Tag Archives: embroidered bugs

November bricolage roundup- shadowboxes, passementerie and mantelpieces!

mantis bricolage shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017More bug stuff, because it’s not like our house can have too much creepy bug decor.

I made this mantis shadowbox using some 1970s upholstery fabric I got in Berkeley in the late 90s, some vintage velvet flowers and little bees saved from the same era, and a machine-embroidered mantis from this amazing artist in Kiev, who is doing totally innovative textile art with the digital embroidery tech now available.

Egg shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017I’d always wanted an egg glossary display box.

No natural history, curiosity cabinet-themed library is complete without one! I used the 70s fabric again; a glue gun is my method of choice for stretching even wrinkled fabric smoothly across the particleboard backing of a shadowbox. Some of the little speckled eggs and the grapevine nest came from topiary ball displays I made for my first wedding, in 1993 or 4.
Glue gun party by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2017

I have nights where I crash around the flat asking, “What would Tony Duquette Do?”

And the answer is always, “Glue gun, Passementarie, MORE.” I added a couple trims to this silk velvet patchwork upholstered bench. After the intensity of the first three quarters of this year, with teaching and drawing and painting and my hub becoming a cyborg and being sick quite a bit, I really need this November make-cation.

jewelry holder by Suzanne ForbesI made a display holder for some of the earrings I’ve sculpted, made and modified.

I just took the glass out of a deep frame and gluegunned fabric to the backing. I used a beautiful textured knitting yarn left over from some lovely crochet blossoms my mom made me; the texture keeps the earrings from sliding around.

And most significantly of all, I got one of my first adult textile art pieces back up on display.

mantel scarf by suzanne forbes 2000I made this mantel scarf of crushed changeant velvet and celestial Czech glass buttons and bead embroidered wire and pleated ombre ribbon cockades in 1999.

I was living with my second husband in a gorgeous Craftsman fourplex in North Berkeley. It was the first place I ever painted like I truly wanted my home to be, in insane shades of aniline violet, quinacridone red, and chartreuse. It was full of built-ins I decoupaged with gilt paper Dresden trim, Victorian frogs and lizards, and accented in burnt orange.

We gave such parties there. It was such a beautiful home. I loved my second husband, or who I thought he was, so much. 

This piece was in storage for a long time, and it hurt me every time I came across it in my increasingly desperate and disenfranchised moves.

When the Great Recession finally ebbed a bit and I moved in with the man who became my third husband, I thought about getting an electric fireplace, where it could be displayed. There just wasn’t enough room in the exquisite jewelbox Craftsman apartment in Oakland that I designed to showcase his Black Irish beauty.

Here in our home in Berlin, we have plenty of room.
mantel scarf and fearless pink Gay Santa by Suzanne Forbes 2000 2016I used my glue gun to apply an emerald botanical brocade to the top of the particleboard shelf I had attached to the top of the electric fireplace I got on eBay.

Again, using a gluegun and moving fast, smoothing the glue flat with my fingers as I go, allowed me to get a nice flat surface bonded to the mantel. Then I just gluegunned the mantel scarf onto the brocade and added a few tacks to stabilize. I’ll add some finishing gimp braid and brass upholstery tacks soon as I get around to making it to Bauhaus.

Sorry I couldn’t get a better picture in our dark haus but we like it this way :))

mantel scarf and Fearless Pink Gay Santa in salon by Suzanne Forbes 2000 2016

More interior decorating and bricolage posts:

Our home, Halloween decor, decoupage and bug shadow boxes, passementerie and staining furniture, lamps and frames, more frames, No-Kill Butterfly Gallery, bas-relief rococo insect mirror, and Fearless Pink Gay Santa, as seen on the mantelpiece.

October Embroidery and Bricolage Roundup!

Embroidered insect in shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017Embroidered insect in shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017Some embroidery projects I made this month!

Embroidered insect in shadowbox by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017This embroidered bug was finished a while back, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it.

Then i decided a shadow box was the way to go. I used lots of assorted bits of lace, beads and real plants plus a background of dragonfly satin and I love the way it came out.

Lightning heart by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017This lightning heart was started at the same time as this piece.

It’s a callback to a piece called “Fist Heart Mighty Dawn Dart” that was purchased as a gift for a beloved friend-muse-patron by their partner.

I bought a jean jacket and embellished it with a collage of sequined appliques.

There are three pieces that make up the back, fitted together similar to how I did this floral embroidery leather jacket. The front has a sequined star, bullion stars, metal star studs and bug appliques I enhanced with black thread. I’m pretty thrilled with how it came out!

 

New embroidered and jewelled bug creation!

Embroidered jewelled bug by Suzanne Forbes June 2017Here’s a crazy little bug embroidery piece I made during 20 hours of waiting around the hospital while my hub got a cyborg upgrade.

Embroidered jewelled bug by Suzanne Forbes June 2017I embroidered this on a cut-open green netting bag that some holiday ornaments I bought at Anthropologie for 75% in 2001 came in.

Unbelievably, when I unpacked the holiday ornaments for our first Christmas tree here, these never-used items were there, still in their bags.

My material hoarding seemed insane for so long. But now I have better health, a perfect workspace and the support of my Patrons.

I’m whipping through all my old art supplies and long-awaited projects!

I am like a cross between Smaug and Divine.

Embroidered jewelled bug by Suzanne Forbes June 2017i got this rainbow glitter vinyl for a Pride project but it did not arrive in time. That is ok! I will still make a thing with it!

Embroidered moth in progress by Suzanne Forbes June 2017Embroidering on net, mesh or tulle is wonderful because it’s so easy and restful on the hand. Since I was working with the demon metallic embroidery thread, that was important!

Most metallic embroidery thread, including these two greens that were leftover from my Green Beaded Corset project “kit”, frays as it is drawn through fabric.

It frays and breaks and makes you crazy. Waxing it is supposed to help but I’ve always feared the wax would attract dust after or not be archival. However using it on netting is a breeze. In the picture you can see I’m cutting the completed bug free of the netting. I glued some extra layers of netting on the back after I finished embroidering to add structural strength.

The outline is done in my beloved Black Pearl Rico Metallic Stickgarn, which never makes a fuss and behaves impeccably on any fabric.

Embroidered bug wings by Suzanne Forbes June 2017 I have been incredibly inspired by the couture embroidery work of Lyudmila Plotnikova, a Russian textile artist.

You can see her work below. In addition to being technically skilled at a level I can only dream of (in my dreams of going to grad school for textile arts), it is much subtler and less lurid than my efforts! Her eye and hand are equally exquisite.

Jewelled embroidered insect brooch by Ludmila Plotnikova June 2017

Jewelled embroidered insect brooch by Lyudmila Plotnikova, June 2017

She does things with materials that constantly innovate and extend the form.

She has brilliant new ideas about embroidery in three dimensions, like Michele Carragher. You can buy her art here, and hopefully someday I will! Many of her signed, unique pieces are designed to be worn as jewels or brooches. I think of the great European design and craftwork traditions, like Art Nouveau jewelry, when I see her work.

Her love of bugs has resonance with the couture legacy of Schiaparelli’s bugs. Women who create or wear insects as art continue a tradition that runs from Queen Tiye to Louise Bourgeois to the recent Sarah Burton collections that made couture bug crazy in the teens.

Gallery of bead embroidery art in progress from the Instagram of Lyudmila Plotnikova

Gallery of bead embroidery art in progress from the Instagram of Lyudmila Plotnikova, 2017

Ms. Plotnikova is also incredibly generous with her process, sharing photos of works in progress. Being able to follow other artists on Instagram is so exhilarating, as much as I hate giving clicks to that pig Zuckerberg.

Here’s a couple good pieces about how women artists connect emotionally with creepy crawlies!

 

Something beautiful for a sad month: bead embroidery!

beetle embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2017I made this embroidered beetle to lift my heart and give me the strength that working with color and sparkle does. It was part of my automatic-writing-for-art approach this month, like the Monster doll armada.beetle embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2017

I just reached into my textile materials drawer and grabbed some scraps and bits, and told myself, You gotta make something with these.

bead embroidery appliques Suzanne Forbes 2017 1There are four different types of lacework fabric and delicate cotton paper layered on a blue felt base, bits left from the very first materials I bought at my earliest trips to the art store in Berlin.

I used them in my mantis project our first summer here, and in some bug embroideries with sheer wings.

The blue felt undersurface is left over from the backing of the Hearts Afire pieces I made for my Cake Level Patrons in 2016.

beetle embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2017Plus bead overflow from the Green Woman corset I’m working on, which is related to the Green Leaf Crowns I made last summer! I planned that project back in 2013-14 and brought all the materials in the shipping container.

You can see my project kit* for the Green Woman project at the top of these pics; I just raided it for beads and bling! This is the mess on a day I worked for eleven hours straight, just fiending on colors and sparkle.

I learn so much from studying the work of Game of Thrones embroidery artist Michele Carragher.

bead embroidery appliques Suzanne Forbes 2017 She has really radical approaches to layering sheer or lacework materials and doing bead embroidery in three dimensions.

I look forward to exploring ideas I borrowed from her for the mantis, like a wire lattice for sheer wings. Maybe this summer!

I also learned from her to do my bead embroidery in a hoop, whether or not it’s going to remain in the hoop.

Doing bead embroidery on the surface you plan to display it on – especially clothing- is for suckers. It’s like melting chocolate in a double boiler.

Much easier, stronger, safer and neater to embroider or bead embroider on a sheer surface in a hoop. If your threads aren’t meltable you can iron a light interfacing onto the back to protect the finished embroidery, cut around the embroidery design, then sew it onto your clothes or lampshade or corset or whatever.

If your threads are synthetic and meltable, but you’re really worried about the strength/structural integrity of the piece, you can wipe a thin coat of archival gel glue on the back. Like E6000! I touched every knot on the back of this beetle with a bit of Tacky Glue, just to be sure it’s heirloom solid. I have to charge a lot for embroidery pieces, since they take a minimum of 30 hours to make, so I like to be sure they’re for the ages.

*project kit: I have a half dozen project kits still neatly boxed up and waiting in my workshop cabinets. I organize all the materials and supplies I need for a project into a “kit” that makes it easy to bust into and tackle. All those 90% off post-holiday sales at Michaels and JoAnn’s, all those years of saving every scrap of ribbon from a present, every bit of wrapping paper for a shadowbox or decoupage! I’ve been blazing through projects, I’ve finished at least a dozen since I finished building the kitchen/workshop, but I brought a LOT in the container.

Making is my medicine: 40 hours of moth embroidery.

Grey Embroidered Moth by Suzanne Forbes January 2017I spent a week of my life this month making this moth.

Grey Embroidered Moth by Suzanne Forbes January 2017I don’t know if it was the best use of my time at this frightening time, but I do know I wasn’t capable of going out and protesting.

I’ve been barely able to function, this month.

Making something beautiful was the only thing I could contribute to the world. So I kept doing that.

Doing handwork, “Women’s Work.” Stabbing something 6,000 times.

I’ve spent a lot of time doing what I call “running background processes” this month.

Grey Embroidered Moth by Suzanne Forbes January 2017I’m working on a very hard to write piece about sexual violence, and the words tumble around in my head like stones in a polisher.

I can think about it for tiny snippets at a time, and then I turn to the comfort of sparkle and glimmer and applying tiny hematite crystals one at a time for hours.

Everything about the Cheeto “President” triggers me. I am constantly triggered. It sucks. I can’t sleep during the American news cycle, so I’m up from 6pm to 11am.

I don’t know the name of the woman who made this protest sign for the Women’s March, but she is a hero. A real live art hero.

protest embroidery

Beauty is my medicine: Making pretty things for comfort.

 Embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017 Embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017This is the second large embroidery piece I started and finished this month.

I did this one mostly over the Women’s March Weekend.

 Embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017

It’s super pink!

embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017 work in progress   embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017 work in progress

I really need to make things of beauty at dark times, when I’m not personally depressed but the world is frighteningly fucked up.

embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017 work in progressI’ve been posting snippets of my works in progress and moments in the life of a working artist, plus kitties, on my new Instagram account. People seem to appreciate seeing art a lot right now.

I hate being in the ecosphere of a Zuck property, but it’s the best place to keep up with my loved ones these days, and an amazing place to connect with what other artists are doing.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

Beadwork in Progress- Halloween crazy quilt mantel scarf and leaf corset.

Halloween spider bead embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2016When we got back from the US last week I yanked the box marked “Halloween Craft Projects” off the shelf and tore into it.

Halloween spider bead embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2016I was basically crazed from exposure to American craft store Halloween displays.

The first thing I wanted to work on was beading this mass-market Halloween mantel scarf or banner that I bought at PierOne during an after-Halloween sale for my usual 75-90% off.

This is what I call an “Uplift” project, after the science fiction novels by David Brin.

I have never beaded anything as fast in my life as I did this project.

I love taking commercially made items that I bought for almost nothing and investing hours of meticulous labor in making them more beautiful.

Halloween spider bead embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2016It’s obviously fraught to buy mass-produced items in the first place; I always think of the person who made them.

I wonder how my buying these items at the end of their retail life, when they have basically become junk in the eyes of the retailer, impacts the commercial production cycle in other countries of Halloween crap for American consumers.

Halloween spider beadwork and beaded leaves by Suzanne Forbes 2016I don’t know the answer, but I do feel a connection when I do this, like my labor and the mystery factory worker’s labor is of equal value.

As if by adding hours of my highly trained privileged-artist love-labor to their object of work, I’m giving it more space in the world. A better chance of lasting.

As you can see I’ve also been working very slowly on the beaded leaf corset project.

I made the perhaps injudicious decision to individually bead some of the velvet leaves. And hand apply glass hotfix rhinestones to them. Heaven only knows how far I’ll go down that rabbithole.

I have an Instagram now, where you can see the delightful loot haul of green beads and crystals I recently obtained for the leaf corset!

Is this prettiest creepy thing I’ve ever made? I think so!

Suzanne Forbes beaded beetle August 2016I’ve been pretty much reeling with exhaustion after the sprint to finish (95%!) the house for the party, so I haven’t done that much art this month.

Suzanne Forbes beaded beetle August 2016I opted to ease back in with bead embroidery, which is the most pleasurable creative work imaginable to me.

Painting a portrait for me feels like a mix of a final exam you’re decently prepared for, a job interview ( I like job interviews though), a workout-to-exhaustion with weights, and learning to rollerskate (which I have not succeeded in).

Making a drawing varies from feeling like going to the office midway through a tough project that you have a good handle on, with co-workers you like, to going to the gym for aerobic exercise (which I hate doing but never regret having done).

Bead embroidery is like a cross between eating a delicious black-currant mousse cake and getting a back rub.

Suzanne Forbes beaded beetle August 2016I’d say it’s my version of smoking pot, except I quit smoking pot when I was fourteen because it did NOT agree with me- I fall in the very paranoid from thc camp. After the very, very bad month I had in July with PTSD and nightmares, I needed soothing art-making, and this project delivered.

I’m thrilled with how the flourishes of beadwork on the sides came out- I foresee quite a foray in this direction.

This one is not for sale, as I chose the colors specially for the salon, using the very last scrap of lime velvet from Aimee‘s grandma’s garage, but I could easily (and pleasurably) make similar ones, in the color themes of your choice.

Moar Mixed Media!

My recent embroidery works involve pipe cleaner and plastic wrap, plus a return to French wired ribbon.

(In the early 90s I was obsessed with French wired ribbon techniques, making Victorian roses and shirred cockades. I love its sculptural quality and moiré grosgrain texture.)mixed media embroidered insects Suzanne Forbesmixed media embroidered insects Suzanne Forbes

I wanted something that would give the wings of the fly a really unpleasant, transparent quality.

(and wow, as I typed that I had another idea- embroidering latex. Now, latex is not archival, and normally I would never use a material that is not archival. It’s part of my training to maintain a covenant with the buyer of a work that the work will endure to the very best of my knowledge. But the decay of latex, the way it dries and melts and chips and shrinks, is aesthetically fascinating and intrinsically beautiful. Artists have done a lot of work with the way latex changes over time; it can be part of the value proposition for a work. It’s a natural material, like skin. If I embroider a portrait of a face on latex !??!? It could be like Pablo Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein. She said, “But Pablo, I don’t look like that”. “You will.”)

Anyway, watch this space for embroidered latex.

So I decided to embroider plastic wrap!

embroidered mixed media fly Suzanne Forbes 2015I was concerned that making hundreds of tiny holes in the plastic wrap would make it essentially perforated, since plastic lacks the warp and weft of fabric. And I wanted more texture, so I added an overlay of lacy stuff.

The lace overlay holds the plastic wrap in place, provides additional structure for the thread to catch onto, and provided a raised surface for the final touch- a little gold paint!

I rubbed gold paint on my fingertips, then brushed them over the surface of the wings.

 

I’m quite pleased with the results.

This little guy got a gold-leafed frame, even though I usually only gold leaf the frames for works that have more than forty hours of labor, because he is so creepy. The fly was a popular Victorian naturalist motif and apparently a symbol for humility. Also, creepy.

He is for sale for $250 to Bay Area collectors- I can bring him on my trip next week!

Fauvist Mantis and Crafting With Pornstars

Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2015Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2015

 

These embroidered insects are the thing I’ve been working on the most for the last two months, since we got to Berlin. Embroidery is a wonderfully portable art form because it’s very cheap, has a tiny footprint and doesn’t risk mess-making like painting does.

Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2015

I loved embroidery as a teenager, but it took a craft day at a yoga spa with porn stars to get me doing it again in my forties.

During my years as a sex-positive artist in the Bay Area, I did a lot of work with Madison Young. I’m so very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in shows and performance art at her gallery, benefits she produced for sex-positive institutions, and shows her gallery arranged for me. (you can see some of the work here– NOT work-safe, and you’ll need to be signed in to Flickr with the adult safeties off to see some of it.)

Original drawing by Suzanne Forbes 2010One of the things we did was a day of handwork in the backyard of a fancy yoga place. As I recall the work produced was to benefit Lyon-Martin, and was exhibited there. Kira Scarlet, the lovely lady shown here, brought embroidery supplies and re-taught me how to do it.

When I went into remission from depression, I started to play around with needlework. You can see my last couple years of embroidery work here.

Thanks to PInterest, my embroidery has been inspired by Game of Thrones.

Original embroidery art by Michele Carragher for HBO's Game of Thrones

Original embroidery art by Michele Carragher for HBO’s Game of Thrones

No, that doesn’t mean *spoiler* has *spoilered* my *spoilers*.

Instead, I discovered master textile artist Michele Carragher, who does all the embroidery for the costumes on the show. She is very generous in sharing her process and techniques, and there are lots of pictures of her work on her site.

Her work with sheer fabrics and metallic lace is amazing. I was inspired to start using organza, lace and tulle as well as beading and ribbon in my needlework.Mermaid_Suzanne_Forbes_2015

This mermaid is the first embroidery I did with mixed media. It was the last thing I worked on in the Bay besides the three portraits I finished in March, and I was working on it til our last week- I think it actually got packed the day we left.

All the materials were leftover from my insane mermaid costume project.  The ribbons and net were burned and torn to distress them. Eventually she’ll have clamshell sequin pasties but I couldn’t find them in the chaos of final packing.

One of the ideas I’m interested in is using tulle or net as a callback to Zip-A-Tone, a 20th Century artist’s material now completely obliterated by Photoshop.

Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2015Also, bead embroidery is my equivalent of smoking pot- it is relaxing and meditative and luscious to me. Here in Berlin, I didn’t have my stash of beads and fabric, but you can buy oval hoops in the craft store! Oval hoops are the business.  My art materials stash has been growing thanks to a friend who is both generous patron and muse, and I bought some German metallic thread.

“This is way better than regular metallic thread”, I said to my artist sister-in-law over Skype. She said, “You mean it’s only the seventh circle of Hell instead of the ninth?” Exactly!

Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2015You can see the layers of metallic lace and organza ribbon in this bug- and also its surprising Fauvist palette.

People who have only seen my paintings from 2005 on might be surprised to know that my earliest paintings were all in the colors of Gauguin and Matisse, not Manet. The mantis was inspired by the poetic bug photographs of Igor Siwanowicz.

Also, I have been obsessed with mantises for a long time. Creepy.

 

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