I get asked to do a lot of weird and wonderful things and this request has been my favourite in a long while – illustrated fabric wall hangings.
The client has recently had a house extension and has large areas of his new living room to cover with art – and he also wanted to soften the reflection of noise on the bare walls.
I’m no stranger to creating large works – I created this four-metre bilingual mural using watercolour pigments and salt for the Wales Millennium Centre, but this is even bigger – four panels that together make a forest scene progressing through the seasons that is five metres by .8 metres, and one tall piece to go above a fireplace that is 2.1 metres by .8 metres.
I’ve initially working the illustrated fabric wall hangings up in pencil: the first job was coming up with various concepts using rough layouts – below is a close up of the set of four panels as roughs.
The next job was working up the selected concepts to a larger scale to improve the composition and increase the detail. Here are some critters from the seasonal scene, set in a forest of silver birch.
I’m keeping the designs fairly simple. I’m planning to do a lot with colour and texture on them – I see them as being a delicate balance between detail and simplicity. So the birch trees will be of a fabric with a subtle sheen: in spring they will have catkins dangling from their branches, in summer leaves, in autumn the leaves will be orange and in winter there will be snow. There will be a subtle gradient of colour in the sky in the background and the ground will be textured.
The next job is to work in colour – I have a strong palette in my head (I am obsessed with colour – did you know this? I really am) and I can see them coloured up very clearly – now the pencil works are all approved I will colour them up. The client’s paintwork is a slightly lavender grey and my colours will work well with that.
Once we have the colours, it’s on to buying the materials and creating some of the details in advance – the animals, for example. The hangings will be appliqued and machine-sewn with some embroidery, quilted to aid the limiting of sound reflection, and hung from bamboo poles. I’ll travel up with my sewing machine to Cwm Gwili and spend a week constructing these illustrated fabric wall hangings. I cannot wait to see them in the flesh!
PS have you seen my new rook screen prints?