Sometimes you get an idea in your head and it comes to nothing. But occasionally an idea festers for long enough to become a reality.
Whilst I love making pieces of wall art, I really wanted to try and produce something which had a function, as well as being beautiful. I like the idea of ordinary objects being elevated into pieces of art whilst retaining their usefulness.
I’ve been stitching maps for the last couple of years. I use freehand machine embroidery to create the lines, roads and houses and then add pieces of hand painted silk which I then overstitch to give the impression of trees.
This “embroidered map movement“ started off when I made my dad a map featuring his home on the Malvern Hills in Herefordshire to celebrate his 70th birthday. That first map was quite basic in comparison with what I make now, but it produced enough of a reaction to give me the confidence to keep going and develop the idea further.
Recently I’ve been adding more colour to the canvas by applying silk paint before stitching over the top. The urban landscapes didn’t necessarily need more colour, but when I started to design the Cornish coastline map, I realised that the patchwork effect of the fields needed something behind the stitching to make them come to life. Adding silk paint isn’t easy as it’s very thin and doesn't stay where you want it to, but the colours are stunning and go so beautifully with the stitching.
However, whilst I love making pieces of wall art, I really wanted to try and produce something which had a function, as well as being beautiful. I like the idea of ordinary objects being elevated into pieces of art and so I decided to try and turn my maps into lampshades.
It’s incredible how much material goes into producing a lampshade. It’s more than you'd think. And covering a piece of material, almost a metre long, in embroidery requires hours and hours of stitching.
My initial designs were quite simplistic. I wanted to take elements of my maps and transfer blocks of colour and lines onto the lampshades. But it didn’t work. I nearly gave up on my first attempt because it wasn’t turning out how I expected. The colours were bleeding together and it didn’t have the crisp quality I was aiming for.
With a heavy heart I posted my poor progress on Instagram but received such positive and lovely comments that it gave me the encouragement I needed to carry on.
I realised that in order for it to work I needed to work into the material with a lot more embroidery and that, basically, each lampshade was going to be several days in the making, rather than hours.
I knew it would be difficult - stitching such big pieces of fabric is a study in manipulation and requires patience and perseverance - but I was really satisfied with the finished piece.
Of course things still didn’t go smoothly. The first lampshade I made upside down! (apparently a very common rookie mistake).
And then I needed to source some suitable lamp bases. After all, what use is a lampshade without a base?
I spent more hours trawling the Internet and then finally came across a wonderful woodturner on Etsy called John Bridgeman. https://www.etsy.com/uk/people/johnbridgeman
He made me these beautiful Ash conical bases which I think set off my lampshades perfectly. Thankyou John!
Happily, my lampshades are now real, and not just in my head.
You can see the finished lampshades, complete with bases, in Fig, on the Gloucester Rd in Bristol http://www.figshop.co.uk