Part 5, Stage 6 – Prototype / maquette making – planning and trials

To start my development of my seed pod sample into a finished piece I feel I need to do a little more investigation into the possibility of further variations. I absolutely love the original idea particularly the delicate and intricate simplicity of it. This I do not want to lose, however I feel it would be remiss of me not to try some variations just to see if it can be improved on. The original sample uses 3 leaves joined together with running stitch in a matching colour so not to be obvious. The seeds are strung along the length of the sample rather like peas in a pod. I want to play around with these starting points to see what varying them does to the outcome. Below are my notes with rough ideas for new samples:

Ideas for variations using two or three leaves 

Ideas for using four leaves forming the ends into a point

Ideas for using four leaves; enclosing the ends to form a ball.

I am not proposing to make finished samples of all these ideas. Some will be working samples. For example I will soon be able to see how a different stitch will work by trialing only a tiny section. It may or may not work with the leaves ie. it may rip them or the colour may not work and stand out too much detracting from the impact of the delicate structures in the leaves.

Stitch trials: Starting from top: Cream running and buttonhole stitch,  mid brown stitching, black stitching, dark brown stitching.

I started by trialing cream buttonhole and the running stitch as per the original sample. I knew I already liked the cream on cream look but I must say that I do prefer the buttonhole stitch to the running stitch. I think this is due to the fact that it creates a border or rather an edging around the shape. I then moved onto trying different colours of thread but still remaining within a natural pallette. I experimented with a mid brown and black thread but found the mid brown a little light and the black a little too harsh. I finally tried a dark brown cotton which created a much better contrast. It almost gives a weathered or singed look to the edge of the pod. I still was not sure of the colour so I returned to some of my earlier samples to look at the colours within them.

The darker veining on these leaves was particularly of interest. I decided to match this against my threads. Unfortunately despite a huge range of embroidery threads, I could only find some old polyester sewing thread. This is a little ‘hard’ and is not particularly good to work with on such a delicate item and kept looping as I stitched. I will need to go to my local craft shop and try to find some better thread.

I do feel that it is a much better colour and I am satisfied that it will work well with the buttonhole stitch to both construct and embellish the pods.

I thought I would make a couple of quick samples to try using the leaves to make different types of pods for instance the pod above which is made using only one leaf folded in half (inspired by the shape of the stitch samples above) and the one below made of two leaves stitched with buttonhole stitch in the new thread colour.

The pod above reminds me of Honesty seed pods. I used to love them as a child (we had a small patch that grew at the bottom of the garden) and I used to enjoy dismantling them to examine them and remove the seeds.

The picture below show a quick trial using four leaves (as the ball in previous posts) but bringing the ends to a point rather than enclosing them. I feel it is more interesting view from the end than the other pods but I don’t feel it works as well as using two or three leaves.

Next I tried a three leaf version like the original sample but with the buttonhole stitch and fewer seeds (I don’t want to use all the seeds I have during this sampling session). I have photographed it next to the original as a comparison:

Now I have put them together to compare them, I am not sure that I am so keen on the darker buttonhole stitch around the edge. I feel it is in danger of detracting from the simplicity of the structure and also drawing the eye away from the seeds within. 

It is amazing how much the piece changes once it is complete with seeds. Without the seeds, just stitching the leaves together, the brown thread works well giving the work a contrast. However once the seeds are in place the emphasis shifts completely and the brown doesn’t work as well. It focuses the eye on the outline rather than allowing it to continue through to the centre.

I decided to try two more samples; one with cream buttonhole stitch and one with brown running stitch and placed them against the other versions in a simple row.

Of the four samples above my favourite is the cream thread in buttonhole stitch. It seems to my eye at least that the buttonhole stitch gives just enough of an outline without cluttering the view of the audience. It adds a bit of a special finish to the piece. Reminding the viewer that it is a stitched piece. Putting the four samples together also proves that I prefer to see more seeds rather than fewer and that keeping the display method simple and neat will be important.

I was still concerned that it was not quite there yet so I though I would try one last variation that was on my list: using grasses around the edge of the pod. I had really enjoyed the movement of the grass vessels I had made earlier in the sample making stages. I felt that this was missing from the pod idea so I thought I would give it a go. I also wanted to introduce the elongated shape of the woven grass and stick sample from the last sampling stage.

I am so pleased with this version. It is an amalgamation of three different samples; the main structure of the plain three leaf seed pod, the elongated wispy shape of the woven twig sample and the movement of the grasses samples. It is very experimental but I love the elegant look it has due to the elongated shape as well as the movement added by using the grass around the edge. It does make it a more complex structure but does not hinder the view of the seeds within. I am going to use this model to begin my final piece.

I am proposing to create a small collection of 3 or 5 pods out of what could be a much larger collection to be hung simply on a plain white background in rows. Other possible methods would be laying on a natural wooden shelf or plinth in a neat line or placing within a acrylic box so they can be seen clearly. 

I like to see groups of things in odd numbers; to me it always looks balanced. When I visited Alexandra Palace to see ‘Findings’ by Alice Fox I noticed that all her small items were displayed in such neat groups. It is a display technique I particularly like. 

Darned acorns by Alice Fox mounted in a row on a plain white background, covered with an acrylic box to protect them.

Darned walnut halves by Alice Fox displayed laying on a perspex shelf, again within a perspex box for protection.

Leaf cubes by Alice Fox; Nine perfectly formed cubes made of leaves in a row. I love this layout and the way the cubes are slightly different but look identical at first glance. This is a style I would like to emulate with my piece. All the pods looking the same from a distance but unique up close.

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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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