Wind-millin' around Holland
Updated: May 25, 2018
Acrylic gouache, embroidery thread
5 x 5 inches, 8 x 8 inches with frame
Just add Postcard Embroiderer to my portfolio career
I’m pretty sure if you had asked me in elementary school, what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have said, “a postcard photographer.” Specific, right? I mean, I guess that is someone’s job, somewhere. The world does have a lot of postcards after all. Those pictures didn’t just take themselves!
Then recently, it occurred to me, while stitching what felt like every single piece of sand of a beach scene, that I have become a postcard embroiderer. It’s weird when something in your life comes full circle. Years of diligently documenting my travels through what my husband would consider “a lot of the same picture,” (::you know nothing, Jon Snow::), have made me very aware of composition. Now when I take photos, I often ask myself, is this an interesting composition and why? Before I commit a looot of hours to stitching a landscape, there needs to be something that really interests me about the composition. Not unlike all the best postcard photographers (I can only assume, having never actually met one).
Let's take a look
In most of my compositions, I am looking for space, space, space! I love it when I have something very close to me in the foreground, and something very far away in the distance. In this photo, the picture can be divided into two parts: the bottom, which consists of blades of grass and white flowers, and the top, which contains the river and windmills receding into the distance.
But being the ambitious postcard embroiderer that I am, it was more than these shapes that caught my attention. I also loved the limited palette of this image: green, blue-grey and brown. As a recovering color addict, I feel very proud of myself whenever I can limit the number of colors I use. It just helps the whole picture feel more cohesive if I don't use eeeeevery color. I was also very intrigued by the challenge of stitching all of those big, fat blades of grass.
With these mixed media embroideries, I always start by painting. I like to use Holbein acrylic gouache because I can paint directly on the fabric with it (since it is acrylic), but it goes on a lot like watercolor. This initial painting is just to block in the colors and general shapes. I usually return to the painted areas after the stitching is complete to tie everything together. Next, I began stitching the white flowers. I stitched them first because I wanted them to feel immersed in the grass, which will happen naturally once I start stitching green around them.
Another trick I use a lot to show something is further back in the distance is to pull apart the thread. Each piece of thread comes in strands of six. So for the closest flowers I used all six strands, and for the smaller flowers in the distance I pulled it apart to two or three.
Another challenge of this composition was stitching tiny windmills. Instead of attempting to capture every tiny detail of these complex buildings, I reduce them to their most basic shapes and start adding detail from there. It turns out that windmills are basically just four rectangles, splayed in different directions, that sit on top of triangles with the tops cut off.
So where was this magical land of canals, windmills and cloudy skies? Kinderdijk is a UNESCO heritage site located in the Netherlands. It is a series of 19 towering windmills that date back to the 1700s. We stopped there on our drive home from a petal-filled weekend at Keukenhof, the largest flower garden in the world. I thought we were in for a quick photo-op with some cute windmills but it quickly turned into a three-hour sight-seeing experience! We took a boat ride down the canal, went inside several of windmills which were preserved to show us how families used to live in the them (!!), and obviously took A LOT of pictures. We got rained on a bit, but it was worth it too see those moody clouds swirling over these enormous, dark structures.
This embroidery of Kinderdijk has already been snatched up, but you can view many more available embroidered postcards from my travels here! You can also follow along my current stitching and traveling adventures on my Instagram. @libbywilliams
I'll leave you with this future cover of National Geographic. Auf Wiedersehen!