Monday, 8 January 2018

A BLUE MOSQUE (Weekly Art Project; Istanbul #2)

There is nothing quite like a balmy night in Istanbul, an outdoor table at one of the many delicious eateries, lights twinkling overhead, and a glance across the city to take in the magnificent Blue Mosque as the sun sets on another day.

There is also nothing quite like a rooftop terrace in one's Hotel!

What a vision.  This incredibly beautiful building draws zillions of visitors to it each year, whilst also managing to be an active Mosque.  Each Call To Prayer that crackled out from one of those minaret tannoys came right into our Hotel window, but we really didn't mind.  It was all part of the experience.

There was one disappointment though. 
The truth is.... the 'Blue Mosque' isn't actually blue! 
Sorry for any illusions I may have just shattered with that groundbreaking revelation!!  The Mosque of Sultan Ahmet 1 is known as the Blue Mosque because of the many blue coloured tiles lining the walls inside.  In my experience there were a number of other colours there too, but hey...more about that another time!!

This week, I chose to focus on that magnificent building with it's wonderful domes & soaring minarets. 
Whilst I'd been in Istanbul, I'd spent time sketching & one afternoon had whipped up this very quick sketch from the rooftop of our Hotel.  This is a sketch...NOT a great work of art.  As I've said before, sketching is visual note taking & isn't necessarily accurate or fully informed.  It contains the essential information, the important things to remember.

What I particularly like about a quick sketch like this, is the imperfections & the looseness, the carefree nature of the lines.

As I looked at it again in preparation for this week's project, I made a decision to not do any further sketches or explorations, but to use THIS sketch as the basis for my design.

Life is full of lot's of interesting, varied & random influences.  Two of the influences that have impacted on me this week have involved the colour blue. 

I was enthralled by the art work of Ian Berry, who currently has an installation in the Children's Art Museum of New York.  Ian uses denim jeans, in all their various tones, to create the most incredible artwork. 
The other blue related influence was from an article about Indigo growth & dye production.  This is the blue dye naturally produced by the plant of the same name & indigo dyed cloth is very popular in Japan.  I learned that indigo imbues the the cloth with antibacterial qualities, that it is flame retardant & odor resistant!

With these two influences buzzing around in my head, it was only natural that I use both discarded blue jeans & indigo dyed fabric in my project!  It was time to go to the stash!

I chose only 4 fabrics; 2 of each.

Denim is a thick fabric that is not easy to work with, especially in contemporary reverse applique! It is also a fabric that isn't easy to transfer a design onto using a lightbox!  Therefore, I decided to change my usual strategy & sew my design from the BACK of the base fabric, rather than transferring the design onto the topmost fabric layer.  This meant that I needed to trace the essential lines from my initial sketch onto tracing paper & then flip it over so that the design was a reverse  (a mirror image) of the original.

Once the design was transferred to the backing, I had to be extra vigilant about placing my layers of fabric in the correct order UNDERNEATH & back to front, with the 'right' side facing away from the backing... before I started sewing in the design!

I'd like to acknowledge that I didn't really have much of a plan at this point!  This is also unusual for me, & consequently I was feeling a tad nervous!

I sewed the outlines for the first 2 minarets & flipped it over to see how it looked.

So far so good!

I decided that I would keep all the minarets in the paler blue denim & the rest of the Mosque in the darker blue.  So once the stitching was complete for this was time to cut back!!

When it came to cutting back after stitching the Mosque lines, I turned the work over to realise I had a problem.  The thread blended in so well with the denim, that I really couldn't SEE it!  I used an air erasable pen to go over the lines, which was helpful enough to cut back the excess denim, but....arghhhhhh...what was I going to do to take this the next step further????

The only thing I could do, was stitch over the whole lot again, with a different colour. 
And I LIKED the outcome!!

I was so pleased with the golden yellow stitching, that I reduced the size of my stitch length & very carefully stitched in those fabulous arched windows.  If I was both a competent & confident machine embroiderer, it may have been easier to have completed them using machine embroidery.  But I'm not, so I didn't.

I did, however, attempt machine embroidery, over the piece of plain indigo dyed fabric, which I layered on top of my design.  The squiggles of the machine embroidery perfectly replicate the squiggles representing plant life in my initial sketch!  Thankfully the thread colour wasn't too different from the fabric, so you can't see how bad my stitching is!!

This is how the back looked & I love it!!

The finished piece, however, looks like this!

You will notice that I added some gold paint?  My initial thought was to only paint the crescent at the top of the largest dome gold.  However, it wasn't quite enough, so I added the other crescents & then the window frames.  I am very pleased with how the addition of the paint lifts this piece & instantly draws the eye to it.  I'm also pleased that I gave myself permission to use my expensive stencilled indigo fabric in the background!  The geometric patterning suits the Mosque,  and also references the star shaped lights underwhich we saw the Blue Mosque that first night as we ate our dinner.

This week I've had to be a bit brave & try a few different processes & approach my technique from a ...literally... different direction.  It is such a risk to try something new, but SUCH a relief to be happy with the results!

*All photos in this blog post are taken by me & are my personal property.  Please ask, before using or copying.  Thank you.

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