Nov 7, 2021

The Life Of An Artist

I found a meme on Facebook last week and wanted to include it in this post detailing my 'hair wreath' project ...but realized that just because it's floating around Facebook does not mean I should use it. It was akin to seeing an iceberg (see; a piece of art) ... but what you see sticking out of the water is actually attached to a massive amount of ice (see; all the work involved in that piece of art) under the water.

Of course I knew this all along, but was very impressed by this little meme reminding me that maybe someone would be interested in the part under the water.

I think this is why I write a blog ... to document how much work is behind the scenes. Otherwise, my children/grandchildren really have no idea what I am up to all those hours in my 'room'. So, I am going to repeat a few photos ... from start to finish. Thank you in advance for bearing with me. This piece is done and a new fibre piece begins in a few days.

Hair Wreaths were a craze in the late 1800's, honouring passed loved ones and were made by gathering strands of hair and wrapping, weaving, embroidering around wire so that the petals can be manipulated to stand up in 2D. I had to revise a lot to accomplish a semblance of a Hair Wreath in fibre and threads.

The Sketch Book ... inspiration 

I happened to have a practise flower (free-motion machine embroidery on water-soluble) tucked in my sketch book, so a quick review had me inspired again with a long 'portrait mode' in my mind ... but there was a possibility that what I had in my head might be better suited to 'landscape mode' ... the finished piece would decide. Store everything in your sketch book !

1st layer: The Fabric ... a lucky accident of scrunching and dipping a 15"x42" length of unknown fibre content (cotton tho') into a tray of waste water (from a long ago forgotten acrylic paint event). 
Splotches of white did not absorb the paint !!!
A little black ink outlines those white splotches ... like faded, dying flowers ...goes with the reason for hair wreathes in the first place ... to remember loved ones that had passed.
2nd Layer: Foundation  ... This length of fabric was then basted to a cotton backing and seed stitches were applied to bind top fabric to backing fabric (cotton) ... took about 3 weeks, a few hrs most days. 

3rd Layer: The Stitching ... free-motion machine embroidery is my go-to technique.
So, pop some water-soluble into my hoop, tighten hoop untill water-soluble is drum-tight and commence sewing, free-motion. 
This time I decided to fill in the petals rather than leave them open as I had the idea of adding a 2D flower on top of each black flower motif. This also takes a few hrs. to bring to the point of 'enough' for the new piece I had in mind ... 18 motifs to sew  to my lovely grey background !

4th Layer: Product
'Enough' now.... my 2D flower isn't human hair of course, but I did find a roll of twisted newspaper yarn that was made in India... and which I have hoarded for at least 10 yrs ! It would make a great stand-in as it naturally had enough firmness (without wire) to hold up to the job I had in mind. I wrapped a length of it in blanket stitch with a variegated embroidery floss ... grey, blue,mauve and beige (yum) ... that blended beautifully with the bits of colour in the twisted newspaper and the grey background.

5th Layer: Decisions ...  how, what, why and where ?? 
Hours of more fun ! This way ? That way ? Do I have enough ? Do I need more ?
Oh, well,  s**t or get off the pot, they say !! I was able to machine stitch all the 'flats' to the background by machine without a bit of puckering, and when all were stitched in place I rinsed the whole shebang and hung it to dry. While waiting I was able to get a much firmer picture of where I was going with this. 
OK, the decision was made ... portrait mode !

pinned in place finally

here you can see the seed stitching ... every 1/4 inch  

6th Layer: Wrapping 
This is a practise I have not done in years but a necessity if putting fibre art into a frame to make sure there are no puckers or wrinkles in the finished piece. More hours of fun ... not ! But a beautiful technique. 
Once the fabric was decently dry I ironed from the back and all was smooth once more and I could commence the 'wrapping'. Some prefer to staple but the best look is with the older method of using a needle and thread from one edge of the fabric, over the fibre board to the opposite edge and gently tightening as much as the fabric, and the thread, would allow ... every 1/2" across the sides and then the ends. Mitre the corners and you have a nice smooth, tight piece to slip into a frame.

7th Layer: applying the 2D florals.
Now that the placement was decided and everything stitched down, it was time to add 5 stand-up petals ... no turning back now ;) This was not an easy chore as I had to make sure that the weight of the 2D's wouldn't drag and pull at the background. So, problem solved ! Stitch right through the fabric & board !! 
Firm as can be ! Just make sure that the stitch holes aren't too close together when you tie of the threads on the back ;)

8th Layer: Beads 
Yup, more stuff from my stash of beautiful 'will use one of these days' things. I don't use many beads in my work but these were perfect to indicate the centre of a flower. Wonky, chunky, steel black beads from a daughters bracelet, and pretty  glass orbs that only suggests a beige colour and reflects light and the other colours already in the piece. These, as well, I stitched right through the fibre board and tied off at the back. These knots will all be covered by the cardboard backing piece of my frame.

9th Layer: The Framing 
I am satisfied with the final look, now to get it framed. Normally this accounts for many more hours heading to the nearest framing place ... 45 min. away for me now. Choosing the right frame ... wood ? metal ? colour ? cost ? quite a few more hours to tack onto this project !
Lucky me, again !!! 
I had a framed piece that I was recycling and it was just the right size for my 2nd fibre piece inspired by the 'hair'wreath'.

While writing this post, a name for my piece kept popping up ... Passage ... appropriately tying, I think, this piece to the original concept of a 'hair wreath'. But, if you are reading this and can come up with a great title I'd be grateful ... sometimes this is the hardest part of any art practise.
Sorry about the blurriness of this photo which I enlarged as big as I could go .... which brings me to one of the final layers; finding a photographer that specializes in the photography of fibre. I am sure that I could have added a few more layers to the process  ... and then many more layers before this is actually in a show and then getting it to a venue !!

So, it's not that I would change anything about my particular 'art' ! 
Not at all !
I just feel, as the diagram depicts, that viewers are sometimes unaware of the hours that are lovingly put into a beautiful fibre piece that could soon grace their own wall.


  1. A very thoughtful artist, strategically designing her way through the many hours of thought and decision making into her work. You cannot help but celebrate the many, many hours of actual work that have developed into another amazing piece of art that links Sharron to the past. Amazing as the final project declares itself to be - it is the talent, commitment and the ART developed by this one beloved designer that bring this tribute your way... Your work is beautifully well done! Congratulations!! xo

  2. Dear Bethany,
    Thank you for reading this post and for 'seeing', though you are also one of the best artist/teachers/mentors that we are so lucky to have in our amazing realm of fellow fibre artists. I am honoured by your comments.
    Thank you dear friend !! Hugs

  3. Such beautiful work - oh my gosh - and the detail. And all the more interesting knowing how much work has gone into it. Where do you sell your work?
    You're right, people have no clue of the amount of work that goes into a piece or any artform for that matter. I get so mad seeing knitwear priced in local shops at not much more than the cost of the wool ... and most musicians barely get a fraction of the pay due for the amount of time put into putting on a performance.
    I hope you get well rewarded xx

  4. Hi Fil,
    Thank you for the lovely compliments ... very grateful !
    I belong to a group, we put on shows about twice a year ... and hope to sell ! Not a sure thing at all as mostly women and artists attend ... who ultimately do not buy.
    I have been a very lucky fibre artist having 'sold a few' in my time. But I am NOT an artist that supports myself with my work ... I'd have starved years ago !
    I am an artist ! ... but I am a wife and grandmother, sister and friend as well ... life does get in my way sometimes. Saying that, art has been my way of keeping my sanity !
    We all suffer for our work and thank you for reminding me that writers, musicians, chef's bakers, builders ... anyone who creates ! ... are severely underpaid ! Where's a union when you need one ??? ;)

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