Bring me the Head of John the Baptist

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I spent a good chunk of the Easter weekend working on my Aubrey Beardsley ‘Salome’ embroidery which has lain neglected down the side of the sofa for a good couple of months. The reason for the title of this post is due to a surreal moment I had on Good Friday watching the film ‘King of Kings’ – a classic Biblical Epic from the early 1960’s (aren’t the best of this genre from the 60’s?) while I was stitching. As I worked on the hair on the severed head of John the Baptist, the film grabbed my attention as the scene I was stitching was being played out on screen!

But on Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before them: and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath, to give her whatsoever she would ask of him. But she being instructed before by her mother, said: Give me here in a dish the head of John the Baptist. And the king was struck sad: yet because of his oath, and for them that sat with him at table, he commanded it to be given. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.

And his head was brought in a dish: and it was given to the damsel, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body, and buried it, and came and told Jesus. (Matt 14:6-11, D-R)

 (Thank you Wikipedia for a brief Bible Lesson! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salome)

I’ve never read the Bible and I’m only half way through the Oscar Wilde play from which the embroidery is taken so I’ve started looking at the subject matter slightly differently now!

Here’s how Salome is described on her Wiki page – I think Beardsley totally captured her sensuality in his illustration:

Christian traditions depict her as an icon of dangerous female seductiveness, notably in regard to the dance mentioned in the New Testament, which is thought to have had an erotic element to it, and in some later transformations it has further been iconized as the Dance of the Seven Veils.

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As you can see I’ve neatened up the edges of the applique and I’m really pleased with how this is looking now. I’ve taken the decision to fill the entire bottom section with a mix of split stitch and stem stitch which is opening me up to a fair few hours of intense stitching (I must say that stitching black thread on black fabric isn’t exactly thrilling but the density it gives to the embroidery is worth it.
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Still a way to go with it and I’ll probably leave it lying for another spell while I work on other things but at least I can see the end in sight now!

Enter the Dragon – Exit Johnny Clarke

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‘Kung Fu International’ by John Cooper Clarke keeps popping into my head while I’m working on my dragon quilt – he’s one of my favourite poets and I’ve my Uncle Vince to thank for introducing me to him when I was about 10, Vince was cool and lived in London and he used to make my Mum mix tapes of all he’d been listening to, he still sends me music 30 years later but it’s on CD rather than cassette these days but I’m getting sidetracked… I’m really enjoying working on this quilt, I love the growing solidity of the layers as they’re stitched together and there’s been something meditative in following the bold outlines of the batik with just the sound of the machine chugging away.

I’ve finished all of the gold outline of the dragon and I’m really pleases with how the stitching appears on the reverse – here’s the face of the dragon and a chunk of the body:

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I’m wanting to do further stitching on the body to introduce more colour to the reverse and to create more detail and texture on the quilt top so I spent an hour on Sunday doing some sample stitching on some scrap fabric:
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I think I’ll go for the green scales on the body and just lines on the yellow underbelly – I thought about doing a pebble stitch here but seeing it next to the scales I thought the patterns looked too similar and busy so simple curved lines it is.

I’ve also to think how I’m going to fill the background too but for now I’ll leave you with a bit of John Cooper Clarke