Much progress lately! Thursday and Friday I dyed four lengths of muslin in various shades of orange and scarlet, and yesterday I screen printed the yardage with a phoenix pattern to mimic the handwoven fabric that will be used. This morning I began draping. I’m still roughing out the very broad design, and don’t expect it to be finalized until sometime next week, but here’s my process so far.
First, I tested to see whether a painted warp would be more interesting than solid colors in the bodice. Here’s the original bodice:
I had mimicked a painted warp by monoprinting some fabric with a mix of yellow and orange, with broad bands where the strokes of orange and yellow overlapped. I then cut a piece out of the monoprinted fabric and put it on one section of the yellow, like this:
I didn’t like it. I thought about it and eventually realized that the problem was shape vs. color: the striation of the orange-yellow color transition blurred the shape of the orange flame. The original was all about the flame shapes, and the addition of color transitions blurred that, making an unclear design.
Still, I wasn’t quite sure whether the painted warp effect could be used in this design, so I added a second piece of “painted warp” fabric, this time in orange-red:
Now I was quite sure this wouldn’t work: the edge of the flame was lost and the fact that the lines were going in different directions produced complete visual confusion. So I went back to the solid fabric.
Next up was the skirt, which was to be made of phoenix-patterned fabric, transitioning gradually from orange at top to scarlet at the bottom. In my first attempt, I kept the fabric on grain, which forced all the phoenixes to fly in the same direction: up. Here’s what it looked like:
This doesn’t work. First, it’s pretty boring, visually – the different skirt tiers all blend into each other, looking like a single skirt when they should be distinct. Second, it looks rigid, in a piece that is all about flow and movement.
So I switched it to have the phoenixes flying in different directions:
I like this better, tentatively speaking – it has more motion, and you can easily distinguish the tiers of the skirt. The phoenixes are still flying generally upward, moving the eye up the dress to the torso, but less rigidly. It feels more like a flock of birds swirling in the sky. So I am going to work with this some more.
(Taking the fabric off grain will force me to underline the fabric with something stable and on-grain, but that’s fine with me: I had planned to line it to finish the edges, and a soft china silk should stabilize the fabric while still letting it flow.)
Obviously there is a lot left to do – I haven’t finalized the basic lines yet, much less the flame-shaped borders, and have not even thought about the sides and back – but it’s a good start. And it’s still early in the day, so I have time to do lots of tinkering!