Puffin Commission Who doesn't love puffins? With their brightly coloured beaks and funny walk, what's not to adore about these cute little seabirds? I was recently commissioned to do a puffin embroidery based on the customer's photo from a trip to Iceland where he spotted lots of wildlife. This puffin was posing on a cliff top looking wistfully out to sea. I haven't painted a puffin for a while - well a long while to tell the truth. It was back in the days when I was still using gutta to outline everything on silk. So you can see how long ago that was! Techniques But things have moved on and I like a more fluid way to sketch and create the image. A lot of the time, the paint is just a suggestion and sets the background mood for the embroidery to really shine. I wanted the embroidery to have lots of little details including on the dark feathers of the puffin's wings and back. I didn't want it to be just a big blob of black but to have lots of pattern and interest. Layers of black on black?
Well that ended up being done with machine embroidery and some sequin flowers which I cut into more feathery shapes so I could overlap them. The rest of the body and face of the puffin were pretty much all done with free motion embroidery. I had trouble getting the shape of the beak quite right but in the end I had to let it go and make the best of it. The wildflowers on the cliff top were hand embroidered, some of them using a very soft, slubby silk thread that started to fall to pieces once it had been pulled through the fabric a few times. The effect was great though, so I persevered with it. I wasn't happy with the scabious flowers, they just didn't seem right. Not enough subtly with the colours and I couldn't quite get the intense blue-purple I was aiming for.
So they eventually developed into a mass of tiny sequinned flowers each with the centres being green and the outer edges being graduated shades of lilac with some deep purple stitching around each flower. I loved the final effect but it was very time consuming. I also did quite a bit of layering with the other sequins too for the little pink flower areas. It was supposed to be english stonecrop, but it didn't turn out quite how I would have liked but isn't that always the way?! I wanted to make the flowers more star shaped but I didn't have the right sequins for it. There are some fly stitches and seeding stitches to add more background texture but looking at them again I wish I had added in more of the plant structure as the succulent fleshy leaves and stems are beautiful. I think the overall effect has worked quite well but next time I will try out some more samples to see if I can get closer to my original vision.
Takeaways I'm planning to revisit different flower shapes and work out how I can express them more effectively with stitching and modified sequins. This applies especially to flowers that don't have a clearly defined petal shape such as the scabious flowers. They look like bits of tattered silk and perhaps that could be a direction to take them in. There are so many ways of interpreting one subject. I would like to capture the bobbly effect in the centre of the flowers. Maybe chunky beads would do the trick? On a large scale perhaps little silk covered buttons would be good.