So, I participated in a contest on Deviantart which was called the 10 years from now contest. Click on the link if you want to read what it is about. Sadly I did not win, but I am so proud of the finished piece and the whole process behind it that I wanted to share it anyway. I always find that a contest pushes me out of my comfort zone because I want to hand in something special. Also, it motivates me to think outside my own creative box because you are following someone else’s idea for an artwork and not your own. So far, I’ve learned a lot in every contest I’ve entered and that in itself makes it worth the effort to participate. Of course, I hope to win one day, but I can be patient and practice for now. Congratulations to the people who did win! Here are the winners for anyone who wants to see them: winners 10 years from now contest.
The prompt of the contest was to create an artwork in any medium depicting where you want to be as an artist or person 10 years from now. I have been doing a lot of soulsearching regarding this topic lately, so I decided to enter even though I only had a month to finish the piece. I made this piece just before I left the Netherlands for Kenya. It was actually calming to have some art to focus on while I was busy arranging the last preparations for my move. In this article, I will tell you about the design of the piece, the materials and techniques used, and the meaning behind the piece. I will end this post with an update about my Kenyan adventure and especially the fabrics I’ve found so far.
The design, materials and techniques used
So, it started out with a drawing. I love trees and I’ve been drawing trees like this for many many years, so it’s no surprise I ended up embroidering one. It is not a particular kind of tree. Google ‘tree’ and you’ll find the kind of examples I used. I cut out the drawing and traced it with a water soluble embroidery pen on some white embroidery fabric I had laying around. This created the outline of the tree I filled with scraps of brown fabric. The end result of the tree reminds me of an art quilt, which is cool because I always wanted to try making one. Although I am not sure whether my technique is how one normally does art quilts, so please pitch in if you do know!
This picture shows how I did it. First I folded every piece of fabric so there would be no raw edges. To keep the fabric in place it helps to seal the fold with your lips. The moisture will press the fabric. I find using lips is easier than an iron with small pieces. In some parts, I folded the fabric underneath each other to create a natural look. After folding I pinned the pieces in place so I could sew a bigger place in one go. In the picture, you see how many pins it sometimes took to keep everything in place. The embroidery ring also turned out to be vital, because a taut fabric keeps the pieces in place much better than flabby fabric. I very much liked working on this tree. It is wonderful you can create an actual life-like image with fabrics. Also, it is superfun to make a piece that requires a lot of fiddling and precision work. It makes you wish you were an octopus because things would be easier with at least four hands extra. When the bark was in place I used three strands of brown embroidery floss to mark the texture of the tree. You can see in the picture below how well that worked.
Normally I draw trees in the winter because leaves are too hard to draw and there are too many of them on the average tree anyway. However, for this piece, I found another way to avoid drawing thousands of leaves. I used several sizes cross stitches in a variety of greens to suggest leaves. I used light green embroidery floss, dark green and a mix of the two. The last part of the piece is the purple bird resting in the tree. For that one, I used backstitching and small cross stitch stitches.
The meaning behind the design
Now on to the question why this design symbolizes me in ten years. That is not a question answered with one single answer. The design is focused on emotional and personal growth towards a more peaceful person. This is something I’ve been working at for a long time already. This piece helped to visualize my goal and will serve as a tangible reminder to hang above my bed.
The tree is used to symbolize strength and stability. It symbolizes finding a certain groundedness that allows me to be at peace and to stop seeing all new people and experiences as a threat. When you have a mind like a tree you are open towards the world and see everything that happens as it is, and not as your scared mind tells you it is.
Birds to me symbolize the urge to fly away and never to return when things turn awkward or scary. In that way, they symbolize the freedom of having no responsibility and attachments. But that is a tricky kind of freedom because no responsibility or attachment also means no friendship or love and to never achieve your aspirations or dreams. In my design, the bird has learned how to rest. The bird is still there because when a bird has the mind of a tree flying away is not an escape anymore. It has become a way to go out into the world to experience new things and to learn. You’ll always return home to the people you love to tell of all your exciting adventures.
The less philosophical explanation of this piece is my goal to become a professional at quilting and embroidery, either as a designer or as a teacher. The different techniques I used and the fact I used my own design symbolize that dream.
I don’t think I have to explain to you why I used green and brown for the tree. Purple is used for the bird because it had a good contrast with the other colours. Also, the colour purple means power, creativity, ambition and peace.
How to finish a piece and a little update on life
Embroidery pieces need to be stretched over a piece of carton to make the piece look as neat as possible. The technique I used for that is the lattice finishing technique I learned from Mr X. Stitch’s embroidery book. I am a lover of corsets so the name immediately spoke to me and luckily it also turned out to be a good way to stretch embroidery pieces. In the picture below you can see how it’s done. You fold the excess fabric of the borders to the back and stretch the fabric by weaving and sewing strands of embroidery floss.
And here is the picture of the finished piece again, just because I am so pleased with myself it was finished on time.
- What are your thoughts? Do you like it? Do you have tips or suggestions?
- What would you make with the ’10 years from now’ prompt?
Here is a song by one of my favourite artists which is a close rendition of my own feelings about growing up: KT Tunstall – Still a weirdo.
Last but not least: how am I doing in Kenya?
After lots of getting used to, of which I expect there is much more to come, I am adjusting to my new home away from home. I am now a week in Nanyuki, the place I do research, and have attended a Masai ceremony, made some friends, met many colleagues and made people interested in my research, so all in all things are going well. It’s all great fun as well. However, the question you’ve all been waiting to hear the answer of is of course: have you already found some beautiful fabrics to quilt with? And the answer is yes! I am already thinking hard of a nice quilt design to make with these gorgeous fabrics. More fabrics will be added later once I’ve got the hang of haggling.
For all who forgot my creative plans abroad or who missed the post, here it is:
See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: bella.g.bear.art) for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blogpost every Sunday or Monday.