Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Meanjin - process

The Meanjin cover we embroidered last year was easily one of our most enjoyable commissions to date. We were able to explore our growing plant nerd-dom plus reimagine the traditional embroidery motif of florals. When Zora the editor of Meanjin first contacted us about working on this issue, the brief was both simple and complex. This issue was unofficially a women’s issue with content provided by female writers. Our brief was to use our embroidery to play on the idea of “women’s work” but other than that the Zora was happy for us to propose anything that fit within that broad scope. The challenge was to avoid clichés and not be superficial in our message.

We presented a few ideas, one of which was to subvert traditional motifs and in place of pretty daisies and roses, embroider fleshy, gruesome plants (or Frankenflowers as we grew to call them while sewing).

We've posted some of our process below. Firstly some rough initial sketches we presented with our first round concept. We didn't sketch a layout for this stage but provided a written treatment outlining our idea along with some support imagery showing how the plants could look. We proposed toothy flowers as well as scrotum buds, and amazingly got the go ahead on everything.

After the concept got the go ahead we started collecting some reference material for the Frankenflwoers. As you can imagine we had a lot of fun researching weird, unusual and gross looking plants. The last preview we sent to the client was a coloured tight sketch which you can compare to the finished piece. Since embroidery is so time consuming changes after the final coloured sketch is approved is rare and usually requires some extra time for the delivery schedule. The coloured tight sketch we present to clients shows them exactly how the embroidery will look so that they'll be comfortable giving a final go ahead. It shows composition and colour but not texture which is something we can build organically as we embroider. For instance we introduced a lot more dimensional stitching techniques in this project to give extra movement and depth to the flowers. We padded out the stitching to create a fat stem for the lower hero flower and added hairlike red fringes on the conophytum inspired globular flowers. We also loosened some of stitching and instead of completely filling in shapes showed some of the black background fabric to imitate shading.

We’re often asked how our embroidery sits within contemporary illustration and we usually struggle to eloquently answer this. I’m really happy we were able to create this piece because it represents what we try to do with our work. Embroidery is an age old medium but like any other technique or mark making medium - like painting or drawing - it can evolve. We try to add a different perspective to the craft with our work and see how much of its tactility we can exploit.

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