Thursday, September 02, 2010
Fine Art Finishing Technique for Bead Embroidery
This post is inspired by the quilt by Myrna Giesbrecht pictured above which I saw at an exhibition last November (more about it here). It was set apart from all the other quilts in the show by virtue of the way it was displayed, not hanging soft against the wall, but mounted on a stretched and painted canvas. The artist had painted a stretched canvas black and then sewn the quilt to it, which made the quilt look like a fine art painting. Wow!
Even though it may not be fair to the quality, originality and beauty of the other quilts in the show, I believe Myrna could have sold her quilt for two or three times the amount any of the others could have gotten... because traditionally fine art commands higher monetary value than craft, stitchery, quilts, etc.
Light bulb! I tucked that sweet idea for display of fiber arts/beadwork in the back of my mind for future reference and recently resurrected it because I wanted to enter some of my Bead Journal pieces for this year in our County Fair, and I wanted them in the Fine Arts division! I hoped that mounting them in this way would give them a fine art look. Here's how my three pieces turned out. (All pictures in this post are click-to-enlarge.)
All three (l to r: Release, Believe, Forgive) won blue ribbons, two of them also won "best of class" and one won a "special award gift certificate for art supplies." How's that for an idea that works? And why not share the finishing technique with my blogging friends? OK! Here you go...
How to Mount Beadwork on Canvas Stretcher Frames
Buy a pre-made, canvas-covered stretcher-frame from your local art supplies shop or on-line. No need to get one that is primed as you're going to cover it with fabric. It should be larger than your piece, but not so much larger that your piece is lost in the center of it.
Select a fabric that enhances (but does not in any way detract) from your piece. For the three pieces shown above, I used a black batik. It's a tightly woven, durable fabric with no sheen to it. On close inspection it includes dark red, dark green and dark black in addition to deeply saturated black. I like the way the very subtle colors relate with the colors in my pieces. Cut the fabric about 3 inches larger than the stretcher on each side.
Center your beadwork on the fabric and determine how best to stitch your beading to the fabric. My choice was to whip-stitch over the couching stitches that hold the twisted cording around the perimeter of my piece, using the same holes and matching thread colors. See right and wrong side below.
The next step is to lace the fabric to the frame. I use acid-free photo-mount stickers in the corners of my beadwork to hold it centered on the canvas while I lace it onto the frame.
I use buttonhole thread (but any synthetic beading thread will work as well) and lace side to side first. I make my lacing stitches about a half inch apart at the ends and about an inch apart in the center. At first I simply lace without concern for tension. After the lacing is complete, I work from the starting point to the end, snugging each section of lacing thread as I go. Try to achieve an even tension across the width of the frame, but not so taught that it pulls your beadwork out of shape. Knot off the thread.
Then on the back side, carefully mitre the corners at the top and bottom, folding the fabric inward and pinning it at the corners. Mark the approximate location of the hanging eye-screws. They should be about a third of the way down from the top and about a half inch in from the edge. The reason is that you don't want to cut your vertical lacing threads when you drill the holes for the eye-screws! Record the measurement on scrap paper. The corners should now look like this...
Lace the top to the bottom in the same way as the side lacing. Be careful not to place lacing over or near the marked spots. Snug the tension in the lacing and knot off the thread.
Use a piece of black or kraft paper, acid-free if possible, to cover the lacing. Cut it about one-quarter inch smaller all around than the canvas. I write the title of the piece and the date along the bottom edge of the backing paper and sign it before attaching it. Using double-sided tape or PVA glue all around the edge of the paper, center it over the back of the frame and drop it in place.
Remember the recorded measurement of your drilling spots? Use it to correctly locate the spots and mark them on the backing paper. Use a small hand drill and an appropriately sized bit to drill holes for the eye-screws.
Insert eye-screws. Measure a piece of picture wire 6 inches longer than the distance between the two eye-screws. Insert wire into one of the screws and twist the end around the wire to secure. Do the same on the other side, adjusting the tension so the wire is pretty much straight across. Add felt bumpers to the bottom corners. The completed back side looks like this.
Note: You might ask, why not staple the fabric to the frame, like the canvas? In my opinion, with the beadwork already sewn to the fabric, you need a more forgiving method. You need to be able to delicately adjust both the tension and the positioning of the beadwork relative to the frame. To do that with staples would be tricky at best.
I am so pleased with how professional my pieces look mounted/framed in this way! Originally, I had planned to bind them into a hand-made book. Because everything is stitched rather than glued, I can easily disassemble these pieces and re-mount them in my book. But after seeing how they look like this, I'm tempted to change my mind and display all twelve pieces this way..