A machine embroidered peacock feather is having a final embellishment of beadwork sparkle; a client’s commission is almost ready for framing. On a cold, blustery January day, I indulge in the artistic splendour of a peacock palette of threads and beads.
The tranquil rhythm of hand-beading the feathery details makes me reflect on the influence of peacock patterns within the decorative arts. I immediately think of the aesthetic movement of the late 1890s, when the artistic legacy of William Morris was empowering the arts and crafts. The famous Liberty fabric , ‘Peacock Feather’, designed by Arthur Silver in 1887 continues to be a fashion favourite, I am still wearing a Liberty blouse of that iconic print. The peacock motif appears on tiles, textiles, jewellery, created by the famous names: De Morgan, Voysey, Knox. My favourite from the peacock parade of that era is a wardrobe, designed by Ambrose Heal junr., in 1898; Heal’s furniture displays the motto: ‘Fine Feathers make Fine Birds’, within a frieze of peacock motifs. Perhaps embroidered feathers were also emblazoned on silk cushions, I am inspired by that thought, my bedroom could do with a Spring revamp!
Before I finish my peacock piece, I will share its stitch story: the original ‘Peacock Feather’ embroidery was a sample for my 2014 workshop, ‘Free Spirit’. It featured in my Studio Show in 2015, after it was sold I was asked to create another version for a client’s home, so beading complete it is now ready to reside in a glazed frame. I like the idea of a free flutter of feather textures too, so maybe another idea here for a fashion piece?
The intricate feather textures are created using machine lace techniques with water-soluble stabilizers (see the ‘Studio Techniques’ of my book, ‘Embroidered Originals’). Several shades of rayon threads are mixed with metallic threads to evoke an iridescence, a lustre on the feathers; glass beads and crystals add sparkle to the stitchery.
Looking out to the winter cool of my garden, my spirits are lifted with the dazzle of peacock colours!
For more inspiration, why not visit the exhibition: ‘Peacocks and Pomegranates’ at the Royal School of Needlework. January – July 2016 www.royal-needlework.org.uk.