Regional Competition 2016

Regional Competition 2016


Sponsored by Coats UK

Aim: to create a piece of textile work using hand and/or machine embroidery to reflect the title ‘All Creatures Great and Small’

NB The work should not have been exhibited previously.

I always go to the Oxford English Dictionary for a definition of the subject which seems to be a good starting point and sometimes reveals surprises. A creature is firstly defined as: ‘an animal as distinct from a human being’ but then as I read further I find that it can be applied to 'any living being’ which would, of course include humans! So, for the purposes of this competition I am going to make an executive decision and restrict the definition to any animal. This gives us vast scope as it encompasses every species of animal living on land, in water or in the air, from the largest to the smallest. 

At this stage I think it is important to point out that in beginning to think about designing or planning your piece it is not necessary to think that you must necessarily depict an animal in the recognisable sense. You are free to interpret the title in its broadest sense and employ your imagination to explore any aspect of the subject which appeals to you.

The following are suggestions which might help and/or inspire you:

Choose an animal or group of animals which appeal to you. Find pictures on the internet or from books, magazines etc. Study their shape, form, pattern, colour and texture. Hone in on claws, beaks, wings, skin, fur, eyes, feathers, tails etc. Use digital technology to concentrate on parts of the animal to reveal more detail. 
For example take a butterfly’s wing, enlarge it to reveal more about the pattern and the colours and then isolate a section which interests you and could become the focus of a piece of work.
Look at where it lives and what it produces eg nests, shells, cobwebs, eggs, larvae, cocoons etc  
Or consider an animal’s strategy for protecting itself by using camouflage. 
Play with the shape of an animal. Create a silhouette. What happens if you repeat it, rotate it, cut it up? 
Experimenting in this way can lead to lots of possibilities.

Look at the work of textile artists, for example:  

Karen Nicol, Winner of the EG Beryl Dean Award 2014 transforms animals in to works of art through her embroidery and embellishment. See ‘Embroidery’ magazine July/August 2014

Adeline Schwab was an EG Scholar in 2013 and specialises in working in miniature including exquisite depictions of tiny insects and birds. 

Jane E Hall, has embarked on an ambitious project to embroider examples of all 72 British butterflies to highlight the need for their conservation. See ‘The Art and Embroidery of Butterflies’ Search Press ISBN 10 1844485307 and ‘Embroidery’ magazine March 2015.

Nicola Jarvis, hand embroiderer, who is well known for her embroideries of birds decorated with William Morris inspired patterns. 

Kay Dennis who specialises in stump work, a technique which was very popular in the 17th Century and often included depictions of animals, especially insects, birds and even lions, all often out of proportion! There are many examples surviving particularly in exquisite boxes and mirror surrounds.  The EG Collection includes examples of the work of Roy and Barbara Hirst including ‘The Millenium Box’. 

Alison Larkin, who is giving the Madeira Lecture at our Regional Day 2016, has a particular love of all forms of 17th century embroidery from silk shading work to crewel work and has lovely examples on her website : There are lots of little insects, birds etc nestling amongst the traditional embroidery.

‘Stitch’ Magazine Issue 94 April /May has an article ‘From Sketch to Stitch’ in which Katherine Servant explains how she creates mixed media pieces which focus on animals and birds. 

The same issue of ‘Stitch’ includes a project to make an embroidered 3D bird by Janet Humphrey. Could that inspire you to work in 3D which is another option to consider.

Francis Pickering’s ‘Under the Cover’ ISBN 978-o-9573511-0-3, explores the creation of paper and fabric books which could be used for a mixed media approach.         

Literature, poetry, music might inspire you:

On the last page of Issue no 96 of ‘Stitch’ Magazine, there is a piece by textile artist Chris Hammacott who suggests that these lines from a Bruce Springsteen song about a rook are calling out to be stitched.
          ‘Tonight I can feel a cold wind at my back; I am flying over the grey fields my feathers long and black’                   Maybe they appeal to you.

Literature : ‘Just So Stories’ by Rudyard Kipling, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell,  ‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams, ‘Tarka the Otter’ by Henry Williamson, Ring of Brightwater’ by Gavin Maxwell, ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ by James Bowen , ‘Marley and Me’ by John Grogan.’

Poetry: ‘The Caterpillar’ by Robert Graves, ,The Crocodile’ by Lewis Caroll, ‘A Narrow Fellow in the Grass ‘ by Emily Dickinson, ‘The Tiger ‘ by William Blake, ’The Eagle’ by Tennyson, ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ by T S Eliot etc

Music: ‘The Carnival of the Animals’ by Saint Saens, ‘The Lark Ascending’ by Vaughan Williams, ‘The Thieving Magpie’ by Rossini, ’White Horses ‘ by Jacky Lee etc

Art: Damien Hirst’s creatures in formaldehyde caused a stir when first 
    exhibited. They provide anatomical studies of shape, form and function.
    These two mixed media artists, have published books full of inspiration
    ‘Natures Powers and Spells: Landscape Change and Me’ by Carry Ackroyd, Langford Press , ISBN 978-1-904078-35-7
    ‘Mark Hearld’s Workbook by Simon Martin, Merrell, ISBN 978- 1858945866   

          Albrecht Durer 1471-1528 known for his drawings, watercolours and woodcuts; George Stubbs 1742-1806, a painter of horses;   
          Franz Marc 1880-1916, a German expressionist; Pablo Picasso, 1881- 1973 ‘The Bull’; Henri Rousseau, 1844-1910, French naïve painter.

Young children love drawing and can produce delightfully original images which cry out to be transformed into stitch. Choose one you already have or ask a child to draw their favourite animal and take it from there.

Adult colouring books have become popular as a means of de-stressing. Browsing through these may reveal an image which could be the starting point for a piece of stitching. Try’ Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom’ ISBN 978-1849941679

Many museums have collections of taxidermy and skeletons of animals which could provide material for sketchbooks. 

Then there are our pets, possibly the animals we know most about.

The books which have accompanied David Attenborough’s BBC programmes on the natural world are full of pictures and information about animals on land, in the sea and in the air.

The Internet remains an endless source of inspiration. Google Images can be particularly useful. Just type in animals in general and/or one in particular, pets, beaks, tails, skeletons, etc 
Over the past year I have been exploring Pinterest and have been amazed at its richness as a source of inspiration. Give it a try, you will soon become hooked! 
Finally, I know how difficult some of us find the design process which is very important in helping our final piece to stand out from the crowd. I have found the following books helpful :
‘How to be Creative in Textile Art’  Julia Triston & Rachel Lombard ISBN 978-1-84994-006-1.
‘Connecting Art to Stitch’ &’ Connecting Design to Stitch’ Sandra Meech. ISBN 978-1-906388-10-2 & 979-1-84884-024-5
‘Make it Personal’ Hilary Beattie ISBN 13-978-0992623302

I would encourage branches to consider a Group Entry as this is a way in which members, who might not feel brave enough to enter singly, can gain confidence and benefit from working with others.
 I hope I have inspired you to enter this Competition and look forward to admiring the         
results on 15th May 2016.Have fun and do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions 

Janet Adams, Member of the Regional Day Committee.

STOP PRESS : The British Library has an exhibition ‘Animal Tales’ 7th August – 1st November 2015 which would be worth a visit for inspiration.

Erica Thomson,
12 Aug 2015, 15:09
Erica Thomson,
5 Apr 2016, 06:10