In May, our textile group held a workshop to create a bird portrait using either machine or hand embroidery. Our tutor was the talented artist, Helen Walsh who creates bird pictures using applique and free motion stitching.
These days, I like to be prepared or might that be….‘forewarned!’ So, having researched her website I set about choosing a suitable bird….but, I love Barn owls….therefore, no decision required on that front! The only choosing needed was simply one of finding the right pose, particularly as I only wanted a part of the bird (I’d already realised that for me to complete the entire bird would be extremely time consuming)….Pinterest, Google & Flickr to the rescue.
I created many photomontages of owls at rest, paying particular attention to the details of feathers and face. Two images stood out. One that I felt I could crop but still give me some simple background interest, the second was the angle of head. Some computer fiddling and….Taadaa
Once at the workshop, Helen showed us many samples taking us through the process and gave us many hints, tips & tricks to bring our birds to life.
Our first task was to create a tracing of our bird so that we could cut out suitable fabric pieces and commence our applique/stitching work.
I was so absorbed throughout the day that I totally forgot to take any production photos!
You will notice that the original photo owl’s face was a bit sad looking and his beak somewhat indeterminate. However, luck was totally on my side….literally. My friend, village neighbour and sewing buddy, sitting right next to me, had brought last year’s calendar of wild birds with her – October offered the most beautiful barn owl face. Just perfect.
By the time I remembered to take photos I was well underway having machine stitched all my Bondaweb-backed fabric in place onto a subtle fawn/grey linen, using sheers for the distant pieces of grass, overlapped with more substantive fabric for the foreground. I had already started hand stitching (fly) on top of the FME feather details (with rows of blanket stitch around the head) and was attempting to apply Barnie’s face….Yes, he had now been named!
The end of a busy workshop, but I wasn’t happy with Barnie’s face. It was all too symmetrical with his wing feathers and just didn’t have the correct all-important inquisitive tilt I wanted, so I had to pull off his beak and one of his eyes….ouch!
At home I was able to reassess the whole face and consider how I could make it more alive. Conclusion – sorry, but Barnie lost his other eye too….ouch, again! This did however allow me to add more feathery details (fly stitch) unhindered.
From the October owl I traced the face then manipulated it size-wise to fit, finally drawing it onto OHP acetate to ensure the ‘perfect’ placement of Barnie’s new wide eyes.
I hope I have left you sufficiently intrigued as to how he acquires his remaining features….