Part 5, Stage 3 & 4 – Sample making

I was particularly interested in the skeleton leaf bowls by artist Kay Sekimachi during my research and decided to see if I could produce a similar sample. I started by using a decoupage technique with watered down PVA glue to try to create a small bowl using a glass as a mold. Unfortunately it didn’t work well. I didn’t think about releasing it from the mold and the PVA stuck hard making it impossible to remove it also pooled and created very shiny areas which I did not want. Learning from this for my second sample I wrapped the glass in clingfilm I then used a very small amount of PVA to hold the leaves together they were then stitched together using a decorative metallic thread and I then used a few coats of spray varnish to strengthen the leaves. The spray varnish,  I discovered stabilised the leaf very well. Even a light coat meant that the leaf could be bent and folded without damage (this may come in useful when I come to try my idea of embroidering skeleton leaves in a while). It did not make the structure as hard as I would like as a finish as it is still bendy but it is stable and useable.

I really like the way that the leaves capture the light. They almost glow as the sunlight passes through them the metallic stitching works well with this providing a nice contrast in colour and texture.

For my next sample I decided to try machine stitching to join the leaves by following the veins in the leaves. I used a light gold thread to symbolise the preciousness of nature. I wouldn’t say that it was a complete success as the pull of the thread tore at the structure of the leaf degrading it severely.

Curiously it almost adds to the delicate nature of the bowl. I gently tore away the excess leaves leaving a ragged edge to highlight this. The bowl has taken on a very lace like appearance a totally different effect from the previous sample.

For my third sample I tried layering up multiple leaves and hand stitching them together in the same way as the first sample. It was molded over a larger, more shallow bowl. It sits well enough but could do with a slight adjustment as it is a little too shallow for my taste. It is also a little bit floppy. If I were to remake it I would find something to make it more rigid so it could be useable. I do have some resin and ‘decoform’ in stock and also some ‘pavapol’ so I may do some explorative sampling to explore the effects of these on the leaves. It does have a lovely translucency which I wouldn’t want to lose.

I tried to go for a simplified form for my fourth sample. I limited myself to only four leaves and tried to see if they could be joined simply with a running stitch to form a vessel. By stitching very closely around the edges then folding in one end a very simple but very pleasing small vessel with a lovely sheer appearance. Again I would like to find a way to stiffen it to make it more stable and protect it. I really like the simplicity of its form, its delicate look and the lines created by the veins.

My next step was to take the same number and size of leaves and technique for joining but this time folded in both ends. For a bit of fun I also added a pleated leaf inside the ‘ball’ to add more interest when looking closely. This little ball also has an added bit of fun – my daughter and I ended up with the giggles trying to throw it to each other; it is so light it will not travel through the air and just floats to the ground! So much fun.

My last sample is a development if the previous two samples. This time I limited myself to only three leaves and stitched them in the same way. Instead of folding in the ends I wrapped them carefully to form a point. This created a pod similar to some in my sketchbook. To add to this effect I added a string of hollyhock seeds from my garden to add interest when viewed up close. This is by far my favourite sample of this set. I feel really satisfied by the simplicity of the form, the intricate lines created by the veins and the beautiful sheer, ethereal feel to it and could make them all day long. It would be great to try them in different sizes or with different types and shapes of leaves.

My final task for this post was to record the samples in my large A3 sketchbook. For this I chose to draw some myself and also to photograph the samples and use digital filters to see if I could learn more by examining the samples in a different way. For example; by sharpening an image, zooming in or looking at it in the negative one can often see different details emerge. Also new colour scheme ideas emerge. Skeleton leaves could be dyed different colours for different effects for instance.

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About Julie Hooker

Having recently returned to my roots in Surrey, I am currently studying a BA Hons degree with the OCA. My work is often inspired by the local countryside in the beautiful Surrey Hills area and the wild rugged nature of the North Cornish coast. Steam engines and abandoned industrial history are also recent themes. A free machine embroiderer and felt maker; I like to explore the use of natural, found materials to create my art, whether that be as raw materials to stitch or weave with or as a material with which to produce dye or print with. Previously, I completed City and Guilds parts 1 & 2 Creative Embroidery at the East Berkshire College in Windsor in 2007. I was also awarded first place in the wearable art section of the National Quilt Championships 2008 and 2009 held annually at Sandown Park.
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