The Moon Rabbit is far more colorful than it was before – but it’s time to get down to brass (well, silver) tacks. Though the spots of color look disconnected and a bit incongruous now, filling in the open spaces with different textures of silver should bring them together. As with the padding, many of the threads need to be worked in an unconventional order – building out from established areas of the design instead of working all the areas of a single ‘type’ before moving to the next. It would be far easier to work lines of beads and different threads as they appeared nestled together, rather than trying to leave precise amounts of space between different elements to fill in later. Since the felt would be completely covered I could mark it lightly to place different elements and get an idea of the spaces between.
One thread that I had not planned on incorporating was rococo – a fine silver ribbon wrapped around a thread core in such a way as to make regular waves. I picked it up mainly for curiosity, but found it made a lovely texture for stylized fur. As it is larger and rougher than the passing thread I kept it mainly to the tops of the legs and the back of the Rabbit. Like passing, rococo is couched down and the ends drawn through to the back of the work before being secured. Drawing such a thick thread through so many layers of felt padding was tricky and needed careful planning to minimize bulk and stress in sensitive areas.
For smoother fur on the underside of the foreleg and near the belly I decided on the same passing as the background – but couched simply with a coordinating silvery grey silk instead of the blues of the or nué ground. The smooth passing provided much-needed areas of visual quiet in such a busy design and highlighted the shaping nicely as well. To keep it from fading too far into the background it would need to be clearly defined by other elements as well as the lack of color and padded height. Having the or nué as smooth and gently curved as a coin was well worth the hours it took to sink the ends. As long as the passing on the rabbit wasn’t parallel to the curve of the ground the contrast in direction would serve as a visual marker.
The strong, swooping lines of art noveau in general (and the work of Kay Nielsen in particular) were a major influences in this piece from the beginning, but as things took shape it felt like the numerous changes had weakened the composition a bit. The triangle of purple silk in the hind leg seemed to interrupt the flow of the large teardrop and swoop of the lower back. Unpicking it in favor of silver threads immediately helped smooth the flow, although what silver threads exactly is still to be decided. I’m not terribly crazy about the ribbon on the face, either – although it feels right to have ribbon on the face, the current orientation looks a bit like a helmet and rather hides the real outline. I’m not sure if it will be unpicked entirely or just reworked a bit. The face has been the most difficult part to design and I’m still not entirely clear on how it should be filled in.
The large areas of the iridescent pink plate stand out, and due to the pose of the Rabbit they are clustered rather close together. To prevent them from appearing unbalanced it was necessary to add a bit more pink through the design to even it out. Fortunately I had a matching iridescent braid and the flat braid was the perfect way to moderate the plate as well as break up the silver just a bit. Couched down in gentle curves it helped to draw the eye through the whole in a more subtle way than the silk ribbon. It added quite the sparkle, too – the woven surface reflects far more iridescence than the flat plate.
Several of the silver areas have been nearly filled in, and much of what is left will be chipwork like the open areas on the shoulder and hip. In order to provide a sturdy outline to the chipwork areas and highlight certain details I set aside some of my favorite goldwork threads – the purls. Purls are not wrapped around a thread core and they’re not drawn through to the back of the fabric to secure like most of the other threads so far. Instead, the entire length of the purl lies on the surface. There are several varieties and many ways to use them. For outlining my favorite choice is pearl purl. This is a fine round wire wrapped like a little spring, and can be used as it is or stretched out. Lizerine is an older cousin to pearl purl and has a smoother edge because the wire is flattened before being wound into a coil. You can see lizerine between the kid and the line of beads on the back of the rabbit; at a glance it looks very similar to the pearl purl of the shoulder.
As the body of the Rabbit fills in, the issue of what to do with the face becomes more and more imperative. The deadline is approaching - it can’t stay bare forever. This area will require a delicate balancing act to fit with the rest of the design in style, be recognizable as a face, and flow as part of the larger composition. Unfortunately, what it shouldn’t be is easier to figure out than what it should be.
It shouldn’t introduce new materials or techniques. It shouldn’t have so much interest as to overwhelm the features (but it can’t be plain). It shouldn’t have too much color (though it needs some) and definitely shouldn’t have any beads that might be confused for an eye (though it needs some beads too). It shouldn’t have so much dimension that it obscures the structure of the face (though it must hide the tacking stitches of the leather and soften the transition to the ear). It’s a tall order and it’s coming up quick.