The first quarter is finished! And not just the first–the largest and hardest quarter, filled with all the color and texture decisions that will then replicate into the other quarters of the commissioned tapestry. Hooray! And I’m very happy with the results. Here it is shown on the working side (which will actually be the back side of the piece when it’s finished).
For a large piece with this many different overlaid images, it’s important to give enough differentiation between the elements without creating too much visual competition. Hence the background colors are subtle and muted, while the foreground colors are more vibrant. In a visual composition, the eye will be drawn to the highest contrast in the piece first, such as white against black. Keeping this in mind, even though the hummingbirds are green and the background is also green, they are the only element in the design that utilizes white and black–hence they hold the most contrast.
Let’s flip the piece over now and look at the front side.
Now we can see how all those delicate yarn choices have worked out on the front side of the piece, including the wood grain mimicry, veining in the leaves and flower petals, individual wing feathers, shading, and so on. When the full piece is hanging on the wall, this will be the lower right portion of the punch needle tapestry.
Of course, I want the hummingbirds to really shine in this piece–literally. An interesting fact about birds (and butterflies) is that while colors such as red, black, brown, and yellow come from pigments in the feathers, the colors blue, green, and purple can only be achieved via prisms within the feather structure. In the shade, these feathers appear black, but out in the sun, they glisten beautifully.
Dyed wool, however, is made with pigments, not prisms. So I had to find a different way to bring in that sense of glisten. Combining a kettle-dyed green wool with a crimpy wool-blend yarn with novelty metallic thread, the hint of shimmer comes through on his back, head, and wing. These were not the easiest fibers to convince through the punch needle, but they were worth the extra effort. A super-saturated variegated red brings to life the sense of individual glinting feathers on the ruby throat, each refracting the light depending on its angle to the viewer.
The female hummingbird is a little more subtle, though she has her own style of shimmer via a metallic thread carried on a dusty green wood-blend. Even though she is at rest among the greenery, she still has her to stand out from the background. When a hummingbird male is busy making his U-shaped courtship flight, I always look for the female in the bush. Even if you can’t find her right away, she’s in there. And he knows it!
Another element that helps the objects of focus stand out (literally) in the arrangement is the use of different length punch needles. The sky, background greenery, and wood border are all made with a shorter punch needle, while the flowers, foreground leaves, and hummingbirds are made with a longer punch needle. The lengthened shaft leaves behind longer loops, thus allowing for some actual three-dimensionality within the piece. Here is an angle shot to help you see how this technique plays out.
And now it’s time to move the backing on the frame and begin a new quarter of the tapestry! Stay tuned for further updates.