(This is a mirror site of my webpage karenjcarlisle.com)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Painting with silk threads

One of my passions is costume. I have been making SF and fantasy costumes since 1982 when I attended fan conventions.. (hmm... should rave on them sometime). I was of the very early members of the Australian Costumers' Guild (in its first incarnation). Since then, I discovered the Society for Creative Anachronism and another costume avenue - historical costume. Over the years, I have gravitated towards 16th century Florentine clothing - for both its simplicity and its complexity. Ha! Yet another reason for research. My research, articles and experimentations, in this field,  can be found at The Purple Files/The Florence Files

I even had the amazing opportunity to attend the inaugral Costume Colloquium in Florence, 2008, to celebrate Janet Arnold's (researcher and publisher) work and launch her last book Patterns of Fashion, concentrating on linen wear. I got to see extant Florentine and Tuscan dresses from 1560s, and talk to the conservators, as well as get to see the background workings of the Pitti Palace... so I was majorly chuffed!!! My costume and archeological passions were both satisfied!!

As my research continued, my outfits evolved and  I grew hopefully closer to reproducing the styles and methods used at the time. The average Florentine dress was understated and plain, when compared to Venetian for example.This did not mean that money was not spent. Oh, no! The Florentines liked the best - best materials could cost a fortune. There appeared to be something lacking though - the Renaissance loved its decoration. But looking further into the records of the time (written and visual), the decoration can be found on the chemise (smock), collar, cuffs and partlets. 

I had never learnt to embroider, when younger, so I started with simple, one-colour designs then graduated to colour projects. I was learning new stitches but quickly realised that I only needed 3-4 stitches to produce the coloured work. This was a very similar path that my drawing had taken, when I was younger.  And then it dawned on me; embroidery was like painting. First I did research for the patterns, then I designed the pattern or composition, then finally I executed the design. But, instead of using pencils, paintbrush or even GIMP, I was using coloured silk threads and wearable linen for the canvas. The very noticeable difference was that the embroidery took months to finish, not days. 

I have had to learn patience, though. Creating an embroidered artwork/item takes more time. This has been a learning experience, however; it has resulted in enjoying the research and creative process more, rather than rushing to produce the final product. This also applies to my photographic and drawn works.
It has become cathartic.

Since this time, I have embroidered several partlets, based on 16th century designs. Flora and fauna were a common motif.

Currently, I am working on a design based on a Bronzino portrait of Giovanni de'Medici. I drew up a pattern, based on the collar, in the portrait. The pattern was drawn, onto the linen, with a HB pencil am using gold coloured silk thread.

I am only half finished but already am eyeing off another design for a new chemise and for my dream project - an embroidered linen jacket/doublet.
For more blogging on my costumes/embroidery, check out The Purple Files:Living in the Renaissance?  or FB: The Purple Files.

Now you have another insight into one of my many (my husband says way too many) passions and pursuits. Art can be in many forms and I am sure there are many more for me to discover...

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