Fashion embroidery - embroidery techniques and inspiration for Haute-Couture clothing by Jessica jane pile
Embroidery Techniques and Inspiration for Haute-Couture Clothing
Jessica Jan Pile
Price £25/ US $
Jessica Jane Pile is the Production Director of Hand & Lock, an embroidery atelier based in London which specialises in work for The Military, The Royal Family, Ecclesiastical and European fashion houses. She is in a perfect position to tutor the reader on fine detail embroidery and for those who wait eagerly for the new embroidered garments that Fashion Week unveils, then this book is for you. It’s what everyone who wants to push their embroidery skills and aim for the heights of Haute Couture should be reading.
The book would be most useful for aspiring fashion embroiderers. It provides the tools to get you started and provides examples of work by Hand & Lock and couture designers (such as Alexander McQueen, Oscar de le Renta and Elie Saab) to demonstrate how embroidery in couture pieces have been constructed. The book explores the difference between hand and machine embroidery, how these are achieved in fashion embroidery and how knowing this will enable you decide what embroidery is best for you. There are instructions on what materials you need to get started and how to set up a frame properly with the correct tension, how to develop and transfer a pattern and the basic hand embroidery stitches which form the basis of couture embroidery. There are not a huge number of stitches and the emphasis here is on getting the practice and using skill and imagination to produce innovative and eye-catching work. Once the basics are covered, more options are explored with silk shading, tambour beading and goldwork (for which Hand & Lock are most famous for).
This is a wonderful book, beautifully illustrated with close-up photographs of couture embroidery. The author shares her expertise to explain how the featured work is constructed and gives the reader the sense that given some imagination and a working knowledge of the best techniques you can achieve anything. The Haute Couture embroidery included in the book shows you what you can aspire to. The instructions given are clear and practical and it is good to see a book that doesn’t treat fashion embroidery as a secret club that the select few are invited to join. If you are working on foundations of good technique and preparation, which are described in the book, then you are in the best position to start creating something fit for the catwalk.
If you are interested in Hand & Lock, please see the following features that I have written about them:
Hand & Lock feature for Workshop on the Web magazine here
The Embellished Handbag event blog post here
The new book retains the essence of WOW with tutorials from leading textile artists, an interview with the Gods of Textiles, Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn (below) and Product reviews, now incarnated as ‘Hero’ Products which give you an in-depth review of specific items (this time water-soluble fabrics). For those people who love to hold a book, it’s a great opportunity to peer closely at Michael Wicks’ stunning photography and there is more of a feature made of the contributing artists, including a page for each to introduce them and their work.
The strength of the book is the focus on tutorials by the artists. It takes a personal approach with them talking about their work and inspiration as well as the process of how they create. The artists demystify their often simple processes which combine to produce wonderfully complex work. Hilary Beattie, always a favourite, is teaching the process of making your own fabric for a hanging. Hilary’s voice is like a warm hug, there to reassure you in your choices and guiding you all the way.
Caroline Bell’s exquisite eco-printing and lamination creates spectacular end results. Laura Edgar talks about her colour palette, inspiration and how she tackles each stage of work to create her atmospheric landscapes.
Maggie Grey’s vessel has a bit of everything – step by steps for more involved techniques and ways of taking the process further. Angie Hughes’ work is compelling and she creates a rich, textured organic piece building on several techniques that are melded together and reveal hidden treasures the closer you look. All wonderful.
The products section focus on water soluble is well chosen as it’s something that most of us are likely to have but may not feel comfortable navigating around the possibilities of the many different brands and varieties. Amo House walks us through all of this and there’s a great selection of different work from her delicate cobweb scarf, Glynda Morrison’s felted waistcoat to Maggie’s crocheted sample for a waistcoat of her own.
I’m slightly biased about the interview with Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn as it was one I did myself. Having done interviews for WoW for several years, this was one of the most interesting (and daunting) as there isn’t anyone in the textile world who hasn’t heard of them. They talk about their past, present and future work as well as their work as Joint Presidents of the Embroiderers’ Guild in the UK.
Stalwarts of Workshop on the Web won’t be disappointed by the new look of WoW. The articles are less structured in the book but this suits the approach of the artists to their work and allows a more personal element to join the fray. We hear more about what motivates them to create and how they go about it, which for those always intrigued by the processes and thinking behind creative souls, is a great bonus. There is more content online for those that have bought the book and so it sets to be a very inspirational venture for the WoWbook team.
Els van Baarle and Cherilyn Martin have an artistic relationship going back over two decades and have worked collaboratively during that time. In this new book, they have come together to look at how to approach textile work whilst following a theme and how one theme can be developed differently depending on your own techniques and style. The book offers practical advice to the textile artist about ways of working to achieve an end goal and showcases some spectacular and thought-provoking finished pieces.
What binds these two artists together is their interest in common themes: the past, passage of time, ancient cultures and marks left by Man. These themes lead to the creation of each artist’s individual work but with a cohesive quality that allows them to sit together comfortably. Their paths cross over when looking at how to delve further into the development of a piece of work. Materials used include fabric, paper, wax, paint and thread and uses dyeing, screenprinting, lamination and layering. The raw materials may be similar but each artist’s work is individual.
To start developing any work from a theme, there is first a chapter on the creative process, which sets out the phases of a creative process (inspiration, gestation, fruition and assessment). These neatly set out how having the right planning and consideration into how a piece of work will evolve can make the process easier and gives stages of development to follow. A comprehensive look at elements of design, colour, proportion and balance also gives some foundation for a practical approach to a new piece.
The main body of the book deals with several themes which cover the artists’ shared interests. There are works based on graveyard stones and inscriptions, walls and their markings, Pompeii, the past, book forms and using everyday objects. Each chapter delves more deeply into the many interpretations that each theme throws up and how a particular focus can be followed. Each artist’s own interpretation is explained but there are also suggestions on how the reader could develop their own approach. By being able to follow their process of work and how each stage builds on the last, a clearer picture emerges of how a considered and thoughtful approach can provide the building blocks for a balanced end result.
There are some wonderful finished pieces included from each artist. Cherilyn Martin’s Pillow Books, a series of Vintage dress collars mounted on screen-printed cotton (below); Els van Baarle’s Letters from a Friend (above), a series of works developed from the envelopes kept by her friend Henk and made into wonderful cascades of colour. Both have created some beautiful book forms which are a highlight.
The book ends with suggestions on how to see (perceive) what surrounds us with a view to finding more magic in the everyday. By tapping into this, we are more likely to add fuel to our imagination and be more receptive to our creative development.
Photography reproduced through Batsford Books; photography by Joop van Houdt.
You can Stitch Stories
Personal Places, Spaces and Traces in Textile Art
Published by Batsford
Price £22.50/ $29.95
The book develops an idea that was first raised in Cas’s book The Found Object in Textile Art and looks more closely at how the world around you can be a starting point to develop your creative ideas. By making a connection to people or places, it becomes a way in to building a narrative using stitch. Each chapter that follows looks at aspects of recording information, how inspiration can be seized upon, albeit from the everyday surroundings or from your travels, adding detail to your work and telling a story.
Dealing with ways of recording your travels or observations is addressed early on. We are given a wide view of the benefits of gathering information by journal, sketching, stitching, recording with digital media and mark-making. There are checklists and suggestions of how you could approach making these observations.
The book is all about finding inspiration and translating your experiences into textile art. There are some exercises and mini-workshops to do which provide a wide range of techniques to try out, including wet appliqué, low-water immersion dyeing, monoprinting, transfer paints and printing. All are presented with photos from Cas’s work, which mean there is a huge amount of fabulous surfaces that you will most likely gain a lot of inspiration from.
The exercises and tutorials are cocooned within a much broader exploration of what it is to create textile art that is meaningful to you, your community and the world. The book is infused with the ideas and thoughts of a group of textile artists, all of whom have a connection to people, places or objects and who communicate their feelings through their art. They range from a view of the world the artist sees (Anne Kelly, Noriko Endo), an affinity to the environment that develops into work over a period of time (Holly Story), recycling and upcycling (Peta Lloyd) or social activism (Mary Fisher). These are only a handful of the artists featured, and all the work is beautifully selected. The artists all have something valid and thought-provoking to say about the essence of textile art.
The subject is treated subjectively, giving thoughts and suggestions of how to start a journey of discovery by showing you the motivations and considerations of textile artists around the world in order to create a world of art in which you can find your place. It is a highly absorbing read, and I don’t think you will even break the surface after one read.
This book review can be found in the March 2015 issue of Workshop on the Web.
Textile Techniques and Inspiration from the Natural World
Published by Batsford Books
This book is coming out at just the right time for the reader to sit in their garden during a lovely summer and savour the delights that it has to offer. Anne Kelly produces such beautiful work inspired by nature and she has gathered together work that details the prolific relationship between this world and textile artists.
It is a workbook on how to approach nature art and uses many examples from her own work and a whole host of local, national and international artists to illustrate. The preponderance of local artists ties in very well with the idea of connecting to both the natural world and local community. There are well-known textile artists such as Lindsay Taylor, Pauline Verrinder, Alice Fox, Kim Thittichai and Lesley Patterson-Marx with those who work predominantly in paper, such as Jennifer Collier and Louise Petiffer.
It explores how all these artists work and guides the reader on how to do the same, whether by creating your own ‘nature table’, making larger scale pieces so you are forced to look more closely at the finer detail or sampling through stitch. My particular favourite section was Taking Flight which looked at the use of birds and insects as motifs.
This is one of the most beautiful books to come out this year and is definitely worth delving into. We get to see a huge amount of beautiful and varied work by the many artists involved but it has the vision of Anne Kelly guiding us through the subject matter that makes this a must-have.
In June 2016 issue of Workshop on the Web
Living in a Fairytale World
Published by Glitterati Incorportated
$50 / £30
Available through Amazon in the UK
This book has been highly anticipated all around the globe by fans of the textile artist Mr Finch. This book does not disappoint. For those who have glimpsed into his world of creatures and woodland flora and fauna through his Etsy shop, Facebook page and pins on Pinterest, his creations are brought together to form a cohesive whole and show how his work interacts to create a mythology of its own.
A Preface isn’t usually the focal point of a review, but this one, written by Justine Hand, is so beautifully written and perfectly encapsulates the essence of what the book is about, that it requires a mention. She explains the world of Mr Finch in such magical terms, that you cannot wait to wade further into the book and explore.
The book is very well structured. There is a conversation with Mr Finch, which is a short but perfect length, as it introduces the artist and his methods without overpowering the work that you will be seeing. The book is divided into sections according to the type of work it is: Insectum, Avialae, Funghi and Mammalia. Each section is filled with a huge number of photographs of the work with details provided at the start of sizes, what they are made of and interesting facts. The photographs are beautiful, and show off the detail and execution of each piece of work. Some are photographed on display, some in Mr Finch’s studio, and some in a slightly more surreal setting, such as one of my favourite photos, of a spider having a tea party and pouring a cuppa. You get to see the works in fantastic detail, some of the ways in which Mr Finch works (he talks of creating and storing a multitude of birds’ legs for future use) and different methods of presentation. There are quotes from the artist dotted throughout and these serve to create layers of this world that exists, where toadstools are the staple of fairytales, and his hares are always made with ears straight up, so that they are always listening. These snippets all add to your perception of a world where the animals assume human characteristics, and can be cloaked or dressed in ruffs or bow ties. Animals that we perceive as constantly moving and frenetic are caught in a tableau of stillness and serenity, and there is great beauty to be found in that.
This book is such a wonderful investment and shows off the work of Mr Finch perfectly. In all of our mad lives, you could sit down with this book and lose yourself in it.