Thursday, 4 January 2018

FIRST SITE (Weekly Art Project '18; Istanbul #1)

 'It's a dangerous business going out your door.  You step onto the road and if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might be swept off to."  JRR Tolkien

It was May 2011 & I was FINALLY in Istanbul, a place I'd had on my wish list for absolutely ages. I was almost paralytic with excitement!  Two whole weeks in this ancient, magical city was such a gift, an opportunity...AND I had my first digital camera!  The city was literally at our Hotel doorstep but where to start? Dodging touts trying to sell us souvenirs, postcards and guidebooks, and armed only with a map and a sense of anticipation, we ventured forth.

The pedestrianized area that in Constantine's day was known as the Hippodrome, stood before us and shooting skyward from it's centre, was an obelisk that looked somewhat out of place.  Carved from pink granite, the obelisk of Thutmose lll had once graced the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt, before Emperor Theodosius had other plans for it! 

I'd just been reading "Theodora" by Stella Duffy & she mentioned the owl on the obelisk.  It was the first thing I noticed & has consequently stayed with me over the years.

Therefore, on resuming my weekly art practice,  it was inevitable that it be my muse.  This year's theme for the WAP (weekly art project) is travel and, as you may have guessed, my first  destination was Istanbul! Whilst I have been looking forward to starting it, as with any discipline that requires regular practice, getting back into the routine after a break took a concerted effort!

Out came paper & pens.  I approached the blank page with a specific idea in mind, but soon after starting to make visual notes, my ideas changed.  You'll notice that I also made written notes of my thoughts as I drew .  This process is very helpful in developing an idea & helping it take the next leap towards a design.

My colour palette was compiled after I'd decided what my design would be & how I was going to produce it.  You'll notice they're grey!  Although the obelisk in question is made of PINK granite, & you can see why in the photo at the start of this blog,  that photo has been used from stock available on the internet & was clearly taken on a bright sunny day. The close up of the owl section of the obelisk is mine.  We were there on an overcast grey day...therefore, everything was grey!

In my 'travel memorabilia' stash, I'd come across the map of Istanbul we'd been given at the hotel.  Creased & written on, and with some sections so worn as to be undecipherable, I decided to print it onto fabric to create the background for my first Istanbul piece.

All my layers were put in order before I sat at the machine to stitch the design through the whole lot.  Then it was time to let the cutting back begin!

There was a brief halt, as I stitched the second outline in place.  I LOVE using variegated thread when I want the stitched line to be obvious,  it adds interest & movement to a piece.  For this second outline, I chose a variegated thread that had a grey to brown colour range.  It looked as effective as I had hoped it would!  Time to get the scissors ready again & cut back some more!

I was so excited to see it all come together.  Unusually for me, I then chose beading as my next step, as opposed to embroidery.

One of the observations that I'd made in my initial visual note taking process, was that the eye is a symbol of protection in Turkey.  The blue eye amulet is on everything from shopping bags to doorways.  Wanting to reference that connection & knowing that I still had a blue eye bead in my stash, I stitched it onto the egyptian eye, before tackling the owl eyes.  The beads I had for the owl were small & round, whereas the eyes of the obelisk owl were more almond shaped, like human eyes. Using small pieces of fabric, I added them along with the beads.

I knew that I wanted to add some stitch to the owl's body, but it wasn't until that big  amulet bead was in place that I thought about mirroring those blue tones with thread.  The results are charming!

I am delighted with this first little piece.  It cements in my mind, that first walk onto the Hippodrome, that glance up to see the owl  & think of Theodora in the same place so many years before doing the very same thing!

More recently, the Obelisk of Thutmose lll has been the scene of tragedy & terror, when a group of tourists were the victims of  a homicide bomber.  Sorrow & joy so often walk hand in hand.  This   piece will force me to remember them, as well as my own wonderful memories.

* Please note that the first photo of this blog is a stock photo uploaded from Google.  The rest of the photos are my own.  Please respect my copyright of them.
If you enjoy travel blogs then you can read more about our adventures in Istanbul at 

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