I am continuing my slow progress on my artists’ book about Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Destructive Character’. I think that this might eventually be the cover. This is the bottom half of the panel. The top is going to be stripped back, bleached, slashed, raw edges and with a modernist stainless steel brooch incorporated somehow. This is the botton half. This represents the Victorianism or Bismarckian or Gruenderzeit aesthetic that I think he was rejecting (I am almost certainly misinterpreting it, but the project has changed from understanding the essay to understanding how Benjamin is my muse). So in this part of the panel I wanted to use a very traditional crazy quilt style which was hugely popular in England for a while and epitomises the leisured class element of Victoriana, super-over embellished pieces of needlework which serve very little purpose except to show off the maker’s ability with the needle:
Much too delicate and too heavy to sleep under, so they tended to be throws and firescreen panels and so on.
My big problem was that I could not bear to cut up the pieces into the irregular or crazy – like crazed glazes on china – shapes that you need to make this work. So I have ended up with squares from a pack I bought which I think were samples for fancy waistcoats or ties or similar. My crazy really should be crazier, but I did enjoy starting to embellish it, and learning some of the combination stitches you need to use to make it look authentic:
This is a decorated cretan stitch. The following is a more composite stitch:
It’s cretan stitch with straight stitch and colonial knots, plus glass beads which look like bunches of grapes to me. The close up makes me realise how shocking my embroidery is – certainly not making me marriage material in Victorian England. But I wanted to include some photos of the piece before it get encrusted with stuff, which it will. It’s a perfect travelling piece and the pieces, which are properly turned under (unusually for me), have stayed very flat because I used thoroughly contemporary fabric spray glue to keep them down while I sew them.. The result is much flatter and less ‘domed’ than you usually get with an applique piece. The glue might eventually corrode the silk, but I expect to be dead by then and past caring!
More on this as it develops.