Half a Creature

In Mammen, Denmark, a Viking burial was unearthed by a farmer in 1868. The burial dated to around 970 and featured a man dressed in an elaborately embroidered tunic. The textiles in the grave showed evidence of fine needlework and a very strong sense of design. I collected some copies of the designs in my sketch book:

 I found the fragment of creature – I presume it’s some kind of leopard – particularly fascinating. You can see that I had a rudimentary go at reconstructing it. Actually, on reflection, I preferred the incomplete version. This current project is mostly about collecting and re-imagining fragments, so half a creature seemed more fitting somehow.

This is the same size as the other pages so far (8″ square) and is made by layering medium weight linen fabric, open weave cotton and handmade paper on a paper base. I stained the paper with some ink and watercolour to knock back the whiteness of the paper. The creature is worked in the same stitch used on the Mammen fragment, which is either stem stitch or outline stitch, depending on the direction of the line.  I used stranded cotton embroidery threads for this one and followed the colours of the original. I see that the belly stripe on my creature is rather thicker than on the drawing, but I’m not too bothered about that. I’m not trying to copy appearances exactly here, but rather to get the feeling of the thing.

I really like the way dress net works in these situations. You can layer a single ragged strip over something and it creates a very slightly darker tone that suggests something like a shadow, a bit like a watercolour wash:

 


 

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One Response to Half a Creature

  1. Yes, dress net can be very useful. Partly, as you say, for the impression of shadow, but also to knock back a high shine on a fabric to a gentle sparkle. I rather like your leopard fragment, although I like your reconstruction f the front half too!

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