Friday, June 26, 2009

First Fossils

Spontaneous stitches.

With the coral-making safely behind me (or rather steaming ahead as semi-finalist in the National Contemporary Art Awards - woot!), stitching fossils is my latest consuming passion.

I've been thinking about this for many months but didn't let myself start until You are an agent of change was all finished. Somehow I knew that once I got a taste for this fossil work I wouldn't be able to tear myself away from it to pay proper attention to anything else. My test piece was a tessarolax fittoni, an extinct gastrapod from the Cretaceous era (145-65 million years ago).

Two fossil images

I stitched it onto a piece of an old blanket that I found in an op shop, already felted probably by hot washing at some point. It's a lovely fabric to work with. The tessarolax is stitched next to the blanket label, which though worn to shreds, says "Kaiapoi Woolen Mfg Gompany Christchurch New Zealand (All Pure NZ Wool)". The Kaiapoi Woolen Company closed in 1978 after a century in business. It was the beginning of the end of an era in which New Zealand companies manufactured most of our needs and few goods were imported from overseas. Two fossils then, together on one blanket, representing extinct species of a past ecology.

Kaiapoi Woolen Company Mills, Kaiapoi (a small town I've visited a few times: Hi Sharkey!)

The next square of Kaiapoi blanket is being stitched with a crinoid, a sea lily enchinoderm, from the Mississipian period (362-323 million years ago) of the Paleozoic era. Now that I'm confident about working on the felted blanket, I feel inclined to be more adventurous with texture and colour. It's all done free hand, as I'm basically making it up as I go along, with reference to my sketches from photos in fossil books. Stitching the coral felt like drawing with thread, and this feels like painting only much much slower; at the glacial pace that I like to work and that so suits this subject matter.

Some species of sea lillies aka crinoids still exist, though in nothing like the numbers of the distant past when this forbesioncrinus meeki flourished on the sea floor of what is now Indiana, USA. Despite the name they are animals, related to sea stars.


PG said...

Oh wow, this looks as if it is going to be incredibly lovely, I am so in love with the stitching, are they French Knots? Been a looooong time since I embroidered...

Johanna Knox said...

That's beautiful, and congratulations on getting to semi-finals with 'You are an agent of change'!

Also congratulations on finding ways through the dental work.

Carol said...

Meliors, these embroideries are lovely. Now, I've just this morning received my copy of 'The Happy Bus' and I'm very impressed. It looks good, there's lots of interesting reading and I love the fold-out and the stickers. Those little fish stickers could have been made for me, being such a fishy person, and the others are very cute. Thank you so much for sending me this first issue. I'll be buying the next issue when you tell us it's available.

Bronwyn Lloyd said...

Amazing work Meliors! I'm not surprised in the least that the coral work made it to the semi-finals of the Contemporary Art Award. The stitching itself is beautiful, but the ethos behind your creativity even more so.