Monday 2 March 2015

Karen Casper at City of York Embroiderers' Guild

Miss Coral (detail) - Karen Casper

Recently Karen Casper came to talk to the City of York Embroiderers' Guild. Working as a textile designer under the name Tulle & Candyfloss her larger pieces have a theatrical feel.  However, she also makes commercial head and wrist pieces ideal for special occasions such as weddings. 

Karen uses antique/vintage lace, tea/coffee staining, hand-dyeing and painting together with vintage jewellery and pearls.  She also recreates modern lace using free machine embroidery and dissolvable fabric.  

Karen starts by choosing a theme and follows this up with lots of research usually using books, visiting exhibitions and galleries rather than the internet.  Next, she produces lots of samples and after a process of elimination chooses the techniques she will employ on her finished product.  Her projects culminate in a photoshoot which she styles herself.  This provides images for marketing and publicity - particularly useful if the original work is sold or at an exhibition.  

Fairground themed skirt (front) - Karen Casper
Fairground themed skirt (back) - Karen Casper

This skirt is based on a vintage fairground theme and the shape is meant to represent a carousel.  Techniques used include digital printing of photos onto fabric, bleaching, quilting, embroidery and embellishment.  Garden canes and hoops are used to support it and it took 150 hours to make.

Miss Coral - Karen Casper
Miss Coral (back) - Karen Casper

The theme for the Miss Coral cape was the underwater world and the environmental issues that threaten it, with coral as the inspiration.  The cream colours represent the dead coral and the colours, the living coral. Metallic threads are used to give a twinkling under water effect.  Glow in the dark threads (Karen was sponsored by Madeira who produce such threads) are also used to represent the electric creatures from the deep.  This took 260 hours to make and has many 3D elements.
Ventalina - Karen Casper
Ventalina (detail) - Karen Casper

The fan is named after gorgonia ventalina which is a delicate lacy coral.  Both pieces use antique lace and Karen's modern free machine stitched lace.  They were commissioned for Manchester Museum's "Coral: Something Rich & Strange" Exhibition.

Contemporary Veil - Karen Casper
Contemporary Veil (detail) - Karen Casper

The Contemporary Veil was part of a body of work inspired by Victorian garments particularly mourning capes and veils.  This piece uses a vintage veil as a base embellised with chain and moss stitch from a Cornely embroidery machine.  The fact that the moss stitch is temporary and can be undone adds to the fragility of the piece whereas the colour suggests a sense of freedom and liberation.

It was a very interesting talk and great to be able to see Karen's work up close.

Date for your diary ...
The Triennial Exhibition of City of York Embroiderers' Guild will be held at the Guildhall, York from Friday 19 June 2015 to Sunday 21 June 2015.

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