Sunday, May 8, 2011

The "Mane" Event

Yes. . . a terrible pun.  But a noteworthy event nonetheless.  After sitting and staring at my stumpwork lion and a file of photos of historical lions, I finally jumped in and have completed my little lion's face and mane.  Here's the entire piece as of this afternoon: 

And here's the newly stitched face and mane close up:

For the face, I was trying to get some of the whimsy of some of the historical pieces without the incredible oddness some of them display.   I think a lot of them look a lot like King Charles II. . . although I'm not sure whether that was the conscious intent.  And I was trying for some of that elegant but just a touch debauched -- but not malicious or really dangerous -- look. 

I'm not sure I really succeeded in that, but I do think he has a pleasant face. . . which was part of my goal.  As far as more closely matching the historical examples, the following pictures show some of the issues.  The first of these is from the Maidstone Museum and the other two are from online photos of pieces of the Richmond collection, which were auctioned earlier this year.

So I was aiming at some of the feeling of these guys, but had definite problems.  Most of the historical lions' faces weren't really round (and I already had a round face background stitched).   And I am really curious as to how exactly a lot of the dimensionality was created. . . as in the first historical lion picture.  My lion has a piece of nose-shaped felt plus about 6 stitches of #5 perle cotton padding, but the finished face really doesn't reflect any of it.  So clearly more dramatic techniques were needed for the more dramatic results -- not an easy thing in a truly tiny area.  I'm also stumped as to how the open mouths were managed.  I tried to use a tiny piece of the silk covered perle purl (that's what the mouth of the first guy was made of) to create an open-mouthed look. . . but it didn't work for me. 

 For the mane, my very very favorite looks either wouldn't work on the body of my lion (i.e., the Maidstone lion), and/or used an EXCEPTIONAL amount of materials. . . which would have meant ordering a lot of stuff. . .with no guarantee that everything would fit together well.  It looks like the historical stitchers had more choices of materials.  The silk perle purls we had are very recently created threads (how exciting is that!!). . .and naturally enough come in a limited number of colors.  If you look at the second and third historical lions above, it looks like they have three or maybe four very close shades of threads in the manes.  My threads were more dramatically different shades. . .so gave a different effect.

What I decided to go with was a mane that was almost entirely silk covered perle purl.  My guy's mane is mostly light brown silk perle purl interspersed with the medium brown, PLUS just a few blond highlights.  I also had a limited amount of the fabulous silk perle purls (they're real expensive), so instead of using them as they come (like the Maidstone lion), I expanded them slightly to create the open coil look.

Finally, I gave little Leo wispy hairs around the face using the light tan silk in a drizzle/moss stitch (I think this is the technique used in historical lion 3).  I think I'll probably go back and add some more wispy bits. . .but very carefully. . . since I've found that they can easily just start to look messy.

So...probably the biggest hurdle of the piece is DONE!  Still left are the end of the tail. . . and the surrounding medallion. . . and. . .. just to make sure I never really finish, I'm beginning to wonder whether maybe he needs the company of a little butterfly. . . or maybe a flower. . .  But those are issues for another day.


  1. He's gorgeous - and I really love his Carolinian ringlets!

  2. I love him! I think you've done an excellent job - especially given the limited range of colours of silk covered perle purl.

    The light usage of the darkest brown really helps to bring him together as a 'piece' since the outline of his body looks to be only slightly lighter.

    I like the contrast in direction between his mane and his body.

    But his ears will always remain my favourite feature *grin*

    I love the silver purl used on the first lion. The only thing I can think of that was used to produce his features was some pretty majorly built up string padding - like you did, only *more*. Perhaps you could ask Tricia (the people want to know! :-)

  3. Staring at the first lion's face, I wonder if he was done with felt padding - more and more built up as you progress towards the chin. Red felt, as shown in his open mouth.
    Then thread padding over that, and stitching over the top of that for his features...
    And I'd swear those eyeballs are glass.
    (This is all probably perfectly obvious to you)

  4. Elmseley Rose,
    I really like your idea about the red padding. I hadn't thought about that. I wish I had a photo of that lion with a measurement. . .since it's hard to remember the exact size of things...and whether his silk perle thread was the same size as mine. I have also been really facsinated with the padding question in general. I think that pieces like that first lion may have used felted padding (like the felting people use to create incredibly dimensional objects of all types...right up to things that look like stuffed animals). That technique could provide the very detailed deminsionality and still allow a needle and thread to pass right through. But boy oh boy, would some of those pieces have been tiny tiny tiny. (I wonder whether felting can be done using molds? That could make things easier.) In the mermaid stumpwork class I took last year, Tricia showed us x-rays of several pieces that helped to show the padding and other features under the stitching (wires, etc), but we were looking mostly at mermaid figures, not lions or other stuff. Interestingly, the type of X-ray that's used for this is the same (or very similar) to that used for mammograms. Can't you just see squads of collectors bringing in their antique stitching to thsir appointments! LOL!

  5. I love it. He looks dignified but approachable, and very lion like. Can't wait to see it all done.

  6. i am really enjoying your work! having just finished a study of historical raised work i can really appreciate how involved it is.

  7. Love your work, and this is a wonderful piece. He is a very regal lion.