Endeavourers Reveal Day 6 – Raindrops
It is time for the reveal day of the online group The Endeavourers. This time our theme was “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”
I love rainy days because I can stay inside and work on art projects with no guilt. Here in the Houston area, we get plenty of rain, on average about 50 inches a year (about 1260 mm).
But occasionally, as with Hurricane Harvey, we can get that much rain in one week! And, as this part of Texas is very flat, and subjected to a lot of urban sprawl, when we get a lot of rain in a short amount of time, it has nowhere to go, and the flooding is horrible.
I have helped to clean up after floods about six times, and it has made me really cognizant of the importance of digitizing and uploading photos. I finished that with my own family photos about a decade ago, but, in July 2017, I got boxes and boxes of photos from my husband’s family, when his mom moved out of her flood-prone house. And just in time, because Harvey hit about six weeks later. Some of the photos had already been through a flood or two, and if I hadn’t taken them home, they probably would have been lost forever.
And that would have been a tragedy. There are so many great ones that call me to tell their stories — war-time street scenes and vehicles that were works of art and famous and not-so-famous entertainers and so many more.
So for this theme, I decided to portray my favorite rainy-day activity of scanning and editing photos.
From a big box of pictures, I pull a handful to work on and place them in a bowl. (I will not let myself look at any other pictures until these are scanned, edited, labeled, and stored.) These were in Aunt Millie’s photo albums until they went through one flood and my mother-in-law pulled them off the old pulp paper. She saved them, but the captions have all been lost. I love how they curl up and reveal their backs, stained and shaded from the albums.
Some of them are only an inch square. I scan them at 300-600 dpi, and use Photoshop® to fix their contrast as much as possible. Then I assign them a number and place them in proper photo pockets. (When I get them all done, I think I will have a better idea as to their chronology.)
So for this piece, I wanted to portray the old photos, the window with photo thumbnails, the screen with some of my favorites, the color histogram, and then, one photo that I would bring back to life as a thread-sketched portrait.
These three ladies jumped out at me as the ones to include. I have worked with them so long, I feel like I know their names.
First we have “Kate,” who reminds me very much of Kate Chiconi with her big hat. 🙂 (If you don’t know Kate, go to her website and scroll down until you see her profile picture in her comments, and you will see the resemblance, I hope!)
Next we have “Emmeline Octavia,” who appealed to me with her air of quiet dignity.
And then we have the undisputed star of the show, the tragic actress “Margot,” who has suffered much in life through being saddled with the given name of Mary Sophronia, and not being allowed to have her hair bobbed, resulting in having to put it up in a faux bob. Today she is Margot, but next week she may be Evangeline or Paloma.
This piece was one of the most fun I have ever worked on. However, it doesn’t photograph that well, so let’s tour the details.
You can see the “old photos” in the blue and rust batiks in the bottom left corner, and then the “thumbnail window” above them. I stamped textile paints onto white cloth to make the little photo thumbnails.
Then I wanted to show that two of the portraits were suggesting ideas to me, rising up like little ghosts on the screen. I purposely left them as just thread sketches.
And then there is Margot’s portrait, which is really a free standing piece.
At first I printed her out on an iron-on fabric sheet, but I couldn’t sew through that. I didn’t have any printer cotton, but I did have some Lutradur. That worked wonderfully! The printer ink tinted it lightly, so I could see where to do the thread-sketching, and it was crisp and lovely to sew through.
It turns out I need to add very pale threads to my collection, and I should not have outlined her head with the green background thread, but overall she looks pretty good. I have not done any thread-sketching of people before, so I was pretty happy with her.
Some of the threads and trims I used on her portrait are from Aunt Millie’s huge collection of notions, so it felt fitting to use them.
Okay, so on to my biggest problem and how I solved it.
To represent the old photos as they look on the computer screen, I had printed the three of them on a silk printer sheet. In the overall composition, the light colors of the thumbnail window and of Margot’s portrait were on the sides, with Margot looking dead center at that silk print. And it looked way too boring to be the focal point, and the silk just did not blend in with all the cottons. It was like looking at a TV screen.
Also, poor Emmeline in the top left corner was barely visible.
I tried moving the white around, by adding buttons for the task bar icons, and white belt buckles to suggest the perforation on those old film strips, but it didn’t help. Then I tried plain Lutradur, cut into shapes to emphasize different areas of the old photos. It looked okay, but it didn’t blend in nicely.
So I reprinted that combination photo onto Lutradur, cut it up, and glued it on. The glue (Elmer’s Craft Bond) made the printer ink blur a little, but in interesting ways, I thought.
Although sadly, Emmeline’s photo still didn’t gain much definition. And then the printer showed an error message that it was not going to work any more, so I couldn’t keep experimenting.
Here is the final piece again:
I really enjoyed working on this piece, and combining my loves of photo restoration and art quilts! I am thinking of it as an introduction to a series, and planning to do a lot more of the thread-sketched portraits.
I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else came up with. You can see the results here, and since most people do two posts about each entry, one on The Endeavourers, and one on their home blog, here is a list of the participants:
Catherine – http://www.knottedcotton.com
Janine – https://rainbowhare.com/
Nancy – http://www.patchworkbreeze.blogspot.com/
Carol – http://beadsandbirds.blogspot.com/
Ruth – http://benandcharlyscorner.blogspot.co.uk/
Gwen – https://textileranger.com/
Martha – www.weekenddoings.com
Maureen – https://josephinaballerina.com/
Kay – http://thecraftyyak.wordpress.com
Fiona – http://celticthistlestitches.blogspot.co.uk/
Paula – https://paulabquilts.com/
Wendy – http://www.piecefulthoughts.com/
Janie – https://crazyvictoriana.blogspot.com/
I’m greatly honoured to have donated my name to a member of the cast of this lovely piece 🙂 Particularly as it dignifies the hat my Husband refers to as the Pink Mushroom (I’m not very tall…) 🙂
Just remind him that you stand in a long tradition of Women of Flawless Taste and Style! 🙂
Well, I can give it a try, I suppose 🙂
Kate, I LOVE that hat! Always have 🙂
Me too, which is why I treat his comment with the contempt it deserves 🙂
It will be fun to see where this theme takes everyone. It definitely had me thinking, and I’m not entirely happy with my end result, but it was a good process nonetheless. I only posted on the Endeavourers site; my other blog has a different post this time around. And yes, I can see the resemblance to Kate (love her pink hat!).
Yes, I didn’t like this particular theme, but it brought out work that I do like, so it was a good thing.
I love your piece, it is so visually interesting!
Thank you! It was an interesting challenge!
As always, I love seeing how different people interpret the theme and, as always, I like yours best! You didn’t take the idea as literally as many of the others and the direction you went is so perfect for you. I can see how much fun this must’ve been and it’ll give you new motivation with the photo project. Super!
Thank you, you are so kind!
I was a little worried about not going in the literal direction, but Margot et al were pretty vociferous about getting the limelight this time. 🙂
This is amazing, Gwen. I also look forward to rainy days to stay in and sew but I’ve never done anything nearly so interesting as this! I love all the different elements and how they work together and I’m especially awed by your thread painting of Margot 🙂
You post is showing as a draft on the Endeavourers dashboard but it hasn’t published so please can you go over and publish it. I think the scheduling on blogger is quite confusing and we will send out a tute or something because it’s happened to quite a few people.
Yes, thankfully Catherine let me know too, and I was able to figure it out. This is the third time that has happened to me, so I would appreciate a tutorial. I think I end up going through the hoops a little differently each time.
I am glad you like this piece! I feel that the prompts from the Endeavourers have helped me find my direction!
I can sympathize with your technical issues in dealing with photos on cloth, plus how best to convey photos in another format. I like your Lutrador solutions, but wish Kate and Emmaline were a bit more visible. Perhaps the photo of your piece makes them hard to see. A+ for technical and artistic difficulty.
Yes, if I were going to redo this piece for a show, I would try to make them a little more visible. But I was trying to convey my thought process of taking faded photos and bringing them back to life, more than showing the individuals. Right now they are lost in the mists of time but when I take a good look at them, I start to get ideas about how to portray them, but those ideas are faint at first. If I was more industrious, I would have appliqued them as just human shapes. 🙂 A tough topic to communicate and one that would definitely need more work if I was going to enter it anywhere!
It would be interesting to redo this one, given all the technical stuff you learned, but since I never remake anything I can understand if you do not. Of course I do revise pieces.
I know where you get your powers of concentration! Your father. We really aren’t watching baseball this season but he wanted something to do in the evenings….so he is doing 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles: the kind that might have 9 different shades of green blending into one another…..the kind I would put in a garage sale! Anyway, even though I don’t understand all the steps you take in your work, I find it fascinating!
Good, I am glad you like it. The actual steps are not that important, I just put them there for anyone who might want to try the same process.
Your thread sketches, and the way they interpret the photos, are amazing!
Well, that blew me away…..NOT technical at all but I really liked the thread sketches.
I really love that embroidered side view of Margot. It’s incredible. Is it something you offer professionally? If so, please send me a link to your site, and if not, please give it some thought 😉
I think it would be a fabulous way to add interest to displays of family photos.
Thank you, you are so kind!
I have not done embroidered portraits professionally, but I have thought about it. I would love to turn people’s special photos into a larger and more colorful version for them. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to give me your thoughts! 🙂
I’m always struck by how artists can get past the literal interpretation of something in designing a work of art, and you are no exception! Not a literal raindrop in sight, which is all I could have come up with! Your work is wonderful.
Thank you so much!
I was thinking of you yesterday because I am using more of that gray floral fabric you sent me in a baby quilt!
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