Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Channeling Owen Jones

 (Above:  Detail of Lancet Window CCII.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I'm both excited and nervous!  My work has again been accepted into the very prestigious Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft show in November, but most of the pieces I had ready are currently being hung in my solo show at Waterworks Visual Arts Center, a regional museum in Salisbury, North Carolina.  So ... I'm nervous about the upcoming deadline and excited to make NEW WORK.  This is one of the pieces on which I've been working this week.

 (Above:  Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones.)

This is my copy of Owen Jones' Grammar of Ornament.  It was published in London in 1868 by Bernard Quaritch and includes 112 vivid chromolithographic plates.  The binding is tight though the cover is slightly scuffed and has some discoloration.  Various on-line listings for this volume range from $375 to $795 for copies in far worse condition.  Thankfully ... this book has been reproduced many, many times ... including in cheap paperback form ... and every page can be viewed on-line too!  (CLICK HERE)

(Above:  Lancet Window CCII and one of the book shelves in our living room.  The Grammar of Ornament is on the third shelf from the top ... the tall, slightly scuffed burgundy bound book beside the Bible!)

The Grammar of Ornament was a ground-breaking book for architects, artists, designers, art students, and others wanting authentic patterns, colors, and motifs from historical sources.  Owen Jones was instrumental in the color palette and arrangement of exhibitions at Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and worked closely with Henry Cole, the first director of the South Kensington Museum ... later called the V&A ... my personal favorite museum in the world.  His work with Cole brought his key principles for the decorative arts to academic studies and to the publication of this book. 

 (Above:  Detail of one of the plates with Greek motifs.)

Basically, Owen Jones is largely responsible for how future artist and architects (even me!) use examples from the past for their own objectives.  Several times during the past year I told my husband Steve, "I should use that book for inspiration!  That's what it was meant for!"  After all, why own ancient leather bound tomes and exotic printed plates and scholarly looking books?  They aren't supposed to remain untouched on a book shelf ... never held, read, or used.  It was high time I consulted with Owen Jones.  I selected the central part of this Greek motif.

 (Above:  Lancet Window CCII, in progress.)

Of course I altered the design.  Owen Jones didn't envision future artists simply copying!  His intention was for future makers to examine the underlying principles of good design.  I needed to look at the source image and select the parts that fit comfortably into the size limitations of my Lancet Windows ... 28" x 8".  This was what I came up with.  I decided to use some of the colors and contrasting values found elsewhere on the page ... polyester velvets in rust, silver (to approximate "white" which really doesn't work with my materials), and a very dark olive (to approximate the black which is my substrata only.)  The image above is my first layer.

I burnished metallic copper and gold foiling to the first level and then added a layer of silver metallic velvets.

On top of the metallic silver velvet, I cut metallic gold, dark olive green, and more rust colored shapes.

Then I stitched.  I use only 100% black cotton thread ... free-motion embroidery ... linking the shapes.

(Above:  Lancet Window CCII.  Inventory # 4067.  Framed. $395.)

Finally, I melted holes through the layers of velvet and zapped the work with my industrial heat gun.  This is the piece after it was stitched to acid-free mat board.  Lancet Window CCII is now framed and ready to go!  I probably should try this approach again!

What a great week ... especially after a giant pecan limb snapped off and fell to the ground.  It took our telephone, television, and Internet line with it.  We were two days without these services.  Thankfully, it was restored this afternoon so that I could blog!

I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts. 


Shannon said...

I love seeing your inspiration, and the Grammar of Ornament is a great find! I've never seen it, but love the color prints. I've always loved Styles of Ornament (Alexander Speltz), and though scans of it too is available online, I picked up a used hardback of it a while back and am so grateful I did. It's so much easier to flip through. Unfortunately it's all black and white, so maybe I'll keep my eye out for Grammar of Ornament as well. Can't wait to see your new work and congrats on the Philadelphia show!!

Marni Fisher said...

Thanks so much for your pictures and explanation of how you created this. You are inspiring.