When I first started making drawings from thread I liked the fact that my errors became part of the work. The first finished piece called ‘We should smile more…’ contained errors that caused the drawing to fall apart in places giving it a soft, organic feel and creating movement.
Life isn’t perfect and my drawings weren’t either, and I liked this comparison. However, as my drawings became bigger and more detailed I found myself correcting the mistakes, and then doubt about this practice started to creep in. My chosen method of working, that included the keeping of imperfections, allowed me to throw away any inhibitions and preconceived ideas about how the finished piece could or should look. Making the corrections felt wrong because I had lost a key element that had been the cornerstone of my technique.
Whilst Henri Moore said that ‘great art is not perfect’ (1966), the process of correcting errors in art has always happened. The Old Masters used tools such as mirrors and lenses (Hockney, 2001) to reproduce exquisite and accurate detail, and canvases often had overpainted work beneath the finished image (BBC, 2016 and 2017) and It could be argued that this was part of the story and invoked conversation. However, when I look at contemporary embroiderers’ work, I always view it as perfect. If there are any corrections, they aren’t obvious and this is making me question whether or not they are well judged.
St Amelie by Paul Delaroche and George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham by Rubens – both were discussed on recent TV programs where experts discovered corrections and overpainted areas.
Currently, corrections are part of my making because the drawings are too intricate and detailed to discard and start again. However, the process for making these corrections is quite daunting and has an element of risk involved. Is the mistake that obvious? Will I successfully manage to remove the error and will the correction blend into the existing stitching? If it doesn’t blend in, does that matter?
These images show how I try to make the corrections. In the first picture, I have cut out a part of her brown coat because it looked flat and didn’t work. This has had a new piece of solufleece inserted from the back, pulled tight and stitched into place. The second image shows what the back looks like when areas of stitch have been reworked.
This can be a parallel with my life – I really find it tricky when I get things wrong and will go over and over the issues in my mind. Making errors and then deciding if they need correcting seems to be something we all have to do, perhaps how we manage this says a lot about who we are.
BBC (2016) Fake or Fortune. BBC1 Documentary. Series 5: 2. 60 minutes.
BBC (2017) Lost Masterpieces BBC4 Documentary. Series 2: 1. 60 minutes.
Hockney, D. (2001) Secret Knowledge. Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd
Moore, H. (1966) Writings and Converstaions. Available online. Google books.