The Evolution of "3 Ferns" - Julie Brown Neu

The Evolution of “3 Ferns”

cyanotype of three fern leaves

Because I am talking about where ideas come from in my Creativity Explorers Facebook group this month, I thought I would share the evolution of my most recent piece to show how the idea for it changed over time.  

This piece began, of course, with the three fern cyanotypes. I made each of the prints individually on different days and they just happened to be on the same size pieces of fabric. I initially considered each as a separate piece and planned for them to be three distinct small works. I started by mounting the one of the broader leaved ferns on a stiff interfacing, which has the weight of cardboard, and then sewing around it in the background in a teal thread. I liked the way that looked so I sewed the other large fern leaf in a similar way. When I came to the finer leafed fern in the center, however, I decided instead to sew over each of the tiny leaves with white thread. At that point, I considered each piece finished and I planned to mat each one separately and call them done.

But, as the pieces hung on my design wall awaiting framing, I realized that the leaves on each work went right up to the edge and that a mat would hide some of that. What if I satin stitched around the edges of each in a black thread to give them a narrow frame that didn’t cover much of the images? I did the stitching, called them done and hung them back up on the wall to enjoy them.

One day, however, I looked at them again and realized that they actually looked great together.  What if I combined all three separate pieces into one larger piece by putting them together on a background? I tacked them up to the wall with different colors of fabric behind them until I found the navy batik that I liked best. What if I quilt the background before I sew the fern pieces down?  No, I decided that would be too distracting from the pieces themselves so I instead just sewed each piece down, right inside the satin stitched edge. I decided upon a simple black binding edge and then I called the piece done. (Well, after not having enough binding and then trying to splice in a piece, which failed miserably, leaving the room in frustration, trying again, giving up and taking the whole binding off, creating new binding and sewing that down. You have days like that too, right?)

I often find that my work goes this way (not talking about the binding, though that kind of thing happens more often than I would like!). Art seems to need marinating. The works evolve over time and if I keep asking myself “What if?” until I reach a “No,” the work usually ends up far better than where it started.

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