Friday, August 31, 2012

Threads Above The Fray - Painting With Thread

Thread painting (aka silk shading, soft shading, painting with a needle), is an embroidery long and short straight stitch technique (by hand and/ or machine) that is used to create realistic pictures using a needle and thread.  The stitches are worked in rows in a range of colors to closely create a realistic design with texture, shading, and character.

Many years ago, Jody Raines discovered thread painting, her chosen  medium, as a way to turn photographs into beautiful works of landscape art, and has been perfecting her technique ever since. Her first thread paintings were on cotton.  She then discovered how to thread paint on silk through the artisan Alison Holt of New Zealand, and she is working to achieve the same realism and beauty of Alison's pieces.  Her art varies between 4" x 6", all the way up to 4' if it's a thread painted quilt.

Jody uses 8 mm Habotai silk which is first stretched on a wooden frame with special silk tacks. The luminosity of the silk gives it a natural sheen and 'life' which cannot be achieved on other fabrics of different fiber content. In some pieces, the silk is left white so denote a luminous sky, reflection of sky on water, etc. 

Then the photo from which she is working is enlarged to whatever size she needs, and the main elements are traced using a light pencil onto the silk Then wax resist is applied to keep the underlying special silk paint from bleeding. The paint is then heat set with an iron, the wax washed away and the piece ironed and dried again. Using a sturdy wooden embroidery hoop that is tightened with a screwdriver so that the silk is held drum tight, Jody loads the piece and tightens it so that there is no slack at all.

Her machine feed dogs are lowered so that all work is free motion...she imagines the machine needle and thread as like a colored pencil with which to sketch the scene. Jody uses a variety of threads, i.e., cotton, acrylic and rayon in a wide range of shades per element to denote dark, light and medium areas.

There are hours and hours of work per piece depending on the details and thread changes necessary to capture the scene. Also, the upper and bobbin tensions are manipulated to bring the bobbin thread to the surface which blends two different colors of thread to create shading and texture. A variety of hand movements such as diagonal straight stitching or tiny circling motions also create various foliage, ground and floral features.  Once the piece is completed with stitching, it is matted and framed.

For the past six months, Jody has been working on completing ten landscape quilts and five thread paintings (on silk) of historic and notable places in the County of Spartanburg, SC (where she lives) as a recipient of a SC Arts Partnership Grant, 'Threads of Our Heritage'.  Jody will be exhibiting her art from September 4 through October 12, 2012, at the Chapman Cultural Center, second floor outside the History Museum in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  

In addition, she has scheduled several guild programs and workshops for this Fall and early Spring of 2013.  If you're in Jody's neighborhood, please stop by and view her awesome work in person.

To see more of her thread paintings as well as her landscape quilts,  her watercolor/oil/acrylic paintings, and also the great dollhouse miniatures she makes (which will be featured at another time), visit Jody's blog, her Flickr page, and her Facebook page:


Jody B. Raines said...

Thank you so much for featuring my work, Cathy! I so appreciate it!!!

Minnie Kitchen said...

Just amazing!