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  • Writer's pictureeileenandthemachine

The Road to the Royal Ulster Academy of Arts

In June 2022, I started a new piece of work to enter into the 141st Annual RUA selected exhibition in the Ulster Museum Belfast.

Here are the beginnings of my piece. I start with the sky, middle ground and the foreground or in this piece the undergrowth. All of this has to be sewn down onto heavy canvas background fabric.

The sky is created by chopping up several different shades of fabrics, all held down with netting/tulle and pins before I start the mammoth task of sewing it all in place.

I use a zig-zag stitch on my free motion machine to sew through all the layers, I can then add more subtle colours by adding different coloured threads.

Then the middle ground is sewn down and then onto the foreground. This is basically like appliqué. Each leaf is sewn in place and if I'm not happy with the colour I will add some paint. At the moment I use Derwent inktense blocks that become permanent when dry.

When I am happy with the undergrowth I can start with the trees. This is always an exciting part but I do have to be in the zone to get them just right. So I've learned to use tracing paper for this part. I can draw the trees, and adjust them in whatever way I want without making a mark on my piece.

When I am happy with the way it looks I can then cut through the tracing paper onto my chosen fabric with a rotary cutter.

I can only add the thicker trunks of the trees as it is just too hard to cut very thin pieces of the fabric for the branches. I will sew the branches in with the threads shown in the next photo.

I keep referring back to my tracing paper as it's easy to make mistakes at this stage. But I generally add the branches in free motion as it gives a more organic feeling I think. It's not the end of the world if the branches don't all work out as well as I want as I'll always be adding the leaves on top of the branches later.

When I have all the branches added I usually add some shading to the trunks of the trees. This gives the 3-D effect and I can sometimes use 3-4 different shades of threads to get them just right. I then add the grasses which I think grounds the trees in their place.

Here I've added the green fabric for the leaves. Carefully placed tiny pieces of fabric are held down by similar coloured tulle. I use a zig-zag free-motion stitch to sew them in place. Then I cut away the excess tulle. The leaves take on a life of their own as I add different shades of green.

Here are the leaves in place. I wasn't completely happy with the overall look, so I added some more leaves on the lower edges of the trees and I also added some more stitching on the blue foreground.

At this point, I place it on my easel and have to look at it carefully. Sometimes leaving it for a few days. Then when I see it with fresh eyes I know instantly what it needs.

So these were the changes that I made, as I've said I added some more foliage to the trees and I added some brighter threads to the darker blue fabric at the bottom of the undergrowth section. I also went back into the sky and added a stronger blue thread. Then left it on my easel for another few days and decided it was finished. I always sign it in thread and try to leave it. Just like a painting, it's always hard to know when it's finished.

I then stretched the canvas onto the stretcher. I was now ready to submit it online for consideration for the exhibition.

These were the 3 images I submitted to the RUA.

Then a couple of weeks later, the preselection was made. I was delighted to be preselected which means they would like to see it. They give a time and a place to drop it off.

So all wrapped up I set out for Belfast to the drop-off address. Pretty nerve-wracking but I said to myself it was great to get preselected. Then the waiting game commenced. Then a couple of weeks later, finally an email.

To say I was over the moon was an understatement. I was thrilled that my textile art was going to stand beside all my peer's work in paint, watercolour, print, sculpture etc.

So the preview evening was on the 13th of October.

I'll add the next few photos of the preview evening.

And here she is my "Majestic Undergrowth " at the 141st Annual Royal Ulster Academy of Arts Exhibition in the Ulster Museum Belfast.

Someone having good luck at the details.

Here I am on the opening night. I had a fantastic night and met some fabulous artists.

I hope you enjoyed this blog, I do plan to do some more blogs in the future so watch this space as they say! Slán

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Apr 20, 2023

Hi Elizabeth, Thanks so much for your kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed it.



Elizabeth Franklin
Elizabeth Franklin
Apr 20, 2023

Such beautiful work! Thanks for giving us a look at your creative process. Just wonderful!!

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