Have you ever heard of embroidery on metal - not metal thread embroidery, but stitching by hand or machine into thin sheet metal and metal fabrics? I hadn't, but I enjoy hand and machine stitching and I'm a sucker for a bit of bling. So, I was intrigued when I saw that a visiting textiles artist, Alysn Midgelow-Marsden from New Zealand, was teaching a workshop in the Adelaide Hills about using thin sheet metal, metal fabrics, and metallic Angelina fibres for embroidery. The workshop was called Flaming Hot Fibre Arts and was organised by Evocative Art and Heritage, which organises workshops in taught by guest tutors in various visual arts media.
Teaching sample by tutor Alysn Midgleow-Marsden - Feathers(2)
It turned out to be four days of fun and experimentation with flames, heat guns, using some unusual materials that I hadn't used before. Alysn demonstrated how to use metal fabrics - copper and aluminium, superfine and smooth as silk - as well as very thin metal sheeting, both of which can be stitched into with a sewing machine. We first heated the metals, which caused the colour to change. With care, it was possible to create reds, purples, and blues -but heat it just an instant too long and they were gone, leaving a dull greyish. We also stitched and heated synthetic fabrics, which shrank and bubbled, creating textural surfaces which we then layered to create infinite colour combinations. Finally, we used Angelina fibres (fine shreds of a polymer film with a shimmering metallic finish). We heat-bonded these to create glitzy 'fabrics' for using as textile surfaces to be stitched and beaded, or as applied embellishments.
Alysn displayed an array of lovely examples of her own work -samples and finished works - showing all the techniques, and these informed our own experiments. We left the workshop enthused and inspired, each with a bundle of samples and surfaces ready to be stitched and beaded later. My next foray into metals and textiles will be a workshop on rust dyeing and printing - a very different approach but another example of the unusual and innovative materials that textile artists are using these days. Who would have thought that metals could have such great uses for embroidery! You can check out their gallery of workshop photos and program at www.evocativearts.com.au