Air 2, Textile art for Elements Exhibition – Jackie Harley

The Elements: Air

Images of a bird in flight created in stitch on hand dyed fabric
Textile art representing Air in The Elements exhibition

This is the second textile piece I have made to represent Air for our Elements exhibition and continues to use birds and flight as a theme. Again I wanted to create a ghost like image so there is minimal detail on the bird outline.

Techniques used to make the piece

This piece is essentially two layers. The base layer is a large piece of cotton which I dyed grey and then using printing blocks made by cutting Funky Foam into feather shapes, I used discharge paste to reveal the images.

Printing blocks made from Funky Foam cut into the shape of feathers
Two printing blocks made from Funky Foam

For the top layer I started with a sketch of a bird which I enlarged on a photocopier. I taped the photocopied sketch onto a think piece of cardboard and then taped a piece of Georgette material over the top. As the Georgette is a sheer fabric I was able to see the drawing underneath which enabled me to easily paint the image onto the fabric. I used white acrylic paint to do this but with hindsight I should have used a textile medium because I found that the paint showed the subsequent needle marks. Still we learn as go don’t we?

The two layers were basted together before finally stitching over the painted bird by hand. I chose to make long stitches with various heavy weight cotton perle threads, hoping to give the impression of feathers. Initially I thought I would use shades of grey: here’s the fellow with a beady eye:

But I decided I didn’t really like the effect so needed to do some de-stitching!

The final piece is stretched and framed (not shown) and measures 75cm x 75cm

Hummingbird in flight: textile art for Air in The Elements exhibition

Using flight as a source of inspiration

This is the first piece I have made for our Elements exhibition. Having decided that I would use flight as my interpretation of the Air theme I was inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs of animal locomotion. Muybridge was a pioneer of motion photography who used multiple cameras to take a series of stop motion photographs. He then copied the silhouettes onto a disc which was viewed through his zoopraxiscope device, and to the observer the images appeared to move. This is considered a precursor to cinematography. My aim was to show the movement of a bird in flight by using a series of images similar to individual frames of Muybridge stop motion photographs.

I think hummingbirds are in my subconscious as there is a small wooden one hanging up in our bathroom; a souvenir from a holiday in Cuba. To emphasise the Air theme I wanted the images to be ghost like and transparent.

Techniques used to make the piece

I began by drawing the 6 images. These were then photocopied onto sheets of organza and cotton which can be run through an inkjet printer. The base layer is large piece of plain white cotton. I layered the sheets of printed cotton in place and then hand stitched over all of the lines in the image. Once the image was defined the excess areas of the printed sheets were cut away. On top of this layer I added a large piece of Procion dyed silk. The printed organza sheets were placed on top of this, repeating the stitching and cutting back. The layers were stretched over a canvas and finally fragments of sheer fabric was stitched loosely in place with invisible thread.

The finished piece is framed (not shown) and measures 86cm x 61cm.