Thursday, August 25, 2016

Monsters: A Stitching Saga

A gripping monster story unfolds

You sometimes need little more incentive than an utterly boring shirt to trigger a sewing project. It helps to have a five-year-old and seven-year-old on hand who are masters in art naif. I put in a request for monsters and they delivered, as shown in the test embroideries below.

Test monsters and victims

Big armless monster with horns

Fleeing victim with one arm and head on fire

Victim who looks ready to fight back

Small monster with lots of hair, no arms, and a beak

Before showing off the monster shirt, here is a quick how-to regarding altering and transferring a child's crayon scribbles into an embroidery template.

Here are the original drawings:

AJ's monsters and victims

Cici's monster and victims

The first step was to scan the pictures and then convert them from color to grayscale. I used Photoshop, but you can use any graphic software. I also played a bit with sizes of the figures, and arranged them on a sheet for printing out using InDesign. You could print directly from your graphic program or place them into a Word document or whatever.

Page full of monsters for printing

I then cut the monsters out individually, readying them for transfer. For the test monsters at the start of this post, I simply used a sheet of carbon paper to trace the black and white monster image onto the linen. For the monster shirt, which is dark gray, I used transfer paper specifically designed for use in transferring marks onto cloth. It rubs right away (in fact, you have to be careful not to smudge it away while hand stitching) and comes in a pack of five sheets of different colors. I used white to transfer onto gray.

Using chalky transfer paper to trace the image onto the cloth

The transferred image

Stitching the transferred image

And now for the final product: the monster shirt. The front of the shirt remains completely plain with no embroidery, offering no clues to the turmoil happening on the back.

Shirt front

On the back, a losing battle is in progress.

Shirt back
At the top, we see a monster in the center, surrounded by victims who are screaming, panicking and trying to flee.

Upper shirt back

Victims are fleeing to the back of either sleeve, and a bunch of victims think they've found a way out, running diagonally down the shirt and trying to escape at the lower corner. What they don't realize is that the small, beaked, hairy monster lies in wait for them there.

Victims try to escape

Little monster lying in wait

And there you have it — the shirt is no longer boring.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Rise and Shine 2: Working with Scraps

Rise and Shine card

When you are gifted with something as wondrous as Tennessee Williams' mother's curtains you want to share the wealth. For the back story on the curtains and a look at the primary art piece created for those curtains use this link: Rise and Shine: Tennessee Williams' Mother's Curtains. With lots of extra material and loads of scraps left over, I created a limited run of these Rise and Shine cards.

Card front

Card back

Card back text enlarged

Opening the card

Card fully open, sitting in natural light

I love the way the curtain scrap creates a little room with light shining in the windows, reinforcing the "rise and shine" theme.

Card with lamp nearby casting yellow light through lower "window"

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Rise and Shine: Tennessee Williams' Mother's Curtains

Rise and Shine, front

The nice thing about being known for producing an eclectic assortment of odd art pieces is that when people stumble across something odd, they give it to you. That was the case here, when my sister's friend's sister's friend bought Tennessee Williams' mother's old house in St. Louis and discovered that the mother's sheer curtains still hung in the windows. She took them down and eventually they passed along the chain of provenance described above and came to me. The resulting art piece, called Rise and Shine, is a gauzy child's dress embedded with quotes from Tennessee Williams plays.

Close-up, top front

Close-up, bottom front

Close-up, collar

The title of the piece, Rise and Shine, appears on the front collars of the dress and is taken from a quote from The Glass Menagerie: "Every time you come in yelling that God damn 'Rise and Shine!' 'Rise and Shine!' I say to myself, 'How lucky dead people are.'"

Front sleeve

Bottom front detail

Dress back

Back left collar

Back right collar

Back right sleeve

Back zipper

Back ruffle detail

There will be more to this Rise and Shine series in coming weeks — there were a lot of curtains. Meanwhile, here are the Tennessee Williams quotes used on this piece:

"Nothing human disgusts me unless it's unkind." - Night of the Iguana

"I'll be all right in a minute, I'm just bewildered — by life." - The Glass Menagerie

"I don't want realism. I want magic.!" - A Streetcar Named Desire

"Silence about a thing just magnifies it." - A Streetcar Named Desire

"We have to distrust each other. It is our only defense against betrayal." - Camino Real

"There is a time for departure, even when there is no certain place to go." - Camino Real

"We are all of us sentenced to solitary confinement within our own skins, for life." - Orpheus Rising

"We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it." - The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore 

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