Designing a project is a critical phase, but the leap from design to execution can be daunting. When faced with the blankness of the raw warp or, in this case, the bare monk’s cloth with traced outlines, I know that jumping in will take some artistic encouragement. This includes building the right environment–one that is conducive to doing the work, which often must be balanced amongst the many other rigors of the day.
My large-scale fiber artworks thrive best in environments where they can settle in, instead of needing to constantly move about because they are in the way of other daily activities. It’s also important to be comfortable while working and have adequate light. There is never any joy in finding out what you thought was yellow last night is actually too orange by morning!
Creating the right studio support for “Hummingbird Haven” included refitting an office desk with organizational baskets for sorting yarn, an oversized ceramic yarn bowl, an ergo kneeling chair (love this one), an Ottlite (as introduced to me at the folk school), and a vase for holding punches and scissors. The Ottlite casts a light that mimics daylight, instead of the yellowish glow of nearby lamps. The head and boom are also adjustable, helping to bring light to where the work is actually happening.
Though minimal (especially compared with the space occupied for large tapestry production), this setup is serving as an excellent work station for punch needle tapestry. Vibrant colors begin their entrances, adding splashes of life to the black-and-white line drawing of the design. Beginning with the iris, I then moved towards the leaves and stems, the hollyhock blooms, and the tiger lilies.
Instead of embarking on the birds right away, I wanted to set the scene and introduce critical colors. As each new element is brought to life in yarn, this involves important choices in coloration and shading. I may have eight colors of yarn I’ve set aside for a particular object (say, the tiger lily) but ultimately use five of them. The range of colors that make it past the finalist round of selection and are integrated into the punch needle tapestry ultimately adjust the tone and color mood of the piece as a whole.
Because the hummingbirds are the stars of the show in this tapestry, I want to be certain that the colors I choose for them are especially stellar against the context of their floral environment. Next in line is the wood-toned border.
Punch needle rug hooking is worked on the back side of the piece, leaving the loops that make the front-face of the artwork on the opposite side. Periodically, I will turn the work over to see how it is coming together on the “front,” adjusting as necessary and trimming ends.
How different the front side appears! That is part of the magic of this medium, laying down the image and texture one loop at a time. Stay tuned for continued progress as the “Hummingbird Haven” commission comes to life.