August 29th 2013
About twenty years ago my brother took me out to dinner at an Indian restaurant in London. I don’t remember the food but I do remember the large picture on the wall that blew me away with both its simplicity and pizzazz. It was during a period when, along with a few other million Brits, I was experimenting with decorative effects in the house – marbling, stippling and such like. You remember, I’m sure you do – we all went paint effect mad. I had been playing around a lot with gilding, or my version of it, to quite a successful end. I was actually selling frames, pots and other bits and pieces at various galleries in London. To keep costs down I had been using a version of gold leaf called Dutch Gold which was sold in 6″ squares, as opposed to 4″ squares and was fraction of the price of real gold leaf. The picture that caught my eye was about 30″ square and was composed of a mass of gold leaf squares, all gilded with that lovely cracked, burnished finish and in the very centre of the picture, three perfectly painted chilli peppers. the overall effect was brilliant – the bright, small realistic chillies, painted in oil, against the large gold background, all geometrically delineated by the gold leaf squares. I have always meant to have a bash at creating a copy myself but as I still haven’t done it, twenty years on, the chances seem pretty remote.
Earlier on in the summer, whilst fiddling around with new ideas, the three chilli peppers came to fruition in a fabric version.
I’m not mad about the result of this piece and have left it unquilted but much has come from this first design. I found the red chillies looked rather lost in the wreath and felt that they needed to be more balanced throughout the whole wreath. You can see I was also experimenting with garlic. I think I scored high for realism and they were fun to make but they are not easy to place, given their rather static quality. I gave the bulbs stalks (!) for a bit of life but even then they still looked very plonked in place. However, I was thrilled with the olives and rosemary. In fact I was so thrilled with the rosemary that it has gone on to be in virtually everything I have sewn since. Although I was disappointed with this first attempt at a “Kitchen Wreath” I decided to have a second bash this week.
I really love this new Red Hot Chilli Pepper Wreath which measures 18″ square. I started it last weekend to give me a small project to work on in front of the US Open (we are tennis mad in my family) but I seem to have rather overshot timing-wise as we are not even into the second round yet…..
I used a combination of scrap silks and Oakshott cottons on a gorgeous orange Burmese silk background that I had in my stash. Although the red peppers are pretty discreet against the orange I rather like this. For simplicity’s sake I decided to only use embroidered stems and I appliqued it in a rather different way, layering as follows.
I started with Bay Leaves (huge artistic license taken here but the colour is legitimate if nothing else)
Add some olive leaves
Now back to the tennis……