Martina would like to thank Aline Gerber from "The Photoworkers" Winterthur for her brilliant photos.
The story began with a really crazy idea of a greenhouse formed by a sheer crinoline, full of exotic plants and insects... which I had to cancel very soon because I didn't have enough time. Next popped up what I desired for long: a Tiffany lamp. There are these wonderful blue ones with dragonflies at the edge, but copying this in scale these insects would have come out really monstrous - no good idea. And then I found one lamp with 3D butterflies on it - perfect!.
In the first design the lampshade was planned as a tutu-like skirt - my legs beneath and a corset on the upper body as the metal parts, but this I considered too normal - a tutu with a Tiffany pattern. Then my daughter gave me the clue: why not be the lamp yourself? So the new picture took shape in my head: a big lampshade around my shoulders, myself being the stand. The “glass” parts of silk and the stand made of steel gray taffetas as a very slim and tight fitting dress, the upper part covering my head formed as a helmet.
In Photoshop I changed the original reddish/yellow colors to my favorite blue/turquoise. The butterflies would be embroidered - inspired by the gorgeous “Ulysses” in natural size. The lampshade should be paint-dyed silk in heaven-blue, the lead lines sewn on with rayon Russia braid. All this was done - but then I realized that nothing worked at all. The first lead pattern was a grid on the light blue “heaven” - this was really boring and my beasties were far too small – a point of desperation, because that meant about 80 hours of embroidery for nothing plus all the other work which was already done. I was nearly up to cancel.
But then the new vision came: realizing the lamp more or less in scale - with really big butterflies painted on very thin silk to get the glass-feeling. The foundation would be covered with stylized lilies and leaves in blue/turqoise and the “lead” lines this time also painted in black. So there were some hours of painting silkflowers, leaves and lines, and butterfly-wings, putting the insects together and sewing them onto the lampshade. In the end I decided to use all animals of my “specimen box” with the pink “outsider” sitting on the helmet to cover my face - giving the idea of a really giant Tiffany lamp.
The main challenge was the lampshade. It is constructed like a crinoline: a joke-collar and two steel bone circles joined with cotton ribbons make the “skeleton”. To get the shape I covered this frame with several layers of ruffled tulle. For the rounded edge I added more padding of tulle ruffles and a box-pleated tulle strip, reinforced with a plastic bone to keep the shape. Next was a cotton "mantle" out of 9 segments, draped onto the padded frame and then after the fitting sewn together to get a smooth surface.
The challenge with this step was to achieve a really round lampshade - I had to deal with the not symmetrical form of the human body - which meant broader across the shoulders than on front and back which caused a good deal of trying and measuring and balancing. The lower edge is reinforced with a curtain lead rope to prevent the lining form lifting. The actual silk cover has a fusible interfacing and a batiste lining - cut after the pattern for the "underpinning". As the version with the braid-lead was really bad there was a break of nearly one week - I was completely stuck. Setting a deadline for the decision to cancel or to go on, I GOT a new idea.
I painted stylized lilies and leaves onto the already ready silk cover, which was a new challenge because this had to be done without the normally used frame, so I could not stretch the silk. I found the solution doing the painting on a glass plate with silk color, the lead lines with normal textile color. This came out satisfying and I could go on with "normal" sewing work: Both layers are buttoned with press-buttons, in the lower hem I inserted a piping ribbon to pull the edge tight.
The embroidery of the smaller (original - from the first version) butterflies is in stump work - all wings separately sewn onto thin wire on a double layer of batiste, filled with long and short stitch, cut out and sewn onto the belly which is a wire reinforced crocheted roll, finally covered by needle felting. The antennae of the big ones are wool-wrapped wire, the small ones thin double twisted wires. The big ones are painted also in separate parts, the edges wrapped around wire and then mounted onto the bellies and all sewn onto the lampshade.
The dress underneath is a simple etui-dress, as tightly fitting as possible, the "foot" again constructed in crinoline-manner, just smaller and with an additional bone just in the hem of the dress to keep the round shape at this point. Lead rope is inserted in the outer edge for more weight and to be sure that it stayed down on the floor. For the draw “switches” I made two 8-part little balls, sewn onto chains and fastened at my elbows.
This is the first time that I generally took part in such a competition. When the subject was revealed I had no idea at all - my first thought was: never for me, I have no time to make something not useful, something actually just for fun, just for me. But then there was this little other voice “why not create a piece of art? Something really developed and done by me? On my own?” In the past I always thought that I was not able to do such a thing (absurd - for I did already many, but did not really appreciate them because this was something forbidden when I was a child. And although my head knows that this is neither bad nor selfish it was ever effecting me now and again).
And now taking courage I said “Yes!” - deciding not to be shy of patient and long work. The journey began. And it was great and gave me confidence in my capabilities, ideas and fantasy. I think it is a very important step for me - exciting to do something completely different from my normal work (as Cathy said we should do.) To figure out how my idea would be to realize, not to give up at the really tough point and then to see the finished opus on the photos. This is pure joy!
In any case I would encourage other people to take part, to go this way and to take this absolute private challenge - it is such an important process for one’s personal development, and it really brings much joy and satisfaction. And new ideas, new capabilities, new techniques, opening your mind for unusual solutions - there are so many valuable experiences besides the fun of - yes - playing!
The main thing for me is always “do” - the joyful process of making, and then of course also to enjoy the “have” - the finished project. But these things cannot be learned by telling or speaking about, it is only possible to make your own experience by going that way.