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Denman Island, British Columbia, Canada
Jean Cockburn retired from her professional career as an academic librarian in 2008 to become a textile artist living on Denman Island, British Columbia. She draws, quilts, embroiders, knits and crochets, makes wearable art, weaves baskets, dyes fabric, and paints watercolours. Her work has been exhibited locally in juried and group shows on Denman Island, in Courtenay, Comox, and Duncan on Vancouver Island, in West Vancouver, and across Canada with the Surface Design Association.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Design Basics book and embroidery samplers

Thanks to Barb Mortell, my mentor, I now own a copy of Design Basics by David A. Lauer and Stephen Pentak. I am a self taught artist, so I am missing lots of basic art and design knowledge. Barb formally studied art and was kind enough, during our critique session of my first attempt at my Dolly With a Red Dress series, to recommend this classic art textbook.
She loaned me her personal copy, and I subsequently bought a used copy on AbeBooks. A new copy of the eighth edition of this book can cost about $130, but my nice, clean and only slightly loved copy of the sixth edition cost me under $10, including shipping. (Ditto the absolutely like-new copy of Art Cloth by Jane Dunnewold, which I ordered from Abebooks at the same time for under $20).
I have just started a careful read of Design Basics, but I am already engaged with the explanations of form and content, design and intent, unity and harmony, dependence on cultural background of the viewer, and so much more. My post-it notes are in full use; this is my first note under Doing and Redoing, "The doing step in the design process obviously involves continuous looking and thinking, yet more than one artist, writer or composer has observed that doing takes over with a life of its own".
Wow - that resonates with me - and maybe explains somewhat my obsession with handwork.

Now I want to try and use these new design insights. Hence I am working these embroidery samplers. I am not being too overt about the thought process, but I am trying to experiment with a balance of content and design where I draw recognizable flowers and leaves, in a harmonious design, versus some samplers of pure form where I draw an abstract design. I am realizing things about my own design aesthetic, such as that I like curving lines and not angular lines, that I like bright colours, and I like clean finishes.
Of course I am still a devotee of technique. I am definitely falling in love with embroidery on linen. It has become my favourite handwork in the evenings while I listen to audiobooks (currently enjoying the Palliser series by Anthony Trollope on Hoopla streaming audio, courtesy of Vancouver Island Regional Library). Of course that means that the hand pieced hexagons are languishing, but a goodly pile of ongoing projects is ever my habit, so on to these embroidery samplers.
In working on these samplers, trying out stitches and threads, my notes with regards to materials and techniques are:
- linen is lovely to stitch on, the best ever, but everyone knows that as needlework since antiquity has been done on linen;
- the fusible batting is rather bad, as the adhesive can be sticky on the needle, and is not needed with these small samplers;
- the osnaburg is good for a backing fabric, easy to needle through and to bury stitches.


I would really appreciate comments on how this is working. So, if any readers are out there, let me know what you think. Thanks!


The samplers in process. The upper and lower right, and lower left are abstract designs.

This sampler is complete. Design elements: centre point, symmetry, curved lines, shades of two complimentary colours.

Still working on this one. It is more complex than the design above. Design elements: centred on vertical axis, symmetrical, use of odd number of elements (3 flowers, 7 grasses), two sets of complimentary colours.

Still working on this one. Classic design of centred spiral. Adding echo line of french knots in tertiary colour.

Design drawn with a brown Frixion pen that will disappear when ironed. This is a free hand drawing of a centred, symmetrical design with an odd number of elements, 5, in the central motif.

The top three samplers are complete, the bottom two still in process.

I have not started on these last two samplers.

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