Process blog of artist Mei-ling Humphrey.

032 – Stitching at Lake Temescal

20130528-172220.jpgHands down best heat-transfer experience I’ve ever had. Goodbye Sulky pens, hello red-pencils-I-forget-the-name-of!

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031 – Back on the wagon

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Cross-section through the thigh, 4cm, proximal to the adductor tubercle of the femur.

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What happens when you have packets of sandpaper and zero pencil sharpeners.

XXX – Ginkgo 2 (unfinished, but moving on)

IMG_1902I think it’s quite beautiful, and am quite proud of it!

I finished what I was working on last night while watching Firefly (love that show). I absolutely love working in front of a TV series, but only ones I’ve seen already. My eyesight is pretty poor, and because I’m shortsighted the best way for me to work is without any correction at all. Not only is it just more comfortable, it also puts less strain on your eyes because close work is kind of the ‘natural focus’ area. It would be a very different story if I were longsighted, though according to my Auntie it’s only a matter of time before I’ll need bifocals or a lens replacement or some other terrifying thing. But anyway, putting on something I’ve already seen before means I can go through it again, but not worry about having to look up from my work to see something (because I can’t, because I’m blind).

Today I’ll probably start working on designing a counted-stitch version. I have some nice light-lime-green linen that I got in Malaysia a couple years ago that I’ll use as my base fabric. Updates shortly!

 

029 – Ginkgo 2 WIP

Have continued with my ginkgo leaf. Will continue to work after posting, but wanted to save the finished show for when there’s sunlight about. Ain’t no better light than sunlight!

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Have already begun thinking ahead, because I’ve come across a couple issues:

  1. When I transferred my image I was so worried about wasting fabric that I put the shapes too close to the edge, which meant I couldn’t put it in a hoop. That’s fine, I like doing some things loose in my hand. But because it’s a little rough with all the fabric, I’ve had some tension issues. They’re mostly sorting themselves out as I stitch into it more, but no matter what, long stitches will pop out when the fabric is bent. If I continue with this method of embroidery then I’ll have to iron interfacing on the back (to make the fabric less stretchy) and/or use smaller stitches.
  2. While I love the needle-painty look of the leaf so far, it will be pretty hard to reproduce with little changes. I’m imagining my leaf will yellow as the film progresses (he’s a leaf off his tree, after all), so it’d be nice to be able to control his colouring more purposefully. So another direction I could go in is with even-weave fabric (when the number of warp threads equal the number of weft threads) and do counted stitch work, like cross stitch.

028 – Ginkgo 2 WIP

So I’ve begun working on the second ginkgo prototype. Changes I’ve made to the design are:

  1. The front and back of the leaf will be separate pieces.
  2. The entire surface of the leaf will be embroidered.
  3. The wire will be wrapped at the stem, then sewn to the back of one of the pieces, then the two pieces will be placed together and the edges completely buttonholed.

My progress so far:    

 

Textile Tip #1

First in a (hopefully) ongoing series of tips and tricks I have picked up regarding embroidery, lace-making, crochet, or anything else I happen to be doing/making. For my benefit as much as yours. 

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Embroidery:

Keep your threads short! Never cut thread longer than the distance between the tip of your fingers and your elbow. There are several reasons for this:

  1. More comfortable working. This length ensures that you’re never fully extending your arm when pulling a stitch through, which makes working not only more comfortable (keeping all limbs close to the body).
  2. Faster working. Not having to extend your arm not only makes things more comfortable, but faster as well since you’re not wasting time+energy throwing your arm out in all directions.
  3. Less strain on the thread. Pulling thread through fabric puts strain on the thread. As you’re working you’ll notice what started as a nice, full piece of thread becomes more and more threadbare. This is natural, things decay as they are worked. A shorter thread means you won’t see a drastic change from the beginning to the end of the thread, meaning more consistency throughout.
  4. You save thread! Even if you only use a bit of the thread, you’re still cutting away (and therefore wasting) less thread than if you start with long pieces.

Beginning and ending thread can be a pain, but if you do it enough it becomes something you don’t really think about, and you get better at it, too! Overall though, the quality of your work will thank you. Happy making!

026 – Ginkgo 1 and reflections

WEDDINGPOSTCARD

Highlights of 2012:

  1. Marrying Joe. Having family over for the wedding was amazing, and the reception was such a nice get together.
  2. First solo exhibition. It ruined my back, but was such an accomplishment, and am very proud.
  3. Graduating with my BFA.
  4. First exhibition outside of school (that I was able to witness).
  5. North Carolina trip, getting to meet all of Joe’s lovely extended family, and eat real Southern food for the first time.
  6. Europe trip! Got to see my sister graduate in Scotland, reconnected with good friends in England, and visited Istanbul (amaaaazing)!
  7. First paid job since 2008! Not to mention it’s an AWESOME job, with awesome people at an awesome organisation.
  8. Moving into our OWN PLACE (just me and Joe and Moe and Huckleberry and Zarquon). Had been a long time coming.
  9. Took part in my first fashion show! Charity event called Project Nunway, by and with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
  10. Finished my first short film, Let It Glow, a music video commissioned by Gabby La La for her band Snow Angel. And then it got featured on a blog!

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Hopes/upcoming for 2013:

  1. Get another job (hopefully one that isn’t a temporary position)
  2. Exhibition in April!
  3. New film, which combines embroidery and animation which is fantastic because then I don’t feel I’m neglecting one! My aim is to collect all the materials from the exhibition and try to use Kickstarter to get some funding.
  4. I’d like to visit friends in LA.
  5. One of my bestest buds from high school is getting married in Singapore this summer, so hopefully can do a combined Hong Kong/Singapore/Malaysia trip. With Joe! (We rarely travel together.)
  6. It would be nice to get an online shop up and see if I get some income that way.

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So I finished my first ginkgo leaf prototype today! Here’s how it happened:

IMG_1865 Over two thirds of the way done. Phew!

IMG_1867 Finished! Now the scary part – CUTTING IT OUT.

IMG_1868 Not so bad, eh? Love how different it looks against a white background.

IMG_1871 The back…nothing really to write home about.

IMG_1869 Playing with posing/emotion. This leaf is scared.

IMG_1870This leaf is sad.

So what I’ll be thinking about when I go into phase 2:

  1. The back. If I’m going to bending this thing every which way, then I better make sure that every which way is presentable.
  2. The wires. Not only do I have to wrap them before I sew them down (if they’re going to be seen), but the thin wire I used for the veins were just ridiculous. Way too soft and annoying to work with.

025 – Ginkgo leaf 1 WIP FTW!

Man oh man… So this is what the leaf looked like this morning. Doesn’t it smack of nice, easy going work, especially in the soft dappled sunlight?

IMG_1858 Ahh… the promise of morning.

IMG_1859 WRONG! THERE IS NO PROMISE HERE, ONLY PAIN!

IMG_1861 Realising almost immediately that when I do my next prototype, I shall wrap the wires BEFORE sewing them down. 

IMG_1863 Half done!

IMG_1864Closeup of half-doneness.

024 – Ginkgo Leaf 1 WIP

For something quite small (it’s roughly 4in from top of stem to opposite end) this leaf is taking a long-ass time getting done, mostly because the stitches are so damn tiny. Other factors include a sore neck, lower back, and this idiotic Simpsons game I have on my iPhone. But it’s definitely getting done! See for yourselves:

IMG_1853Continuing with the buttonhole stitches. Buttonholes allow you to cut the fabric without it fraying/coming apart. This is because each stitch is a little knot.

 

IMG_1854 Laying down the internal skeleton.

An interesting thing I learned when I was doing some preliminary reading on ginkgo: their vein system is unique to plants, because they start from the stem and divide in twos, fanning outward. They do not reconnect to each other to form a network. Neat, eh? So this has definitely factored into the design of the leaf. Above is my first attempt at a skeleton that is structured like the ‘real thing’ and would also be completely posable. I took 16 strands of thinner wire and twisted it by hand the length of the strem. Then the “spine” will split into the 16 strands which will be spaced out across the leaf and sewn down. That’s the plan, anyway!

IMG_1855 (Thumb for scale.) Have couched the spine, and now am working on satin stitching over the wire. Am trying it with the stitches running perpendicular to the shape first, though my first choice would be that they run parallel. If I’m desperate for parallel I think the only way to do it would be to embroider another piece and attach it over the spine. Yikes.

IMG_1851The beginnings of a serious callous! Excited! Remember kids, wherever you have a callous, that bit of your body is invincible!

023 – New project/obsession

So I’ve caught the Animation Bug, in a big, big way. MEI WANT MORE. I’ve an exhibition coming up in April and my original idea (making embroidered lace out of jute coffee sacks) just isn’t exciting me anymore. If I’m feeling uninspired, it follows that I don’t do anything creative. I hate thinking that what I’m working on is a waste of my time. While I know this is completely silly and nothing is truly a waste of time (as long as I’m making something, right?) it’s just a quirk I have. Ideas come first, and breathe life into the process. Process for the sake of process feels empty, unless of course process is the idea. Ha.

So I knew I wanted to make an animation, as well as take the opportunity to “level up” my craft by introducing more complex elements into my film, such as the multiplane camera, and 3D puppets. So for a few days I researched and read everything I could find online, but aware that without a story/concept I was excited about I probably shouldn’t waste money and materials making stuff that will have no pragmatic use when I finally DO have an idea.

Then I remembered an idea that I’ve been sitting on for over 5 years now – a children’s book idea I had before I left Hong Kong for university. It’s a story that is centered around a tree leaf, who is blown away from his home-tree before his time. He has an existential crisis, and through his adventures and the other plant life he meets along the way he comes to terms with who he is and what he is capable of. It will be told through the eyes of an eccentric naturalist, who has known since she was a child that all plants have consciousness, and has dedicated her life to being the weird lady who watches our tree for clues that will reveal an intricate and astonishing culture.

There’ll be more details as they form, of course. So far I’ve chosen the type of tree that’ll be starring (ginkgo), written the opening scene, and started making my first puppet prototype. WIP pictures below! The plan is that I’ll exhibit all my prototyping/concept art in April.

IMG_1843Transferred design, thread colour selection.

IMG_1844Couching wire around the edge of design.

IMG_1847Full couched outline. Nearly didn’t have enough wire!

IMG_1848Buttonhole stitch over the wire.

 

 

022 – Mei’s first review!

Was just told by Gabby that our video has been featured on its first blog! Not only is that exciting in itself, there is a little mini-review, which I’m pleased to say is positive! Yay! Read it here.

The blog is called Seen Your Video, which claims to be “your essential guide to cool music videos.” Have to admit, am pretty excited!

021 – Sketchbook

Now that I’ve seriously caught the stop motion bug, have spent the last few days reading up on equipment, tricks, effects, puppets, EVERYTHING. I know I definitely want to start incorporating more complex elements into my animations, starting with a multiplane camera. But 3D puppets are calling to me, I know it. I even know what materials I will use (eventually) – needle felted over wire armatures. AAaaahh so cool! Anyway, we’re getting there. Slowly but surely. First we need to get me some CAPITAL. Anyone know any bands who want a video done, send ’em my way! 🙂

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You know something’s right when facial recognition kicks in when taking a photo. Ha.

Skip to the end..

Sort of cheating, as I’ve neglected the blog and finished the animation. Oh well! At least we have to wait no longer.

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Layering of the bits, pre-glueing.

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Getting put together.

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Tiny feets!

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The making of World A (snowscape).

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 THE FINAL PIECE:

Let It Glow from Mei-ling Humphrey on Vimeo.

So Gabby had said a couple months earlier that they were playing a special holiday show, and they would love to have the video ready to screen by then. Long story short, combining my awful tendency to need deadline pressure (like a junkie) and the fact that I needed to use my alma mater’s animation studio equipment (that closed shop on the 15th of December), I managed to shoot this puppy over the course of 30 hours in a week, while working around my two jobs. I was a MESS. But it felt SO, SO GOOD. 🙂

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Getting screened at The Lost Church in SF. So huge! 🙂

After long hiatus, more stuff!

Another colouring for set. I’ve started developing a callous on my thumb, so after a few minutes colouring becomes painful! Just my luck..

 

Have started designing my puppets. I’ve been having images of 19th Century Safari women bobbing around in my head recently (the kind that wore PANTS), so I thought my character would be loosely based on my head-image, but updated a little bit. I think khaki will contrast nicely with the snowscape, and will have her barefoot to add to the sense of confusion and not-belonging.

This is what she looks like with all her parts separated for jointing. I’ll be reinforcing the joints with tape, and using brads. Also some news – she’ll have a PRAYING MANTIS HEAD WAAAAAAAAH so cool.

 

018 – And again!

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Another finished, another started.

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016 – Pockets, colouring

Finished colouring another design! The next few are pretty intense, so will probably take a little while longer.

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Did another couple doilies for pockets, but went wit way too fine a yarn (DMC perle coton 8) so the square came out only 4in wide. Oh well, will find a way!

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015 – Something functional

Today at the gallery I crocheted and attached these two square doilies to my cardigan as pockets (WHY ARE THINGS STILL MADE WITHOUT POCKETS???).

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The camera makes the pockets look a lot brighter than they are. Think a duller mauve. I mixed it with a lilac lace weight yarn I had, but it ran out three quarters of the way through the second square. Not too noticeable though, I think! Might do this with a couple other pocketless cardis I’ve got, and will use a lighter weight yarn.

014 – More colouring, more projects !!!

Finished colouring in the blue pattern:

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And started a new one:

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Also preparing to start working on a show that’ll be at Four Barrel in San Francisco in February 2013. My first thought was to take the burlap coffee sacks and make lace pieces out of them. This would be a nice time to experiment and try dyeing, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. I absolutely adore the colour you get from red cabbages. This requires a huge amount of new supplies, so we’ll see when I actually get started.

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Any excuse to do some colouring in.

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Hello, beginnings of World B!

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