Assignment Two (Option 2): Exercise 2.2: Focus on embellishment and risk taking in experimentation. Shadow Applique

Shadow Applique Work – Machine Quilted

This technique has a subtle quality.  The voile layer shuts off the harsh bright colours that may lie underneath.

(See my techniques folder for more information in detail about the technique itself)

The basic idea comprises of the steps below:

  1. Base fabric, quilted fabric (optional but adds depth), top layer.
  2. Pieces of fabric cut out, with bondaweb on the back. Placed on top of the top fabric to create a scene and ironed to keep in place and flatten.
  3. Voile or sheer placed on top and all pinned.
  4. Machine or hand sew around the shapes on the top layer.

An artist who I felt I could learn from within this subject bracket, is:

Emily Jo gibbs

At the bottom of Sasha’s garden beyond the long grass and the stream, there is a shed on stilts.
The perfect place for hiding out and playing pirates.
2014 Linen, silk organza applique, hand embroidered. Unframed size 49cm x 35cm

Emily Jo Gibbs is a British Artist who over the last two decades has established an international reputation for her exquisite work. She has received significant critical acclaim and examples of her work are in several museum collections including the V&A, London and The Museum of Fine Art, Houston. Emily is a member of Contemporary Applied Arts and the 62 Group of Textile Artists, in 1998 Emily was formally elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Alongside her commission based Art practice Emily teaches regularly at West Dean College. Between 1993 and 2006 Emily was the Creative Director of Emily Jo Gibbs, luxury handbags.

Emily has experience delivering workshops, practical demonstrations, Artists talks and mentoring for a variety of clients including the V&A, Art in Action, Embroiderers guilds, the Crafts Council of England, Rochester Art Gallery and Oxfordshire Museum.
“I Just wanted to let you know, your talk was very much enjoyed yesterday. Several members made a point of saying how impressed they were by not only your work but also your success and modesty about it. We are sometimes asked to put forward the names of good speakers to other branches and I will have no hesitation in doing so for you”. Viv Scares, Worthing Embroiderers Guild.

I first noticed her work when it was used for the cover of Embroidery magazine last year.  Her clever use of stitch to depict human character and emotion enticed me.


A few pieces shown above.  Her work comes into the Shadow Applique and Shadow work mould, with its many shades of voile.  Notice how she picks out colour here; the gentle pastels of the boys yellow jumper are highlighted with the edge stitching in a brighter shade.  In other cases a contrast is used, for example on his bow tie.  No fancy stitching.  In the cases illustrated, she uses running stitch.  However it is the neat cut shapes along with the simplistic stich which work so well.

In this snippet from the interview with Textile, we get an insight into her practice:

What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques ?

Essentially I hand stitch layers of silk organza. I use mercerised cotton rather than embroidery thread, and so far because my work is small I haven’t found the need to work on a frame.

How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?

My current practice mainly focuses on hand stitched textile collages, studies of my family that examine the relationships between parents and their children, the joys and the frustrations.

This work came about after a long period of making work for a commercial audience; I was determined to make work that was personally and creatively rewarding. I embarked on a series of portraits of my family, embroidered with my thoughts, wishes and aspirations. These intimate studies constructed from layers of silk organza and hand stitch, contain within them lines of embroidered text. These lines combine into letters to the protagonist and they convey a love story. The message isn’t a sentimental one, but rather a list of instructions that might help a person who is growing up to navigate the contradictory messages parents and community give to children. I am very interested in the contradictory nature of our society, the mixed messages we are bombarded with and how we navigate and disseminate these messages.

A subtle textile collage

Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?

The studies are made from multiple layers and pieces of silk organza that are arranged to create a subtle textile collage, this is then tacked together before being hand stitched. I use tiny coloured stitches to draw lines on to the collage.  The portraits are from photographs, in my latest series ‘Kids Today’ the children have sat for their photographs, I’m enjoying the different sizes/ages of children in essentially the same frame.  My still lives are made from my drawings and I enjoy stitching with the objects in front of me, to reference.

I work from home, I like to sit at the kitchen table in front of French windows because the light is so good.  I have a metalwork bench in the garage but I do far less metal work at the moment, my flat work has taken over.

Do you use a sketchbook?

I enjoy drawing and I draw still lives of twigs and things in jars before making them into embroideries. I also regularly draw portraits from life.

What can I learn from her work?

This area of shadow work is one I have only touched the surface on.  I has not discovered an artist who looked at portraiture in this manner until now.  The layers in see through form, give a crepe / opaque look to her faces.  A good idea to remember.

I love her use of simple stitching.  Paired down detail is what I would call it.

Surface stitching by hand on the shadow work pieces give all the embellishment that’s needed.

Use of thread colours which either stand completely out or are a slightly brighter version of the background colour are something to remember.

Again using my previous work as a guide, especially referring back to my bonded surface work and hand edges work, I began this idea:

Above:  Unusual materials, such as ribbon from makeup samples was used for eye lash definition. 

You can see the gradual makeup of the piece above.  Hand dyed face fabric, cut to size and placed on the top fabric layer, which was my own hand dyed muslin.  Then pieces cut out to bondaweb on and act as facial detail.

The pieces were all placed and ironed into position, ready for the layer of voile on top…

Above:  I realised that with this technique it is possible to trap items inside.  As you can see, I have sewn around the shapes in a darker thread.  Sequins have been trapped in the check zone, to give shine and texture.

What do I think?

I love to personalise techniques and I think that shows on this piece.  The hand dyed materials and bright, yet applicable in this context.  Also the clear voile mutes them.

The dark outline colour is a dark grey.  This was chosen to offset the rest and stand out against the colour so that the pattern could be seen.  On reflection, I am happy with my choices.  However more attempts in different thread colours could be done in order to understand colour choices and what else would work.

If I had more time to extend this technique I could:

–          Play with no quilting, using only the layers and voile top.

–          Cut away the voile in parts, to reveal areas of brighter colour.

–          Hand stitch parts or the whole thing.

(You will see within my physical body of work that I have endeavoured to try a few more ideas on this theme.  They are discussed at the point they are put into my work.)



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