Thursday, May 17, 2012

Greek Goddess Fabric Design

Tada!  Another fabric design, another contest.  This time I have entered into the Spoonflower weekly contest, themed: Handrawn.  If you like my work, please consider voting for it sometime this week.  There is a lot of competition this round.  My fabric will be available for sale in Kona cotton in about three weeks.  The original drawings are in color pencil and pen on watercolor paper.
It all started with a couple recent Greek Goddess themed ATC swaps for at  I found I enjoyed researching the subjects of the swap and creating images. When I was a girl, one of my favorite books was filled with the myths of Greece and Rome.  It was a book printed in the late 1800s and must have had a lot of fairly contemporary artwork for the time.  The black and white pictures (glued into the book) included sculptures and paintings which included many of the Romantic painters, as well as many Neo-Classical masterpieces.  This book was not the classic Bullfinch's Mythology that I had seen in the school library but a similar book, Myths of Greece and Rome by H A Guerber published in 1893.  I just loved the stories and the art.  It has been many years since I last saw that book and so I had forgotten a lot of the stories I once knew.  Rereading the backgrounds on the Goddess has been really interesting.
I have drawn upon comic book art, pinups and the artwork of Alphonse Mucha for the inspiration.  For example, my Medusa was inspired by a Alphonse Mucha calendar I have.  Her pose is after the dancer in Mucha's La Danse. Mucha is an Art Nouveau artist who was basically a pin up artist with flair.
I have tried to incorporate what I know of the temperaments of each Goddess from my research into the poses.  Aphrodite (aka Venus) originally more than the pin-up she is popularly portrayed as, was the Goddess of what draws life to create more life. I have attempted to draw her as a desirous, mischievous character. Athena is the Goddess of Wisdom and War. I have tried to represent her as intelligent, proud and determined. Artemis was a Goddess of the moon who is independent of men and a hunter. She is represented as an athletic woman, relaxed in her power. Hera is a proud, mature woman, she is believed to have joined the Greek pantheon from Egypt where she was Hathor.  Gaia, the Earth I have drawn as a lush woman.  Demeter and Persephone are mother and daughter.  Demeter is the grain Goddess and her daughter the Goddess of Spring.  Circe is a minor Goddess and is featured in the Oddessy.  She clearly gets a lot of come-ons from men if one looks at the number of pigs on her island.  Circe was known to change men into pigs if they disrespected her.  It is arguable whether Medusa was a Goddess during Greek times but it was her card that started this who process for me so I will share more information than the brief summaries above.
Medusa was originally a daughter of water deities but in later myths Medusa began life as a beautiful priestess of Athena who was turned into a snake creature when she had sex with Poseidon in the temple.   The snake was a very powerful symbol in ancient times.  The snake was seen as an animal from underground because of its appearance after hibernation but also because the snakes would slip underground before earthquakes.  This underground connection tied snakes symbolically to prophecy and they were kept in the Temples to Apollo, the God of prophecy.   The snake's habit of shedding its skin was representative of renewal and it's phallic shape was not lost on the ancients making it a symbol of sexuality.  In many ancient mythologies the snake was also the symbol of the Chaos that the world was drawn from and was thought to surround the world still.  Slaying Medusa can be thought in terms of civilizing the chaotic and restoring order.
* My periodic notice all images created by me are copyright Penney Hughes and may only be used with permission.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

First Art Commission

 The Dream (Oil on Canvas 840mm x 600mm)
I have loved art since I was small.  For many years I have had a fantasy of being able to commission a piece and finally my husband and I decided to commission a painting from a local artist.  We choose her because her style is reminiscent of the optimistic, love filled work of Marc Chagall.  You might not know it from my blog but my children are really the focus of my life.  This is true for my husband as well.  We decided the painting should celebrate our marriage since, sadly, it is often overlooked in the business of life and family.  Michelle Penny's style was perfect for this subject matter. 
She visited our house and we had a consultation about what we like in her art, what we like about art in general and we told her a little about ourselves.  We wanted a painting with a lot of plants, some references to our time in Africa, and a work of art that was romantic.  Michelle Penny returned to us with the artwork below and this description.   
Here is her description: "You guys told me that you love the out doors an plants. You told me how you met via a personal advert in the newspaper an that you had a dream of your husband before you met him. As if it was your destiny in a dream. Your husband also mentioned that your specific religion is important to you.

I started off by using Henri Rosseau s painting of  'the dream ' as my starting inspiration. I have painted you as the beautiful woman slumbering on a royal purple couch dreaming in a beautiful garden awaiting her dream soul mate coming down from the heavens. There are elements of Africa. As well as a spiritual creature flying in the back ground holding a challis. As a symbol of your religion."

THE DREAM (HOMAGE TO HENRI ROSSEAU) (Oil on canvas 1200 x 900mm)
We loved the painting.  The only problem was a misunderstanding of the price agreed upon.  So here is the moral to my story.  No matter how cordial relations are between yourself and the artist you are working with get your expectations in writing.  In this case, Michelle was willing to paint a second painting of a smaller size to more accurately reflect the price we were paying.  Her original painting was receiving a lot of attention and she was confident she would sell it.  The loss was ours because I believe the original painting is the better executed of the two.  Still I am happy with the resolution we were able to work out and pleased with this celebration of our marriage.
Maybe someday I will share my dream which was the inspiration for these paintings.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Sew for My Little Girl...Again

In South Africa there is a local fabric known as Shweshwe.  Shweshwe is a cotton fabric heavier than a quilting weight cotton but lighter than denim.  When I picked it up from the store the sales lady told me "You need to soak it for four hours in salt water and then wash it.  The material comes with A LOT of starch in it and a distinctive odour.  A very interesting history of Shweshwe is found on the (d)urban(a) blog
I have been hoping for a good project to use my Shweshwe on (pictured right) and knew I found it when I ran across the Rumble Tumble Coveralls tutorial from the Blooms and Bugs blog. You can see my daughter is enjoying her new overalls and, of course, I added the obligatory pink details.  There are changes I will make if I sew this a second time.  I think I would button the straps on the inside of the yoke.  I am also learning that when measuring add a little extra for wiggle room.  I had to add an insert on the backside to make room for the diaper.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Fabric8, a fabric design contest, sponsered by Spoonflower and Kaufmann fabrics is up for voting over the next week.  The contest was to use pen and ink with watercolor.  If you click on the link for voting you will see that they were searching for a particular look.  My fabric, Love in All Seasons, did not make the first cut but I think it was a strong design.
I once read in a sewing book that if you improve your fit by 10% each garmet you will be sewing like a pro in no time at all.  I hope this axiom is true about designing fabrics as well.  My fabric is being test printed and will be available for sale in about 3 weeks.