider and embellish and quilt and bind books, and …

In any case, without this Take Away Art in the branch of the Central Lbrary, I wouldn’t have had such a charming chat. Cheers to the Take Away Artist!

 

 

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