Guest Article by Roxanne Lasky
My name is Roxanne Lasky and I am pleased to contribute to the No Serial Number Blog with my take on hand stitching. While I have been a textile artist for quite some time, I started my art journey as a watercolour and oil painter. All of my work is infused with a love of history, nature and personal experience and how they influence the meanings that emerge. I experiment with materials and love dyeing with natural substances because I enjoy the hunt, the element of surprise and the knowledge I acquire in the process. I am especially grateful for the South Carolina climate as it lends itself to growing indigo from scratch. I love to share what I learn.
How do you transmit the character of a pencil sketch with thread? The sharpness of the point, the lightness of the stroke? I had to contend with this question during work on a recent hand-stitched project. This project was unusual in that I had dyed the fabrics and designed them into what I thought was a finished piece. I had taken the green and subtle brown cottons and arranged them with their linen counterparts. I positioned the values in my usual grid-style manner, interrupted, rather punctuated by some orange, rust and muted pink silk and cotton. I had stitched in some reverse appliqué, following the serendipitous marks in the dye and highlighted some other shapes that looked like leaves or feathers.
I was satisfied with the outcome, admiring the way the dye-shapes moved through the composition. How effortlessly the hues had migrated. How easily the work had come together, how clever the engineering to include finished and unfinished edges. It spoke of movement, balance and contrast. But it had no story. Most of the handwork I’ve done for the last four or five years has been about story. My paintings of people with layered glazes always hint of story. I realized that this mono-dye composition needed more.
Because I had gotten very attached to the accidents of dye that followed their own organic paths, I was hesitant about covering the fabric with stitching. How would I add narrative to the wonderful liquid serendipity without destroying it? How might I stitch with the lightness of a finely sharpened pencil? I wrestled with the options for several days, looking carefully for clues in the cloth. Then I started to stitch. It’s no secret that the presence required to tend to a task at hand is the surest way to the answers.
I had set up the ironing board at half-height. The quilt is large enough to need some support and this solution sweetly reminded me of how my mother stood at the ironing board, adding beads to wedding dresses when I was a little girl. It was wide enough to position the quilt for stitching with room for a notebook and pen to the side.
You can also purchase her book ‘Design and Stitch: the art of everyday patchwork’