Saturday, July 31, 2010

News from the Tatzelwurm

I varied the theme in another gouache painting. The Tatzelwurm lives in a lotus pond.
I'm not sure if I should continue according to the painting. It is an experiment. The free motion of my pencil on the white cloth gives me a wonderful freedom. I'm not scared of the space; it used to block me in the past, and I started my paintings with acts of serendipity like giving the painting board (I never used canvas) a print with a crushed piece of paper, dipped in paint, by covering the board with torn scraps, soaked with glue; these procedures made my phantasy wake up. This is quite different; the white space is so inviting to define it by the motion of the beast.
I noticed a bit late that I joint jude's beast theme.

I seem to be proceeding rather fast. Probably this is due to a both-hands technique with my right hand under the frame and the left one above. This reduces the time of stitching to about 20 or 30 stitches per minute. Of course, cutting the thread, splitting it in halves, threading the needle and fastening the end on the reverse without a knot takes a bit more time.

Friday, July 30, 2010


The "tatzelwurm" (paw worm) is a mythical animal of Bavaria, the Alpine Nessie. I started a gouache sketch in a limited palette of brick red, slate blue, light purple, copper green, dark aubergine, clay and tangerine.
I'd like to remain rather abstract, in the style of Paul Klee, but I slip into the naturalism trap time and time again.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Sketching Solution

The sketches of my embroidery projects were made with fine pencils. Of course, they are water soluble. I read about sketching on cloth and what pens to use; Mary Corbet wrote an interesting essay on sketching and how to remove the tracing from the linen. This made me anticipate the final stage of my work with some fear. In a former project, I more or less covered the sketch with the thread. Wool thread is a lot easier to handle than cotton or linen thread. It covers the traces with its floss.
Today I finished the carnation piece and soaked it in lukewarm water.
It just took seconds to remove the ink! Nothing was left but an ever so faint shading of turquoise, washed away in the water. I don't know if these pencils by Schwan are available everywhere. A good solution, taken literally.
Here's the finished embroidery.
It is for sale now, see right side of this page.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Plenty in a time of plenty. Quite a different style from my last project. As I mentioned it, I started it when I was in Turkey and had a flu which is a strange experience in 100° F. When I added more carnations, I found that the colors stand a little isolated and do not really cooperate; so I started balancing them out with smaller blossoms and vines. It now starts looking like a 17th century piece, close to my intention in the beginning.
You can see the experimental nature of the project in the sketching -- some parts show a geometrical border which I discarded. For the sketch, I used a water soluble pen, and I do hope I will be able to rinse it out...
In the close-up, you can see well how irregular the old linen fibers are.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Very sad happening

The Love Parade ended up in panic and distress. 19 casualties, some say they fell from where they climbed up; some say they were crushed to death. Helpless: The Lord Mayor of Duisburg; the federal prosecutor has confiscated preparation records.
There were lots of warnings before the happening that masses of people should not be allowed through this tunnel and narrow area.
It will be full moon tomorrow in the morning. I'm sad.

Technical revolution overdue

Recently, I bought a new cell phone.
You won't believe it: I used this one (photo) until the day before yesterday. It was enough for me! It was solid, I liked it. But it is time for some progress. Anyway, I'm not a cell phone girl. I just like the safe feeling of carrying my mobile phone booth around. But this one weighed one pound. I'm happy to have a lighter device now!
Does anyone of you own a technical museum and would like these pieces as a giveaway? They are in excellent condition and work perfectly.
Also my computer is due for a change. This one is 10 years old and VERY slow. A new one will be bought next week, and then I'll have to reinstall. I moved all the data to external hard drives already.
Had larger jobs recently, not much time for my own art projects.
Time for supper!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Party in the street

Last night, we took a walk to the harbour. The sun was still shining at almost 9 p.m., in fact it is 7:52 real time (I hate energy saving time). The harbour was gilded, a wonderful sight. The building site is our new concert hall, this is where our tax billions go. Recently, a worker fell thru 2 levels and died.
We walked on to the world famous Reeperbahn. A street party had taken place, and we were hoping to avoid it. But in the middle of the place, the party was still going on. We slalomed along between the bottle heaps, careful not to step on broken glass. Our aim was an Irish pub where we heard live music, not very Irish -- well, "You've got to hide your love away" and "Losing my Religion" did evoke some memories. But what did he do to "3 little Birds"? He mercilessly chopped the tempo. The poor creatures ended up as 6 chicken halves.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


My Estonian project is finished, but first, I'll show you a different picture, because the same thing again is getting boring. I started these carnations when I was in Turkey in a flu which may explain the odd colours. It is huge, about the size of a baby's hand. The red parts of the unfinished carnation are sock wool.

Now about the finished project. Thank you so much for your kind comments and suggestions! It might be a good idea to have a tea-dyed background; actually, one corner got soaked in milk coffee in Turkey. J read the latest comments; he said, right, fill the gaps. But his idea was not to dye them, but to fill the whole space with embroidery. I'm afraid I will follow neither suggestion.
It is finished.
-- Even if I don't sell this one -- it is too much of an experiment --, I guess I might make smaller medallions of the same kind and put them into my shop. They might be used as a base for pillow tops or as parts of small quilts.

The red material will be running out in the near future, and it is different from the English crewel wool. If you look at it in a close-up,
it is smooth and feels a bit like cashmere. This quality (Zephir wool/Orchidee) is not produced anymore. I bought what I could get, that's my excuse for the full drawer. Crewel wool is not as obedient and soft as Zephir; you can see it in the detail; the darkest blue is new-bought crewel wool. My way out is to try 4-ply sock wool, untwisted. It works! Not any kind of wool can be used, because most knitting-wool is so soft that pulling the thread through the fabric 3 or 4 times is enough to wear it down and break it. Only sock-wool is spun firmly enough to allow embroidery. Not to talk about the price difference. -- My stash will probably last for this lifetime; if I run out of certain colours, I might start procyon-dyeing on white sock wool.
It is this irrational urge to have a safe support of your desired goods? It is just uncomfortable to know that your fav material will run out. Does it make sense to you?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Central area

Traditional zigzag lines are easy to make regular if you knit them. But it would hardly be my work if it was regular.
Do you think it goes with the rest?
See some of the sources I exploit
Of course, I have moved away from the traditional style. I feel it to be successful if some visitors might say it looks Mexican, Turkish or whatever. I like to globalize it.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Pretty skewed, isn't it? Maybe I pulled the frame a bit too tight. But it is a pleasant feeling to work on a surface that is firm like a drumhead. I am quite happy with these babyblock colors. I have plans to apply a simple, geometrical pattern in pastel colors on the free space. It has some similarity with a street, I guess. I will use it as a pillow top. Some spots have developed a kind of dish shaped 3-D-effect because the stitches are very close to each other.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Back to the primitive

From the safety of a grid--canvas and tent stitch--, as I learnt it from my grandmother, I moved on to the free motion work of crewel embroidery. What you find most often is a conservation of past techniques, Jacobean patterns and stitches, almost unknown in Germany. There are examples of wool embroidery on pillow tops and knit clothes, but nobody does that any more over here. In the English speaking countries, the tradition lives, thank the Lord, because where else would I get crewel wool from? Yet, if I look at today's crewel embroidery--however beautiful, this kind of embroidery got stuck in tradition. And let me make the remark that a lot of this stuff is darn boring. I feel that the wonderful freedom that lies in wool embroidery is not fully exploited. Not many artists make use of the potential of this technique, nor have I in the past -- exept in some attempts to use templates of modern classics like Kandinsky.
I continued working on the new project, moving away some distance from the Estonian original; this is because the technique allows me to make a free hand drawing on the fabric and to use the colour that just comes to my mind, and this way I surprise myself with the result. The shapes look a little distorted by the frame which pulled on some parts. I made the drawing on the relaxed fabric, so it will return into the inteded shapes like circles and squares after loosening the frame.
I had a strong motivation to work on it in the hotel in Turkey. Yet, I was a little ashamed because textile craft in Turkey is on a high level. Women are practised and skilful, and I, cultivating irregularities, was not sure whether these might be seen as a lack of my abilities, so I explained my work as "peasants' craft". To my surprise, the cook (a man) looked at my work with great interest; then he said that this looked like the work of Turkish nomads.
This pleased me greatly.

Some more crewel embroidery:

Charm of the primitive | Modern crewel embroidery | Katherine Shaugnessy