It’s that time of year when many craft blogs are quiet- fulfilling orders, custom commissions and gift making puts the show and tell of blogging on the back burner. So I’m honoured today to have been given permission to share with you my most recent private commission along with some notes on it’s working process.
This is the largest portrait I’ve created so far as it features a couple (the wedding photo of my client’s parents). Main challenges of this piece were the soft focus 1980’s photography, meaning details were limited and I would have to improvise, and my ‘unknown’ subjects. With celebrity portraits reference pics are plentiful and everyone can tell immediately if it look like them. Creating a portrait of someone you’ve never seen before is harder, especially when commissioned by someone who knows them infinitely better than you! So this commission was daunting.
Initially this piece got off to a false start which resulted in a re-do about 3 quarters of the way in, I’m glad it did though because the process taught me two things: to trust myself more and that communication is always a good thing.
My process for each portrait can vary, some are very sketchy at the transfer stage ( e.g. I don’t fill dark areas, or lines won’t be perfect) as I intend to finalise them at the stitching stage. However my client was detail oriented and really loved my initial sketch of the photo, which I drew up for her to approve before stitching began. I should have realised she wanted the sketch replicated as is, without embellishment. Something to bear in mind for future commissions, with artwork formally agreed at the start.
Starting over also taught me I should trust myself: I hadn’t been brave enough to stitch the facial details first- but if I had we would have spotted problems sooner . The main reason for starting over was size. Embroidered lines take up more space than their pen or pencil counterparts, so images often need to be blown up to compensate, making the embroidery pattern big enough so you can still include all the details of the drawing when you stitch. I also mistakenly let the limitations of my printer fool me into thinking I’d made the image as big as I could. I was also afraid to alter too much of the composition or obscure too much of the background fabric that the client gave me. When it became apparent a re-do would be needed (I can’t unpick details in these kinds of portraits due to the applique adhesive) I took the opportunity to recompose the image a little- moving unimportant details in order to blow up and focus on the faces. I had second guessed myself from the start and I should have known better.
The changes resulted in a piece I’m proud of and I hope the client and recipient will cherish. I feel very privileged to have been given this commission, and it’s an honour to have shared a little piece of Mr & Mrs Siu’s special day all these years later. My client was a joy to work with, understanding about scale and how long embroidery takes thus extending my deadline to allow for the re-do. I can only hope that my future clients will be as patient and kind as this one. Thanks Carmen!