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An Insect Metamorphosis on Silk by Marloes DadswellAn Insect Metamorphosis on Silk by Marloes DadswellAn Insect Metamorphosis on Silk by Marloes DadswellAn Insect Metamorphosis on Silk by Marloes DadswellAn Insect Metamorphosis on Silk by Marloes Dadswell

 

An Insect Metamorphosis on Silk - Special Prize for Outstanding Craftsmanship

Marloes Dadswell, Netherlands (Bespoke Corsetry)

Photography: Studio Darkashter

 

The Design

Insects and their otherworldly appearance are an important source of inspiration for art, literature and science. Not just their strange shapes and habits have captivated our imagination, but also, and perhaps more importantly, their metamorphosis. Insects undergo a strange transformation from a larval state to the full grown adult. No other artist, in my opinion, more exquisitely captured this process than Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717). This Hessian entomologist and artist inspired my contribution to the insect themed competition for Foundations Revealed. Until recently I only knew her work from postcards and books, but last year, during the tercentenary of her passing, I was fortunate to see her work in Teylers Museum in Haarlem. What intrigues me about her art is the beautiful composition of insects in their various life stages and the flora accompanying them. Merian’s watercolours show a wonderful blend between art and science.

To highlight the importance of her work, let me write a few words about Merian’s life. At the age of nine Merian started keeping silkworms as pets and studied their habits closely. Sometimes she would stay up all night witnessing the moths emerging from their pupae. After receiving an education as a scientific illustrator Merian started painting insects with their host plants. In 1699, having published several books on the metamorphosis of insects, the city of Amsterdam awarded Merian a grant to travel to Suriname together with one of her daughters. There she started working on her best-known work: the Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (1705). She spent two years in Suriname cataloguing the exotic insects and their host plants. Upon her return to Amsterdam, she opened a shop and started making and selling prints together with her daughters. Merian should first and foremost be remembered as a naturalist, being one of the first to study the metamorphosis of insects. She also depicted the insects with the flowers, fruits and leaves they ate. By juxtaposing insects and host plants she offers a wonderful perspective of their complex ecological relationships.

Merian’s first published book, Neues Blumenbuch (1680), was a floral pattern book for embroidery. Alas, she never made another embroidery book of her later artworks. This sparked my idea to explore the possibility of reimagining two of her later watercolours unto a corset. I choose two well-known watercolours: Pomegranate and Menelaus Blue Morpho Butterfly & Cardinal's Guard Butterfly with Idomeneus Giant Owl Butterfly. By using embroidery techniques instead of paint, I was able to convert her two-dimensional artworks into a corset ensemble where two- and three-dimensional forms meet. The flitting butterfly shows the final metamorphosis wherein the art appears to leave the canvas. This corset is more than an homage to a brilliant artist and naturalist, it also explores a new way of depicting insect- and plant life. With my contribution to Foundations Revealed I wanted to show that a corset can be a canvas for looking at the wonders of nature.

 

The Construction

Having wanted to enter the competition hosted by Foundations Revealed in previous years but never quite finding the time, I decided to start early and work on small segments of my design at a time whenever I could.

After drafting an underbust corset and making a toile out of coutil, I redrew the seamlines to mimic the streamlined look of a chrysalis I had come across whilst perusing images of butterfly houses. These new cut pieces became my final pattern and I started cutting the silk taffeta. I stitched the two halves of the fashion layer and kept them separately so I could work on one side without damaging the other. By stitching narrow tunnels which I corded with a silk and wool blend yarn I aimed not to disrupt the flow of the design by having boning channels visible on the outside. An added bonus was not having to embroider through the coutil. Another method would have been to embroider the designs onto silk organza and aplliqué the finished work onto the corset. I plan to explore this method in the future.

The first element I embroidered was the chrysalis on the Cardinal's Guard Butterfly with Idomeneus Giant Owl Butterfly, adding beads for a finer finish. Then I started on the larger leaf and larva using a technique called stumpwork. To create the raised textures I added a layer of wool felt, padding the layer and laying the embroidered satin stitches on top for a painterly effect.

Once I started on the Pomegranate and Menelaus Blue Morpho Butterfly side I made the peel of the pomegranate stand out by creating cup-like shapes with felt, which I edged with a gold-plated purl to both maintain the shape of the edge and to add a bit of opulence. The membranes are made from a very thin silk chiffon and the arils are real garnet beads.
I decided very early on to make some separate butterfly appliqués so they could look as life-like as possible. After cutting butterfly shapes out of felt I edged them with a gold-plated purl. The bodies are also padded.

On the original watercolour, there’s a parasitic wasp hovering above the red caterpillar. I really wanted the wasp to look as if it had just landed on the corset. The wings were the first parts I made, using stumpwork techniques for its body.

I made a coutil corset base with vertical boning channels and seams and layered it with the silk layer basting both layers together for a smooth finish. With some silk left, I made a matching bra with gold coloured French lace which I also used to make the shoulder straps and matching French knickers. All patterns were drafted by myself and all embroidery was done by hand. The bias binding is hand finished and trimmed with delicate golden beads.

I asked the lovely talented Lilith from Studio Darkashter to take the photos of the finished look.

 

More details on my blog

 

What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?

It has been exhilarating to enter the competition and work on my entry. I would like everyone who is on the fence about entering to be bold. To allow themselves to create, without censoring their creative brain. To be brave and share their work.

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Claire Green
I adore Maria Sibylla Merian's artistry, Im so happy to see it incorporated into someones piece! Beautiful work
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marloes dadswell
Thank you so much. Merian has fascinated me for so many years. And to finally be able to use her work as an inspiration has been a wonderful experience.
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Eve
Devine
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marloes dadswell
Thank you!
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aprix13
Your embroidery looks so beautiful and lifelike! I keep expecting your motifs go start moving.
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marloes dadswell
Thank you so much! One evening whilst working on the wasp, my cat made off with it. Gave me the biggest fright ever thinking she had caught an actual insect hahaha!
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Sandy Baker
I saw your corset in the Facebook corsets group and loved it. But after learning the story behind it I enjoyed it even more!
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marloes dadswell
Thank you so much! I so enjoyed working on it and finding out more about this fascinating woman in history.
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lcostigliolo
That embroidery is absolutely gorgeous!
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marloes dadswell
Thank you so much! That means the world to me!
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jema
a lovely unusual corset pattern with exquisite embroidery, the longer you look, the more you can see
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marloes dadswell
Thank you Jema! I do ask a lot of people sometimes as I work on a small scale for reasons unknown to myself even, although I enjoy tiny finicky projects. It's all in the detail I suppose hahaha!
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lyrisdesign
So beautiful, I love the lines and paneling on the corset, and the embellishments are so real and perfectly done.
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marloes dadswell
Thank you for your kind words! I am so loving your entry as well!
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This embroidery makes me absolutely speechless! The whole work is such an expression of beauty- so perfectly done! I adore it!
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clockwork_faerie
its not often i see embroidery on a modern corset, but this works so well! I love it! Your stumpwork is gorgeously textured. I love the bead and gold details that catch the light. So good! Great job!
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marloes dadswell
Thank you very much!
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mlilith
Your corset is my favorite of all the costumes I've seen. You've mastered skills I'm still a beginner at and I am inspired. I love the embroidery. The caterpillar, the stumpwork...I didn't realize you could make a butterfly look so lifelike with embroidery. Absolutely stunning!
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marloes dadswell
Thank you for your kind compliments! They mean a lot to me!
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Totally in awe of your beautiful embroidery - I love it! And the corset itself is divine - super sleek!
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Shari van der Waals-Atalla
Absolutely love your corset, a true work of art. I keep finding new details in the embroidery.
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royalblack
I already said it on Facebook: Your embroidery skills are just breathtaking!
Such perfection and beauty in even the smallest details... Also very nice pattern and flawless construction. Great job in every aspect!

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cathyhay
Just beautiful Marloes, not just the perfect embroidery, but the amazing patterning and seamlines, all matched so perfectly! This is masterful work, I'm blown away every time I look!
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paulay71
Beautiful shape, stunning embroidery, simply gorgeous.
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