I was privileged to be able to view some wonderful Canvaswork pieces during the Royal School of Needlework – Animals in Embroidery exhibition and as a result I have actually come to a much better appreciation of the complexity of this technique. The texture that can be achieved through a wide variety of stitchs is remarkable. It is a real pity that Canvaswork does not photograph very well as seeing the dimension and texture that can be achieved in real life has totally changed my opinion of it.
Canvas Stitches is the alternative module that you undertake either in the RSN Certificate or the Diploma, depending on which certificate technique you first choose (Blackwork or Canvas). Having done certificate Blackwork, Canvas Stitches became my first Diploma Module. When choosing the design for this piece I did a lot of thinking about whether to continue with the Oak leaves and Acorns theme that I had followed throughout my Certificate pieces or to move onto other images and options. In the end I decided to stay with my established theme so the all of my pieces would ‘hang’ together when displayed. The RSN brief recommends landscapes or water scenes as good for this technique, and the tutors advise against images with strong straight lines (including diagonal) as the nature of canvas is to produce blocky images. While most students will work from a photograph and try to recreate the image as closely as possible, I was keen to develop my own designs for my diploma modules and so this design was born.
My ‘Frog on a Windowsill’ certainly has to be my most travelled piece as I have worked on it at three different RSN schools – in Durham, in Bristol, and at Hampton Court Palace. The tutors in each of the locations provided great advice and each influenced different aspects of the final piece. Tracey Franklin made brilliant choices in the blended sky/mountain background colours, Deb Wilding had great suggestions on stitches that would give the frog his knobbly texture, Lisa Bilby was able to point out areas that shading would bring to life, and Rachel Doyle is an absolute star at problem solving. I think in all, as I moved around RSN venues, at least 10 tutors provided input to the piece and I feel enriched for having their support.
The personal learning that I take from this piece is that if I were to do the certificate over again I would actually choose to do Canvaswork first in the Certificate as I think the process of choosing and blending threads for this technique provides a really good grounding for being able to really see the colours needed in Silk Shading. This is only my opinion of course based on my recent experience of doing both techniques.
Another lesson I have learned in this module is the benefit of keeping the working piece very tightly stretched on the frame. Due to all the travel I had been at pains to be particularly vigilant with regularly tightening up my framed work and I was able to reap the benefits when taking my canvas off the frame to find that it had remained reasonably square. This made the mounting process just that bit easier though believe me that Canvas is a difficult fabric to mount well and very hard on the fingers!. Finally my Canvas Stitches is finished, mounted and submitted for assessment. On to the next module – Appliqué.