Thursday, 21 April 2011

Naturally inspired

This week I've drawn a lot of inspiration from where I work. As a Natural History Curator in a local museum, I look after hundreds of mounted and preserved birds, animals and plants. We often get artists coming in to draw the birds and animals, so surely I have a huge resource of inspiration right at my feet, Right? Well, as with many jobs, though I love my work, I strive to leave much of it behind at 5 o'clock when I go home to my husband and little girl, and continue in my other guise of 'wife, mother and crafter'. This week however, I sat on the train and let my thoughts wander, and I started thinking about some of our amazing collections. Two collections in particular caught my imagination this week, our fossils from the Devonian period (around 400 million years ago), and our native Scottish wildlife specimens.

Our Devonian fossils are fascinating. During this period, fish were the highest form of life, and were very plentiful. Many of the fish types that lived then are long extinct, and I explored them so thoroughly during the recent redisplay of our museum that it's no wonder they are still 'swimming' around in my head. One of my favourite species is the lobe-fin fish Holoptychius andersoni. I know, a bit of a mouthful right? Still, I loved it's shape, and wanted to use it's great silhouette. I decided to choose two nice, bright fabrics, and this is what I came up with on the train the next day.

I hand blanket-stitched the fish on, but in hingsight I think it would have looked better zigzag appliqued on my machine. I also hand stitched the fishes scientific name which took AGES but I quite like the effect. Planning to make a zipped pouch, you can see the zip attached already! And then I have thoughts of several fish silhouettes on a cushion using the same fabrics. Would anyone buy a fossil fish cushion? Who knows! Well, I would anyway!
I was also thinking about developing some ideas based on Scottish wildlife, and I started sketching in my train sketchbook and a few ideas were starting to form, but although I drew a nice badger, nothing really grabbed me. It was only once I got home and found a scrap in our study (i.e. the messy room where everything happens, including my sewing, home admin, and my husband's work) that had a little sketch of a cartoony bear on it. 
Of course! For YEARS now I have been saving nice doodles that I've done at work or on the train and stuffing them in a folder for some, nebulous future 'use'. Suddenly a bulb flickered on over my head. I have a whole design archive just sitting waiting!!! To celebrate, I worked up the bear a little further and promptly sewed him up on the train the next day. 
Here's the worked up sketch - now he has a body and legs! And here's how he turned out in fabric form.
I love him! But as ever for me at the moment, what to do with it next? 

I'm really not getting much sewing machine time at the minute as by the time I've worked, done chores etc...the appeal of sitting alone upstairs glaring at my machine and swearing at my own impatience DOES start to dwindle, but I did sneak a little machine time. My 20 month old daughter loves arranging little blankets and is a great 'help' when it comes to sorting out the cloth nappy wash with all the boosters, fleece liners etc. So I decided to make her a few little 'blankets' of her own. In about twenty minutes between chores, I whipped up this little blanket.
I literally threw it through the machine, slapped some binding round the edges and just sewed it through once, with terribly messy corners and joins, but I didn't care. I was after something QUICK, not perfect. Just two layers of fabric back to back with no wadding, but I added diagonal stitching lines to 'keep' the two fabric halves together. Carefully arranged over a 'sleeping' mouse, I left it for my little girl to find the next morning and...
I think she likes it :) She has since spent ages arranging the blanket and the mouse – tucking him in while saying 'sleepy time' and then taking him out again. I think I'll make her a few more blankets in different sizes and using different fabrics. And although I just threw the colours for this together in a few seconds out of what was on my sewing table I actually LOVE the combination of the yellow with white polka dots and the pale blue/grey binding. I'm thinking that some placemats would look lovely in those colours!

What will next weeks train journeys bring? 

1 comment:

  1. I think there is probably a huge untapped market for 'fossily' things - there are loads of people into natural history, and you have rightly identified that you don't often see things embellished with such items.

    The colours on mousey's blanket are really 'fresh', I agree about the placemats!