Skip was a dear friend, and is still sorely missed by many, including my husband and me. He loved Greece, especially the Isles – the music, the dancing, the culture, food, and most of all the warm, hospitable people. Thinking about him, a textile scene set in the Northern Sporades sprang ready-made into my mind: a window, gently curved at top corners, set in thick white-washed masonry, open to show a village with buildings of the same white-washed stone and plaster; beyond the village, an expansive view of distant islands on a blue sea dotted with tiny bright-painted fishing boats, where dolphins jumped and seagulls soared in the azure air above. Tints of white in all the walls and buildings would provide a bright contrast to the intense blues of sea and sky, while the islands linking these two elements would be a shade of green-blue.
The first fabric I sought was the white that could suggest white-washed plaster – this tint would be the major chord of the entire scene. I struck gold immediately at my local Joann’s where I found two slightly different substantial white cottons stamped with raised ivory dashes and jagged lines that could readily stand for plaster’s chalky texture. Backed, these cut crisply into the building shapes and stairs I needed and made doing the cut-outs for openings both arched and square relatively easy.
From the start I determined to show a partial wall to the left of the window – in my stash of Swiss ribbon I had several gorgeous ones woven in stylized motifs reminiscent of antique Persian carpets; with decorative plates or other objects above a piece of one of these, this wall would take on the characteristic appearance of a room in a Greek house. On the floor below and to the right of the wall arrangement, instead of setting a vase with flowers on the windowsill – which would detract too much from the spectacular vista beyond – I decided to display a two handled amphorae planted with a vine that would climb up the interior wall and help emphasize this area as being in front of the window.
After working out satisfactory measurements for the wall on the left and the large arched window, I redrew the tissue pattern for the window arch over and over – getting the wall here to curve around the large window in a gentle arc and seam into the wall on the right side to give a hint of depth in the plaster gave me fits but I finally succeeded.
Soon as I saw the thin blue satin tissue woven with silver thread I knew it would be perfect for the sea – the fabric is so thin and the silver thread in it creates highlights so the color and tone constantly shift and change, just like the real sea, depending on light and viewing position. The deep blue satin sky is covered with blue gauze in a slightly lighter shade, and green-blue medium pile velvet provides the right color and texture for islands in the distance.
For the six dolphins I wanted a silver fabric that would change in light and suggest water flecks on their skin gleaming in the light – found a thin silky tissue woven with silver metallic thread that had just this effect – I backed it to give it substance so I could work with it and the glue wouldn’t show through: after these had been cut to the proper shapes I cut angled silver triangles from silver confetti foil and glued these to the dolphins’ backs as fins; a few bits of fine glitter on the water around each suggests droplets falling as they leap.
I constructed the fishing boats from bits of bright metallic foils cut into characteristic Greek fishing boat shapes, then cut tiny gauze sails and affixed these to masts of paper wrapped wire – shrinking the size for hull and sail in the boat farthest off in the distance while keeping its shape crisp proved a challenge.
A number of buildings in the town have blue domes made from a thick cotton fabric that gives the feel of paint on plaster. Church and the monastery bell towers show cut out arched openings where tiny silver bells hang – the bells are cut from metallic silver foil, the tops needle-pierced with fine silver cord drawn through; this cord was then glued to the back of the fabric arch so the bells would be seen as hanging in the cut-out opening; the churches also have tiny crosses of glue-stiffened gold cord atop domes and spires. Several of the arched doorways in the town have beaded pass-throughs as is common in Greece; the bead fringe creating these is a bit shorter and has darker blue tones than are seen in the turquoise, blue and green bead fringe sewn across the top of the window as a valence – I’d been hanging onto this particular fringe for years and was highly pleased to at last make use of it.
While the square and arched windows of the tiny buildings on the islands were difficult, due to the crispness of the white backed cotton I used, cutting these out wasn’t as hard as I’d anticipated; the most difficult miniature building I made was the little columned temple on the leftmost island – I totally failed at making it out of one piece and ended up cutting the tiny columns separately and longer than they would appear; I then attached these to the back of the wee dome and cut them the right size to meet the steps. The taller trees on this island are beaded, so they’ll stand forward from the velvet, as are the low trees or shrubs on the next nearest island; this greenery is made from a cotton in my hoard that had a little looped motif suggesting low trees or shrubbery in a color just a tad paler than the blue-green velvet of the islands.
The figured wall hanging is created from ribbon woven with stylized motifs in satin embroidery thread. Ever since machine manufactured ribbon began, the Swiss have made this kind of decorative ribbon to a very high standard – I adore it and have collected small lengths of it ever since I began visiting fabric stores. I’d kept this particular one in my stash for years and was delighted to find its colors exactly complimented the picture. The patterns on most of these ribbons are one-directional, so to give the appearance of a hanging carpet – after backing the ribbon – I cut my chosen central motif in half, then put it back together so it would look as if woven up and down as a carpet would be; I disguised this cut with some strategic beading and crystal placement, then had to be careful about matching the tiny motif at the ribbon’s edge so I could continue it round top and bottom – doing this was a bear as even backed and glue edged the silky embroidery thread kept fraying away as the edge bits were so thin. The ‘carpet’ hangs on the wall from a triangle of silver and blue metallic cord I also collected years ago.
Above the hanging three round mirrors edged with woven braid from some forgotten craft store are placed around an ornate gold cross charm; two glass turquoise sea shell beads complete this arrangement typical of a Greek interior.
It took a while for me to locate fabric of the right texture for the large foreground vase; it was finally pounced on in a Pacific Fabrics in the next county in the room devoted to wedding and special occasion fabrics. It’s a satin blend with irregular nubby grain lines that give it a look of hand-turned pottery; I added corded trim designs in two motifs, both old as the hills, at its neck, base and the center – the gold up-down line through the center one adds a nice touch of gold ‘paint’. Cutting the leaves for the vine growing from the vase was a lengthy process; after I’d placed all the tendrils to my liking I added a bit of necessary zing with little rose-pink blooms cut from one of the myriad small print cottons in my hoard – each of these is centered with a tiny cerise Swarovski crystal; three blue butterflies, wings accented with white beads, have fluttered in through the open window and are enjoying the flowers. Silver shell charms and a sapphire bead necklace with a silver cross show vividly on the white sill.