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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cont., Silk Road by Robert Glenn Ketchum

Continued,
Silk Road - Embroideries of Robert Glenn Ketchum

The city of Suzhou, China, produced China's most beautiful silk and silk embroidery practiced by generational families for 3,000 years. My purpose in going to China starting in the mid-1980's was to turn my photographs into textiles, and this is my story. ~Robert Glenn Ketchum

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Due to the size and quality of the photos included in this blog, and as too many photos tend to slow a blog down, we have opted to host these previous entries on a separate post in order to best optimize your reading experience. Enjoy! 
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Thursday, May 28, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #123
SILK ROAD #123:   So, here are 2-of-the-4 panels of “Emperor Kangxi’s Inspection Tour of Southern China.” What you are looking at is about 10-1/2-feet long, and 2-feet tall; all stitched with human hair! What you saw in previous posts were details from these two panels. Post #120 (of the bridge) can be located in the middle, right of the right-hand panel. Post #122 is in the lower-right of the left-hand panel. As you can see, the detail sections I presented are barely 20% of their overall panel. Now extrapolate those minutiae of stitches across this entire piece: OMG!!! EVEN MORE AMAZINGLY, this “aerial” view is architecturally accurate. In 1986, I could still recognize bridges, historic gates, and walls, and the layout of certain neighborhoods! More than likely, the artist commissioned by the court to create this work in 1689 was in a pagoda tower, or on a hill above the city in order to correctly represent this POV.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 21, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #122
SILK ROAD #122:   The #embroidery, “Emperor Kangxi’s Inspection Tour of Southern China,” is 21-feet wide, in 4-panels. The catalog #photograph crosses two page seams, so I am not going to be able to show you the entire image, just two of the panels. This is the third detail I will offer before doing that. This part of the scene actually shows the arrival of the emperor. He is entering middle-right, where the canopy is being held to shade him. A crowd has assembled in greeting, and some of them are bowing on their knees. EVERY figure has facial details – it is just absolutely amazing.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 14, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #121
SILK ROAD #121:   As in the previous post, here is a second detail from the 21-foot-wide #embroidery, “Emperor Kangxi’s Inspection Tour of Southern China.” The black “thread” stitching is stunningly intricate, not only in the rendering of the cottages and tile roofs, but the hundreds of active people that appear throughout the entire design. This section shows much activity in the windows of the houses:  people eating, children playing. The rendering is VERY clear! Some faces even have readable expressions. This immense amount of detail will have new meaning when you see it in the context of the entire piece... coming soon! But, more remarkable yet, the black thread is actually human hair strands. This entire piece is embroidered using long, straight, black Chinese hair!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 7, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #120
SILK ROAD #120:   Another of the “historic” #embroideries on public display in the halls of the institute that I wanted to include in the @UCLA @FowlerMuseum  exhibit, “Threads of Light,” was “Emperor Kangxi’s Inspection Tour of Southern China.” Bear with me for awhile and take in these detail shots, as the actual #embroidery is 21-FEET wide (!) in four panels! This embroidery is based on a painting commissioned by the court of the #Qing dynasty in 1689, and even these 21-feet only represent that portion of the painting wherein the emperor visited #Suzhou. The #matrix for this embroidery is silk with a subtle weave, and with time it had yellowed slightly, however the highly-detailed black / white style of this #painting, now an embroidery, was unlike ANY other piece – especially the “thread” used for the black lines.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 30, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #119
SILK ROAD #119:   The catalog photography for the @UCLA @FowlerMuseum's "Threads of Light" exhibit of my embroideries was exceptional and all done with a view camera. Of the many pictures, however, this is my favorite because the Suzhou Fine Style stitch used in "100 Butterflies" is so fine, it is hard to see, and this view camera detail truly lets you ponder this MARVELOUS embroidery. EVERY SINGLE COLOR NUANCE MEANS THE EMBROIDERER CHANGED THREAD. SERIOUSLY!!!! The obvious shifts from one color to another are remarkable enough, but the subtle shade shifts (in the pale blue/green butterfly, for example) are nothing short of ASTOUNDING! I cannot begin to imagine the length of time needed to make this embroidery. I am honored to have any of my work as part of an exhibit that includes this piece. For me, it was like being included in an exhibit with Renaissance masters.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 23, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #118
SILK ROAD #118:   The large #embroidery, "100 Butterflies," was not only showcased by its striking placement in the exhibit, its image was also used in the catalog design in an eye-catching way. The first half of the catalog was comprised of the various essays, and collected research, supported by pictures of #embroiderers working at the institute, with views of Suzhou. The "catalog" of #exhibit images began at the midpoint of the publication, and it was introduced by a double-page spread featuring "100 Butterflies." The catalog designers were, in effect, replicating the prominent placement of this piece in the design of the publication in the same manner the exhibit designers had positioned it as the first embroidery you encountered when entering the exhibit. As you can see, working with all these #butterflies allowed the embroiderers to show off both their stitch skills, and also the astounding array of dyed thread colors they could produce. Still, at this scale, you cannot truly appreciate how detailed and fine the Suzhou Fine Style stitch is, SO stay tuned! Next week I will offer a remarkable close-up:  close enough that you can see the individual stitches.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 16, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #117
SILK ROAD #117:   The @UCLA @FowlerMuseum afforded this #exhibit their largest #gallery space.  This allowed the #designers to create two VERY different rooms connected by beautiful "moongate" doorways. In the front room a selection of traditional #Chinese #embroideries from historic to contemporary were on display.  And on opening night there was actually a loom set-up and one of the #embroiderers was working on an image, and interacting with the guests. #PatrickDowdey, Zhang, and I spent of good deal of time deciding which of the traditional pieces should be included. Zhang wanted to show newer embroideries because they reflected the work currently being done by the institute that she felt was breaking with tradition. Many of my favored choices were the more historical pieces hanging / standing throughout the institute. These were retained for their excellence, and put on public display for tourists. Patrick saw to it that Zhang and I were both satisfied, and there was a nicely balanced mix. One of my favorites was quite a large, 2-sided standing #embroidery rendered with the special "Suzhou fine style" stitch, and titled "100 Butterflies." Standing 3-1/2-feet wide and 4-feet tall, the scale of the embroidery was imposing. The "presence" of the piece was also contributed to by the very dark #mahogany stand which featured elaborate carving details. We ALL agreed this was one of the most powerful images in the exhibit. And in a brilliant stroke of #design, the #architects of the gallery placed "100 Butterflies" directly in front of the double-doors opening into the gallery from the exterior hallway. Upon entering the doors into the exhibit, you literally had to walk around the display of "100 Butterflies" in order to enter the room. This was a show-stopper, and left many viewers breathless before they had even begun their tour of the show.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 9, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #116
SILK ROAD #116:   Funding from my collectors, and @TheGetty, allowed the @UCLA @FowlerMuseum to make the #exhibition and publication as rich and complete as possible. Exceptional catalog #photographs were made of every piece included in the show. Jo Hill wrote detailed descriptions about #stitch styles, dye colors, and techniques. Zhang elaborated on the history of #embroidery, as well as the discovery of the random-stitch style. And Patrick Dowdey wrote a terrific essay, placing the exchange and the work that I was doing in the context of #China’s political timeframe. In short, he thought it unusual and unlikely that such a project had any hope of being accepted, let alone being developed, and he thought my meeting with Zhang and our understanding of each other beyond language was a serendipitous moment for the arts of both countries. The catalog introduction was a double-page. Here is another detail on page-right of “Visual Haiku,” previous posts #88-93. The #lighting / #photography truly show the astounding stitchery used here in a VERY non-tradional way.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 2, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #115
SILK ROAD #115:   It was determined that the exhibit would be strengthened by including traditional #Chinese embroideries, in order to show how different they were from the work we had done collaboratively. A graduate student, Patrick Dowdey, who was studying #China and spoke the language, was brought in as a curator.  Dowdey translated manuscripts the Chinese provided, and traveled to #Suzhou to interview Zhang, and the #embroiderers with whom I had worked. @UCLA also sent researcher, Jo Hill, to China on several visits, one of them with me. Jo would teach the embroiderers about archival practices and question / interview them about their materials and their stitch styles. This is the introduction page to the catalog/book. If the branch looks familiar, it is part of “Visual Haiku,” previous posts #88-93.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, March 26, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #114
SILK ROAD #114:   By 1998, we had completed quite a few #embroideries, and I felt we finally had enough work to show what we were trying to accomplish. Zhang was very eager to have the work more visible in the U.S. and was pressing me to #exhibit. As my exchange program in #China was made possible through @UCLA, I thought it appropriate that they be offered the first opportunity to host such an exhibition, and so I approached the @UCLA @FowlerMuseum. Fowler recognized that very little #Chinese #embroidery was exhibited in the U.S., AND that there was virtually no documentary record of this 5,000-year-old artisan craft. So they decided to make the exhibit -- and the catalog they would publish with it -- a “definitive” compilation of images and research. If the embroidery detail on the cover of the catalog looks familiar, you will find the complete description of the making of this image in previous posts #77-82.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, March 19, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #113
SILK ROAD #113:   “River Scene in Winter” was completed in 1998, taking a little less than two-years of work. It incorporates more than 10 different #stitch styles, and dozens of subtle colors of dyed thread. This 2-sided #embroidery, 16”x 20” in size, is mounted in a mahogany table stand with a center swivel, allowing complete rotation for viewing. The supportive “frame” has been carved in the shape of a phoenix, a very traditional #Chinese symbol. I am happy to say this embroidery has also stayed in Los Angeles, and is in the personal collection of #MichelleLund, #WaltDisney's (@walt_disney) granddaughter. Michelle has always been supportive of my work, and was also one of the contributors to my #exhibit of #embroideries at the @UCLA @FowlerMuseum, which we will be discussing in next week's posts.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, March 12, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #112
SILK ROAD #112:   When we were exhibiting this work at the @UCLA @FowlerMuseum, Zhang attended the installation and opening reception in Los Angeles. When this #embroidery was being set up on a pedestal, Zhang suggested we should use TWO forms of lighting that would alternate for the viewers. One display would illuminate both the front AND the back of the embroidery to show off its luminous transparency and subtle thread colors. Then, those lights would turn off on a cycle, and a light located directly behind the embroidery would turn on, creating what Zhang referred to as the “moonlight” effect. Using lights in this way caused me to consider future #embroideries "in a new light" as you will soon see.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, March 5, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #111
SILK ROAD #111:   Here, with very good lighting from both sides, you get the full effect of the “luminous” quality of this #embroidery. The dark trees and branches are brilliantly offset by the pale thread colors (depicting frost and steam), and the tiny #stitches used at the branch tips to radiate light. Zhang’s idea to contrast the flow of the water with the static shoreline and trees has been beautifully realized. And as much as I admire the work that the trees required, the riffles in the water truly have a sense of motion and I find that part of this embroidery the most interesting.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, February 26, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #110
SILK ROAD #110:   The most "dense" #embroidery work on this piece was done in the trees. While there are many #stitches throughout this entire image, most of those stitches are spaced farther apart, allowing for the #diaphanous effect of the 2-sided design to be maximized. The trees on the other hand, were tightly rendered, not in massive layers like the previous posts of “Trees and Branches in Heavy Snow,” but by placing each #stitch as close to one another as could be #sewn. This kind of tight stitching was essential to capture the ever-finer complex of branches as they grow out from the trunk. The other beautiful and clever stitching here is the transition of the black branch stitching to the silver, blue, and white threads that were used to render their frosted coating.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, February 19, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #109
SILK ROAD #109:   Zhang had in mind a particular #embroiderer whose “style” fit the “feeling” she wanted to capture in this study of flowing water, heavily frosted trees, and luminous morning light filtering through the river steam (the air was MUCH colder than the water that morning). It all sounded great to me, and I also loved the image, so I was introduced to Huo Xiuling and we discussed at length the “intention” of the #embroidery. Beyond Zhang’s objectives, I wanted Huo to consider how the rendering of the trees “from Nature” had been critically important to the success of many of the previous #embroideries she had seen being done around the institute. I thought that attention to the trees was important here, in order to establish a contrast with the "river-flow." I also suggested the backlit, frosted branches were an opportunity to choose #stitches that allowed the #silk to radiate light. Zhang agreed, and added that similar radiant stitches would be used to render the highlights on the riffles in the water.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, February 12, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #108
SILK ROAD #108:   The #embroiderers I was working with all had distinct skills and styles, as different from one another as an individual’s handwriting. Master embroiderers, such as #HuangChunya, whom I had worked with on many pieces, sometimes “partnered” with other embroiderers because they did some specific stitching styles best, or quickest, HOWEVER Huang remained the Master #embroiderer, and orchestrate the work. Often, smaller pieces were created by a single person, and as Director of the institute, Zhang always considered the selected subject, and tried to pair its rendering with an embroiderer, or team, that would best be suited to the “style” that was needed to complete the work. Zhang loved the above image, “Early Morning, Provo River,” made during my Artist-In-Residency at Robert Redford's Sundance Institute (@SundanceLabs).  Zhang wanted to approach it as a small, 2-sided screen in which she could show-off the “flow” of the river as distinctly different from the “structure” of the trees and riverbank.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, February 5, 2015


Silk Road - Embroideries #107
SILK ROAD #107:   Herewith is the completed “Trees and Branches in Heavy Snow,” a 1-sided, 24”x 30” #embroidery incorporating more than 10 different #stitch styles, and dozens of selectively dyed thread colors and shades. When properly lighted to emphasize the “shadows” and the offset background, this is probably the most robust and dimensional embroidery we have ever created. The careful rendering of the tree trunk gives a sense of volume to it, as if it really were a curved surfaced IN FRONT of the branches; an astounding embroidery illusion! Completed in 1997 -- and very striking when on display -- I'm happy to say that “Trees and Branches in Heavy Snow” was acquired by a Los Angeles collector (who wishes to remain anonymous) the very first time it was exhibited in a commercial gallery. It is my hope that some of my #embroideries wil eventually end-up at the #LosAngelesCountyMuseumOfArt (@lacma), adjacent to the astounding #Shin’enkan collection. The Pavilion for Japanese Art's stunning, multi-panel, #Japanese standing screens were my primary inspiration to pursue this work, so it's good to know that some of these embroideries remain in Los Angeles... so far.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 29, 2015
Silk Road - Embroideries #106
SILK ROAD #106:   Another #focus of the #embroiderers' attention was rendering the prominent #tree trunk “from nature”, as opposed to just using random #stitches to “fill-it-in.” Zhang had seen the result of “working from nature” on our previous #embroidery (see posts #99-102), “Rock in Lake with Fog”.  She agreed with me that doing so created a truer #photographic #realism, AND it increased a dimensional #illusion. In this #detail you can see the careful rendering of the tree trunk. As with the branches and pine needles, there is quite an array of #thread colors being used to make all of this 'work'.  These varied colors help create the effect of 'deep-space' in the folds of the tree trunk, and in the #background of overlapping branches, most notable to the right of the trunk.  Here, layers and layers of branches recede to dark #shadows, and a believable infinity point. This realistic effect is accomplished, in part, with arduous #stitching, combined with a stunning application of thread color.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 22, 2015
Silk Road - Embroideries #105
SILK ROAD #105:   The principle #embroiderer on this was Huang Chunya, who had worked with me numerous times on THE most complex pieces. In particular, "2:10 P.M." (posts #50-55) which was the most-layered, most stitch-diverse #embroidery we had ever done.  "2:10 P.M." was sewn in hundreds of layers, starting with the most distant #background point, and "building" the #stitches upon one another as they "moved" to the #foreground. Here in "Trees and Branches with Heavy Snow", Huang Chunya and her assistant, Guan Peiying, similarly spent 1-1/2 years "building" the stitches that would render the branches, pine needles and tree trunk. She could clearly see the opportunity to have an even greater #dimensional effect in this piece because we were using the more recent technique of allowing the #matrix to serve as un-embroidered negative space. As there was no distant background point to start the layering, the women observed the needles and branches beneath the snow cover would be green and dark. The "snow" was then built on top of that, first with random stitching, and then in selected areas with looping and bundle stitches. Numerous subtle shades of blue, silver, gray, and green thread were dyed for this, and at least ten different stitches were incorporated.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 15, 2015
Silk Road - Embroideries #104
SILK ROAD #104:  The background #matrix was #dyed with an extremely subtle, uneven wash; darker at the bottom, and somewhat lighter toward the top of the #frame. Later, in framing, a similarly uneven gray, rag cloth would be inset behind the image, reinforcing the #illusion of varying subtle tones in the "cloudy" sky. In this #detail you can begin to see how the robust layer of #stitches set-off against the un-embroidered "sky" of the matrix REALLY builds a sense of #volume in the tips of these trees. You can also see the shadow here, created by the lighting and the inset rag cloth #background. The "pine needles" were developed using a base of random stitches on top of which looping, knotting, and bundle stitches were layered. More than 10 different stitch styles were employed. Perhaps not as obvious is the astounding range of colors used in this #embroidery. Clearly there are many shades of blue, and white / silver, HOWEVER there are also yellows, greens, and reds as you will see more clearly in the following posts.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 8, 2015
Silk Road - Embroideries #103
SILK ROAD #103:  In the flurry of #embroideries that we created during the 1990's, much of what we did explored the use of the #matrix WITHOUT any #stitching as an integral component of the #image. We were manipulating the matrix with subtle #dyes, #washes, and #painting to give it color and tonal variation. And we were capitalizing on this "negative space" to add both #luminosity and #photographic "depth" to the #embroidery. I had also been exploring the way framing enhanced the sense of dimensional space, and so I had an idea that carried forward the texture-heavy embroidery of our earlier pieces in application to our new style of using negative space. This image of a deep, wet snowfall in the pines offered up the perfect combination of elements I wanted to explore. A) the sky would remain unstitched; B) the trees, needles, and snow would be laboriously textured; C) and, the central tree trunk would be treated like the rock in "Rock In Lake With Fog" (posts #99-102), it would be rendered "from Nature" and not simply "filled-in" with stitches. Even though much of the matrix is diaphanous, I wanted this to be a 1-sided embroidery because it allowed for more elaborate, layered stitching AND I wanted to frame this to create a further sensation of #depth by using #lighting and #shadows.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 1, 2015
Silk Road - Embroideries #102
SILK ROAD #102:  “Rock In Lake With Fog” is approximately 20”x 24”, and is designed as a 2-sided table screen in a mahogany swivel mount. Completed in 1997, it took 1-1/2 years to create and employs over 20 different #stitches, most of them lavished on subtle details of the rock. The silk-polymer #matrix was also selectively hand-dyed to suggest the irregular “surface” color of the water / lake. You might further note that for several of the recent #embroideries that are standing or table screens, I have chosen to adopt a Chinese-style framing. Yet I had them minimize the “rococo,” more elaborate style (for example, post #57) to just a few clean lines and simple elements, which they have accomplished rather nicely here. This #embroidery is currently part of the collection of The Jonathan Club of Los Angeles, an historic, private social club established in the late 1800’s.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2015, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, December 25, 2014
Silk Road - Embroideries #101
SILK ROAD #101:  Again you will have to excuse the color “halos” from the #NewtonRings, but this #detail more clearly shows the subtle #stitching used to render the “reflection” of the shoreline trees in the water. It is also a good example of another subtle aspect of this #embroidery. You will recall that I previously posted about incorporating the in / out-of-focus technique we had used on “Sumac Along the Chattahoochee” (previous posts #33-40), wherein the #embroiderers render #foreground “tightly” and background “loosely.” That worked VERY well in an image so varied, the leaves being offset by the forest. Yet in “Rock In Lake With Fog,” the textural surfaces were more similar. This detail shows the VERY tight stitching that render the rock in contrast to the loose “look” of the shoreline forest, comprised of simple knot and bundle #stitches and virtually no detail, just suggestive color variations.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, December 18, 2014
Silk Road - Embroideries #100
SILK ROAD #100:  First and foremost, please forgive the odd #color spectrum that looks like pink/blue circles in the water of this #photograph. They are called #NewtonRings, and they occur because the photograph is being made through the #plexiglass protecting the #embroidery and the #photographer did not #filter to neutralize the effect. It is distracting, HOWEVER you can still clearly see the "dimensional" space #illusion created by the detailed layers of the rock and the diaphanous, hand-painted blue matrix with minimal #stitches. The silver/white #threads are clearly bright enough to be convincing as a fog off-the-lake. The #embroiderer, Wu Xi, made excellent use of the 2-sided #transparency of this small screen, as well as using stitches in varying directions to create shimmer and change as the piece is viewed from different angles. I love the little weird stitches used to simulate tree-top reflections in the water!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, December 11, 2014
Silk Road - Embroideries #99
SILK ROAD #99:  Herewith is a detail of "Rock in Lake with Fog." As I had made an issue out of how the rock should be rendered more realistically - not #Taihu-style - and that careful, realistic details would make the illusion of #dimensional space greater, Zhang also wanted the rock to have "actual" weight while appearing to "float." Using a pale blue matrix, minimal randomly stitched blue threads of varying shades are used to describe undulations of the water on the "surface" of the lake. In the "reflection" below the rock, most blue stitches have been dropped out, and white and silver ones have been added, along with muted splashes of color. The rock has been rendered "from Nature" not only in attention to #organic form (rather than stylized), but also in physical presence. Using layers of stitching over stitching, and building up selected parts like the moss clumps, the #embroiderers created a surface with dimensional textural relief that has palpable "weight" and yet does "float" in the diaphanous transparency of the lake.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #98
SILK ROAD #98:  Zhang and I continued our stroll and discussion, and I navigated us to one of the most elaborate inner-courtyard #gardens at the institute. The principle element of this garden was a huge #Taihu rock creation that was as close to looking “natural” as these contrived agglomerations ever get. Standing here, I suggested to Zhang that the embroidery she was proposing - soon to be known as “Rock in Lake with Fog” - was an opportunity to explore dimensional space using the techniques we developed in “Sumac Along the Chattahoochee,” (previous posts #33-40) wherein we stitched the foreground quite accurately and tightly, and we rendered the background more loosely, creating an effect like the in-and-out of focus of a #camera. Since she was now proposing a 2-sided piece, I thought we could really take advantage of this technique BUT IT WOULD ONLY WORK if the rock were rendered with GREAT detail and accuracy so that it would appear “realistic”- NOT Taihu-style. Set against the diaphanous water/fog and the more loosely rendered #forest background, the "solid" rock would appear to "float" in the immediate foreground of the visual, dimensional “space” we would create. She agreed!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #97
SILK ROAD #97:  Often in the #embroidery process when we discussed new images, it was a group discussion with many ideas and opinions circulating through the conversation, and EVERYONE was involved. As Zhang and I began to “understand” each other more clearly, however, we would often flesh-out ideas in private conversation which she would then take back to the group. When I agreed to #embroider the cover image of my new book, I told Zhang I wanted to “experiment” with the way rocks were ALWAYS rendered in traditional embroidery. I also asked if she would take a walk with me in the garden of the institute, while we discussed it. This image is a bridge over a koi pond in the garden that is made of the stylized #Taihu rock. As we stood here, I asked Zhang if she thought these looked real, and she responded they did not; they were more like sculpture.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #96
SILK ROAD #96:  In conjunction with a 20-year retrospective #exhibition organized for me by the #HerbertFJohnson #Museum of #CornellUniversity, #ApertureFoundation published, THE LEGACY OF WILDNESS:  THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM. As all the #embroiderers and designers looked through the many images in the book, Zhang took a particular liking to the cover. She was still very excited by the explorations we had begun using 2-sided transparency and hand-painted matrix for various effects of sky and water.  She wanted to use the cover image as a large, 2-sided, swiveling table stand, giving special attention to the fog-water-forest of the overall image. While I did not disagree with those elements as good subject, I felt we had already visited something similar, but in a much grander way, with the previous embroidery, “The Beginning Of Time” (posts #62-71), so I agreed to do this image, but asked that she consider some additional “experiments.”
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, November 13, 2014


Silk Road - Embroideries #95
SILK ROAD #95:  Here in the garden at the #embroidery institute is a #Taihu rock feature.  This is used as a focal point in this particular niche of a much larger maze of bridges, ponds, plantings, and architecture. There are some other examples of such “sculpturals” placed in formal historic #Suzhou gardens in my Suzhou blog: posts #37 & 38. While often dramatic in their role in the garden, especially the older, more caringly crafted ones, they were a stylized fiction of “rock,” and renderings of them in both paint and stitching had become equally stylized. As Zhang, the #embroiderers, and I discussed new images we might approach, I was showing pictures from a recent 20-year retrospective monograph #Aperture had published of my work, and a particular photograph caught Zhang’s attention...
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #94
SILK ROAD #94:  I posted this image previously (#34) in reference to the stylized #stitching in the leaves that we revolutionized in the #embroidery, “Sumac Along the Chattahoochee” (posts #35-40). I repost this now as we come to the discussion around the next silk embroidery to be considered. The other stylized stitching aspect of the traditional embroidery pictured here, were the rocks. AND, it is not just the stitching OF the rocks, but also the fact that the rock ITSELF is stylized. Called “Lake Taihu” rocks, these agglomerated cement-and-rock sculptures, could be found everywhere. On a small scale, they were part of elegant bonsai/water table pieces; on a larger scale, they were showcased-by-arrangement in many of Suzhou’s historic gardens.  And, as in the embroidery institute in which I was working, on a massive scale they were sculpted right into the architecture. Here, they are represented in the art/embroidery, and loom like strange forms behind the leaves.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #93
SILK ROAD #93:  Completed in a little more than 6-months, “Visual Haiku” was framed with a white rag cloth offset behind the #embroidery. Because much of the #matrix is transparent with no #stitching, display lighting passes through, causing the slightly raised embroidery/matrix to cast a shadow on the background cloth beneath the areas that do have stitching. This effect adds considerable dimension to the image. Similarly, display lighting brings out sparkling highlights coming from both the snowfield and the “accumulated” snow on the tree trunk.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #92
SILK ROAD #92:  This detail shows the field of snow, suggesting the #illusion that it recedes into the distance behind the trunk of the tree. To accomplish this, layers of #stitches were built-up around the tree trunk where snow had "accumulated." Full #silk threads in various dye colors were used for these stitches.  Many times the stitches were sewn in reversed directions to refract light at different viewing angles.  BUT to make it appear as though the snowfield recedes, full silk threads were unwound into strands. The strands were dyed in ever-subtler tones, then the darker, 24th strands were sewn as the “middle” ground, and lightest 48th strands were the last to “disappear-in-the-distance.”
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #91
SILK ROAD #91:  In this detail you can see two other kinds of #stitching.  For the snow on the branch, some of detailing is the acupuncture needle stitch, and like the knotting stitches on the tree trunk, these #stitches have been sewn over others in some cases to create a #dimensional #texture. Note also the VERY subtle thread work at the bottom of this image. These are the last stitches in the matrix that define the receding field of snow behind the tree. Beyond these strands you see only the gauze of the #matrix and the white rag fabric offset beneath the matrix in the frame. Note especially the delicacy of these stitches... there is a reason they are so faint.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #90
SILK ROAD #90: In traditional #Chinese #embroidery, most pieces only employed a few #stitch variations so the viewer could concentrate on the beauty of the stitch. In the case of more complex stitches, such as the knotting stitch seen here, when the stitch was used, it was used in a uniform size and application, often as a pattern. Since working with me, we had already broken ALL the rules about mixing stitch styles (the embroidery, “2:10pm” – posts #50-55 has more than 25 different styles of stitch) so Zhang and Ji Shaoping decided to break the rules again with the knotting stitch. The stitch can be varied in both size and looseness/tightness, so here knotting stitches have been used to define snow crystal build-up on the tree trunk. Applying them in widely varying looseness and size, they have been sewn over other stitches, and sometimes over one-another to create a palpable dimension and texture to the surface of the snow.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #89
SILK ROAD #89: In this first detail of the #embroidery, "Visual Haiku," you can see several unique things going on. This image employs 10 different kinds of #stitches, and numerous dyed thread tones of grey and black, but significantly here you can clearly see that the embroiderer has reversed the stitching direction of the threads defining the field of snow. We used this technique previously on "The Beginning Of Time" (posts #62-71), and I explained that silk thread refracts light in very specific directions, so reversing stitch direction causes differing threads to illuminate from varied viewing angles. In "The Beginning Of Time," we used this stitching technique to create the illusion of the water reflections seeming to change as you move around the piece. In "Visual Haiku" the intention of using the technique was to suggest the "sparkle" of the different, individual snow crystals viewed from different angles, and especially notable at the point where crossing threads intersect. At the base of the tree you can also see some other circular, looping stitches; look carefully at those, what we are doing with them is really breaking the rules of traditional #Chinese embroidery style.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #88
SILK ROAD #88: 1994-1996 were VERY productive years, as the institute Director, Zhang Meifang, felt we were having great success and that we had many new directions that we could explore, so she allowed a number of the best #embroiderers that had worked with me on previous pieces, to now work on several different new images at the same time. Zhao Liya was stitching "Pale leaves in Blue Fog" (posts #77-82); Huang Chunya was working on "3 Trees" (posts #83-87); and Ji Shaoping, who was my very first #embroiderer, rendering both "Snowfall" (posts #10-13), and "Wild Meadow" (posts #26-32) collaborated on "Visual Haiku." Another #image selected from the WINTERS: 1970-1980 portfolio, "Visual Haiku", would do in black-and-white, what we had done in color with "Pale Leaves and Blue Fog," - we would let a good deal of the snowfield be transparent and frame it with a white background. This #embroidery concentrated on subtle stitching in the field of snow crystals, and use of more complicated, dimensional stitches to give depth to the build-up of snow on the tree trunk.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #87
SILK ROAD #87: In this final #detail of "3 Trees" I am simply bringing you in ever-closer to the rendering of the trees. Not only does this #image really highlight the #stitching in the trees, you can also clearly see how foreground trees have darker #thread and are more completely rendered. The tree that is farthest away has lighter dye shades and appears less detailed in its stitching because "it-is-more-difficult-to-see-as-distinctly." With its unique #ChuoSha border and its ample use of negative space, this two-sided #embroidery is stunningly #diaphanous, and like many #Chinese brush #paintings, these trees and rocks just float in a space where dimension is subtle, if at all. I am honored to have this embroidery in the personal collection of Mr. & Mrs. Rhett Turner, and I hope they enjoy it everyday. It has always been one of my favorites as well.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #86
SILK ROAD #86: The original #photograph of "3 Trees" was made on a multi-day, high-alpine skiing and mountaineering trip in the #PioneerMountains of #Idaho. The trees are alpine pines with an array of needles that are very leaf-like, and they bear lots of tiny pinecones. The combination of stitches used to render them in this embroidery, including the acupuncture needle stitch, PERFECTLY captures the look and texture of these amazing trees. Zhang was at first confused by seeing only parts of certain trees, but I explained they were behind a hill that in the flat light you could not see - the only thing defining it was the curve of "bottomless" trees - that set her creative process off and she suggested we use "lighter" blacks and gray in the stitches as the trees receded "into" the distance. Her intention was to make the rocks and trees in the immediate foreground appear "closer," suggesting by shades of thread that trees in the distance grew less distinct.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #85
SILK ROAD #85: In this detail of "3 Trees" there is quite a bit going on. The "Chuo Sha" stitched border has some amazingly fine tonal #threadwork throughout the pattern, and if you think you can see some blue and grey/silver in the "black" of the rocks and trees, you are not seeing things - there are dyed threads in eight shades of blue, gray, silver, and black. Yes, you can have shades of black! Then, not wanting the trees to have the same "flat" surface and texture of the rocks, the acupuncture-needle #stitch was used once again, and yet in a new way. Here, clusters of the stitch define the tree branches beautifully, where as in "Pale Leaves in Blue Fog" (previous post #77-82) the stitch was invented to define points of light created by individual dewdrops on the branches.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #84
SILK ROAD #84: Because I saw this image of "3 Trees" as very much like a #Chinese brush painting, I wanted to carry that "feeling" through to the finished piece. There was a technique we had not used called "Chuo Sha" that involves bordering the #embroidery image with a stitched pattern repeat, all of this sewn into the same matrix base. The "Chuo Sha" border in this case has been created by a technique called "pierced silk." The finished piece is approximately 16"x 20", exclusive of the frame. The frame created specifically for this piece, is a mahogany swivel-based stand with the symbols of a Phoenix carved as part of the framing element. This 2-sided embroidery also employs 4 different stitches, most notable of which are the trees that have been rendered with the "acupuncture" stitch in varying sizes. My friend and embroiderer of many of my most important pieces, Huang Chunya, completed this image in 6-months time... while also working on other pieces of mine!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #83
SILK ROAD #83: Completing "The Beginning Of Time" (previous posts #62-71) in 1994 excited everyone at the institute by the way it incorporated select #dyeing of the #matrix, two-sided #embroidery, and negative (transparent) space. It set-off a flurry of production on smaller pieces to further explore those ideas in different ways; the first two of which you have now seen - "Fall Dreams in the High Desert" (previous posts #72-76) and "Pale Leaves in Blue Fog" (previous posts #77-81). We had not worked with a black-and-white image since the first embroidery, "Snowfall" (previous posts #10-13). As I considered that fact, it also occurred to me that the most minimalistic of my WINTERS: 1970-1980 portfolio of 24 photographs were, in essence, landscapes of negative space. I felt one of those images in particular, "Three Trees", would be an especially interesting challenge conceptually because the flattened perspective defined a landscape you could not "see". The only suggestion that a hill is there is defined by what you do -- and do not -- see of trees.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #82
SILK ROAD #82: In this final #detail you have a bit of all 10 of the different #stitches used in "Pale Leaves in Blue Fog". Some varying sized bundle stitches in green and blue have been #embroidered in to suggest early spring leaves and and budding flowers. Once again, if you look carefully you can see numerous tiny #acupuncture needle stitches atop the leaves. Completed in 1996, Zhao Liya's spectacular work took 1-1/2 years. When the piece was framed, the blue #background fabric was set behind the #embroidery with some relatively deep spacers. When lighted on display, the branches and tree trunks, in particular, cast subtle shadows on the background fabric. In combination with the layers of random stitching, the #Suzhou Fine stitched leaves, and the dew drop acupuncture stitches, the final effect is a stunning sense of #dimensional space.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #81
SILK ROAD #81: In this #detail you can see how tight a #stitch the #Suzhou Fine is, and how with each #thread, #color and #tone can be subtly modulated. Only the leaves were rendered in this way, the rest is an amazing haze of random #stitching that somehow actually does appear to be a forest of trees and branches. The last touch - the "acupuncture stitch" dew drops - are most clearly apparent on the horizontal branch of leaves in the upper half of the image. HOWEVER, the MOST AMAZING part of what you are looking at is just off to the left. Follow the branch with the dew drops to the left, to the first big black tree trunk. Then look at the leaf that sits just above the branch, in the middle of that black trunk. Do you see what appear to be little white "beads" on that leaf and the next group over? That's right... the tiniest acupuncture stitches ever made! YEOW!!!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #80
SILK ROAD #80: If you have followed this blog, you will recall that in creating "Sumac Along the Chattahoochee" (posts #33-40), we discovered that we could give dimension to the surface of the #embroidery by making the details in the #foreground highly defined and then #stitch the #background more loosely. Now, with "Pale Leaves in Blue Fog" we have rendered an exceptional background in loose random #stitching, so for the leaves in the foreground we are going to use the #Suzhou Fine stitch for the first time. Stitching in this way renders GREAT detail and can be used to explore an astounding range of tones and colors as well. In this application, the #dimensional effect is remarkable and the pale leaves literally "jump off" the surface of the embroidery into the viewer's foreground vision.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #79
SILK ROAD #79: Besides the amazing random stitching done to create the branches in the forest, two stitches in particular were used in this #embroidery that we had never used before; one of those stitches was actually invented by Zhang just for "Pale Leaves in Blue Fog." As the piece progressed, the random stitching layers were SO beautifully done in so many subtle shades, against the unstitched matrix they truly did create the illusion of deep dimensional space in the forest. In the near foreground, we were planning to use the #Suzhou fine stitch to render the pale leaves with utmost detail further adding to that illusion. Zhang, however, grew concerned about something else she thought essential to the image - in the photograph you could clearly see water droplets from the fog had collected on the branches like bright beads. In a brilliant moment one afternoon, she decided to wrap thread around the head of a tiny #acupuncture needle, creating a little silk bead - "the acupuncture stitch." By using needles of varying sizes, the #embroiderers could make "raindrops" that also varied in size - these were to be the VERY last stitches applied and they were an ingenious contribution to furthering the sense of depth.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #78
SILK ROAD #78: This is "Pale Leaves in Blue Fog." A 24"x 30", 1-sided random #stitch #embroidery. The #matrix into which the #stitching has been done was dyed with watercolor paints to create tonal variations, as though the fog was more dense in some areas than in others. Taking 1-1/2 years to complete, there are more than 10 different stitches that have been incorporated into this piece by #embroiderer, Zhao Liya. This was also the first 1-sided embroidery in which much of the #background would remain transparent - unstitched - a concern for Zhang when I first suggested working in this new way. Up until now, framing had been very straightforward, sometimes borrowing from #Chinese tradition, and sometimes using completely contemporary western styles. With this new direction in the work, however, framing would begin to be more integral to the design of the finished piece. In this case, #SharonShore, my #textile #curator and #archivist, created a background "canvas" of an acid-free blue fabric that was mounted behind the embroidery within the frame, reinforcing the blue tonality, the fog effect, and the illusion of 3-dimensional space in the forest.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #77
SILK ROAD #77: The last two embroideries, "The Beginning Of Time" (posts #62-71) and "Fall Dream in the High Desert" (posts #72-76), were 2-sided, and capitalized on the #diaphanous #matrix being transparent, allowing light to play "through" the image. Now I wanted to use the transparency of the matrix in another way. From the very first meetings we had, I expressed quite clearly that I DISLIKED using #stitches just to "fill in" sky, water, or any large space. This was one of the reasons the #designers and #embroiderers were persuaded to #dye, rather than stitch, water/sky areas of "The Beginning Of Time." Now I suggested we could use this image from my work in the Hudson river and start with a pale blue matrix stitching-in ONLY the leaves and the branches, the rest would be open WITH NO STITCHING. Further, I wanted to heightened the dimensional #photographic effect we discovered in "Sumac Along the Chattahoochee" (posts #33-40) so I asked if the foreground leaves/branches could be rendered in the tightest, most detailed stitching, then allow background stitching to become progressively less detailed and precise as the trees "faded into the fog."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #76
SILK ROAD #76: In this #detail you can see the #random #stitch truly being used randomly, once again defining shadows around "bushes" and the subtle contours of the #landscape. The #embroiderers "choice" to make these erratic #stitches is not so much pre-planned as it is an intuitive response to making the #embroidery "describe" in the same way that the #photograph does. Where these stitches are placed, how densely or loosely they are #sewn, and in which direction should they indicate contour are choices made in the flow of work. Zhang might stop by to view the work and comment on something to add or enhance, but for the most part, after the initial lengthy discussion about creating the pieces, the embroiderers chosen for the work go "into-the-flow" of sewing and are left to their own sensibility as to how the subject would be best rendered.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #75
SILK ROAD #75: More closely still, the #luminous quality of the #bundling #stitches becomes evident. The group of yellow/gold stitches in the lower-right seems to glow, and in the largest group in the upper-left, the bundles have mixed so many different colored #silk strands together that you can not tell what specific #color any one bundle really is. Often, when viewed this closely, I will follow #stitches that strike me as "curious". In the middle of this image, near the top, in the nearly blank space, there are some VERY eccentric random stitches - what was the #embroiderer doing? And yet, when viewed in total, these seemingly erratic stitches subtly define #shadows around the "bushes" and contours in the greater #landscape - an ingenious understanding of gesture in a simple, single line.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #74
SILK ROAD #74: As we move in more closely on the #stitchwork of "Fall Dream in the High Desert," you can see two very distinct #stitch patterns. The most commonly used, free form stitch - the #random stitch - is visible in many places, often just a single #thread zigging and zagging about, describing minimal #contours within the #landscape and defining the "shadow" edge of the #brush. The brush on the other hand is made entirely of "bundling" stitches. They appear as clusters of tiny #knots, and because the stitch is a bundle of colors, color flows through the #threadwork like the colors "flowed" through the fall landscape of the #photograph from which they were working.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #73
SILK ROAD #73: "Fall Dream in the High Desert" was a small (16x20), 2-sided, table #screen in a mahogany swivel-mount, allowing the #embroidery to be rotated. Certainly the most #abstract of all the work we had done so far, the #image is clearly readable although I have made the "land" #transparent #negative space. By doing that, I placed the emphasis on the embroidery work, which in this case employed an amazing technique we had not used before. Because the brush in the actual #photograph shows subtle #modulations of fall color across the #landscape, achieving that in the embroidery was done by using the "bundle" #stitch. #Silk threads of many colors are "unwound" until they are just strands of colored silk. Then, different colors are "bundled" together and wound back into a thread which is then used in the embroidery.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #72
SILK ROAD #72: Each of the 3 panels of "The Beginning Of Time" took 3-years to complete. During that work, I had time to consider what was being achieved by doing a 2-sided #embroidery and capitalizing on the #transparency of the #image. Given the scale of the ongoing work, the #embroiderers were not about to embrace a second large project but they were willing to consider smaller ones. I took the above image in the foothills around #Sundance, Utah, where I had been Artist-in-Residence at Redford's Sundance Institute and I wanted to use it in an experiment. In BOT we made sky and water the transparent parts of the image, so I wondered if we could make something else negative space. In this image I felt we could #embroider the brush and NOT the ground, leaving the actual #landscape #transparent. At first Zhang thought it a bad idea, feeling no one would understand the image, but I convinced here that by remaining faithful to the detailing of the bushes and the #photographically spatial depiction of the receding canyon that viewers would "read" the embroidery correctly. 
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #71
SILK ROAD #71: As I mentioned when I introduced this #embroidery, the work on this was about "less" rather than "more" in order to maintain the diaphanous qualities of working on a two-sided screen. In this detail the #photographic spatial relation is established with the dark threads of the foreground trees. In a more traditional #Chinese #embroidery, the steam rising behind the trees would have been defined by various tones of white and grey #thread, BUT it would have ALL been #stitched. Here Huang Chunya grasps the essence of this image's #luminosity by making the fog a simple, subtle gradation of fewer and fewer #stitches allowing the #matrix to be revealed as the lightest/brightest area. As a result, on display it appears that there is actually illumination within the fog, exactly as such a vapor would appear if lit by a sunrise, OR exactly as a #film #transparency would appear when viewed on a light-table.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #70
SILK ROAD #70: Another of the areas within "The Beginning of Time" in which I especially love the details of the #stitching are the reeds and their reflections in the water. Here the subtle blue wash applied to the #matrix is set off by some of the darkest #thread colors. As these reeds are a prominent part of the #image #foreground, rendering them with some of the darkest #thread causes them to stand distinctly "in front of" other objects, differentiating their #photographically #spatial relationship with #background elements. These dark reed threads are also darker than the #stitches used to render the "surface" of the water, so the reeds appear to be "above" the waterline with their spindly reflection creating the #illusion of being "below" the waterline - a remarkable #embroidery slight-of-hand!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #69
SILK ROAD #69: In this #detail you can see another kind of overlay. As we had previously learned from the #embroideries we layered with dense #stitching, to keep the #spatial #illusion of the #photograph we had to determine the "vanishing point" in the distance and then work "forward" from that. This assured objects intended to be #foreground, truly overlay the #background - in effect, they are "on top of" the overall #embroidery - the #stitches closest to the viewer. As we were now working with many fewer layers of stitching and trying to maintain a partial #transparency to the image, to keep the #photographic spatial illusion, there still needed to be layering, so here you see pale and subtly colored threads of water reflection and sky fog "beneath" an overlay of reeds, trees, and bushes. Of course, the stitching of those reeds and trees is pretty amazing as well!!!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #68
SILK ROAD #68: You can quite literally change the look of any #embroidery by the way you choose to #illuminate it. With "The Beginning Of Time" being so #transparent, it was easily altered by any shifting #light. The further addition of the #stitches sewn in differing directions to cause reflectivity at different angles is an embroidery #illusion that requires you to actually move around the piece to see it. It cannot be captured in a single picture, but in this extreme detail you can clearly see the overlay of "highlight" stitches on top of the darker reed reflections stitched in the "water". You can also see some subtle tonal differences in the threads being used in the highlights which adds a warmer/cooler shift to the overall illusion when you view the whole.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #67
SILK ROAD #67: When I asked why Huang Chunya was the "primary" #embroiderer, and yet others worked on it with her and under her direction, I was told that because of the 3-panels, it was important to maintain the #continuity, and that was the "vision" of the "primary" embroiderer. Even so, I saw elder "master" embroiderers of great respect that had retired from the institute visit to council with her about the evolution of this #embroidery. Now that we had reached this scale and commitment, NOTHING can be done in a completely casual way anymore because of the time and money invested, AND YET... (there is ALWAYS another level to which you MIGHT ascend).
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #66
SILK ROAD #66: The #dye-painting of the #matrix to eliminate excessive #stitching and allow greater #luminosity was immediately appreciated by all who watched this piece evolve. Initially there was a lot of attention paid to #effect of the mist, and in working the cool colors of the "blue" water against the warm tones of the first green leaves in the #background. However, as the piece progressed, a design decision was made to "enhance" the water further by using #directional thread stitching to #refract #light in different ways from different angles. Thus, stitches in various, and sometimes overlaying layers, face different directions. Because of the way the silk thread responds to light, only certain threads light up at specific angles, SO as you move around the piece, the reflections on the surface of the water actually seem to shift and change.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #65
SILK ROAD #65: Each of the 3-panels for "The Beginning of Time" took three years to stitch. Different #embroiderers worked a few specific tasks but the #master #embroiderer for this piece was my old friend, Huang Chunya. After her "burnout" from stitching the majority of the VERY complex #embroidery, "2:10 p.m.", she retired from working on my images, but found herself "bored" going back to more traditional subjects, so after some respite, she became part of my team again. She was especially excited to be the first to work stitching across a painted/dyed #matrix, and she was especially aware of my desire to keep the overall image #transparent and #luminous. For her, this image would be nearly the exact opposite of "2:10 p.m." because that was the most elaborate, textured piece we had created to date, and "The Beginning of Time" would be an exercise in stitching minimalism.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #64
SILK ROAD #64: "The Beginning Of Time" stands about 5'10" tall. The #embroiderers used directional #stitching to enhance the reflections across the surface of the water, but that is a subtle detail I will show you in future posts. For now, it is enough to say that the #transparency and #luminosity of this piece is unparalleled in all the work we have done together. It is virtually impossible to light this #embroidery "correctly" because every time the light in the room changes, so do the screens, and it is NEVER bad, just always different. The #Chinese would prefer to work with 6-panels, but as this was only 3, it provided another "discovery" related to the photographic-ness of the image. With just 3-panels, the screen balances because the "wing" panels extend forward to support stance. When you stand in the middle, and close enough to the embroidery to have the "wing" panels part of your peripheral vision, the entire piece takes a jump into significant 3-dimensional space, a illusion that could have only been created by following a #photograph.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #63
SILK ROAD #63: As I have previously noted, the tall, narrow panels of many of the #embroideries displayed around the institute was increasingly appealing to me as a format. Feeling the momentum of our other successes, Zhang was also willing to be more adventurous and knew I loved the larger scale of the #screens so she agreed that the #embroiderers would work with my suggestions, divide the image into 3-panels and create our first double-sided, standing screen. She was concerned, however, that since the sky and water were different colors, one or the other would have to be stitched. Many skilled #painters worked with the institute creating more traditional #Chinese imagery for the embroiderers, so I asked if they might not "paint" dye into the matrix, coloring it unevenly and giving us the tonal/color variations needed WITHOUT using stitches, thus preserving the MOST amount of transparency. They had NEVER painted a matrix before, so the idea created a little buzz, but Zhang agreed to try it and it took our work together in a whole new direction - herewith, "The Beginning Of Time."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #62
SILK ROAD #62: I began to consider many new ideas, inspired by these other #embroideries I studied while at the #institute. Feeling we had already accomplished much of what I hoped to in using #stitches to create dense textural relief, I decided to attempt working with the #transparency of a 2-sided #embroidery and searched my #image inventory with that in mind. The #photograph here was part of a parallel project in North America eventually published as the Aperture book, "OVERLOOKED IN AMERICA: The Success and Failure of Federal Land Management." Fog and clouds are represented throughout generations of #Chinese art, and the #embroiderers render the illusion of it in many ways VERY successfully, so I thought this would appeal to them. Most importantly, I ONLY wanted them to embroider the vegetation - leaving the water, sky and foggy patches over the forest completely transparent.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #61
SILK ROAD #61: Working with the #transparency of the #matrix as part of the #design and using appropriate two-sided #embroidery stitches allowed for some subtle, very beautiful #illusions such as the delicate moon stitched behind the leaves and beneath the geese. This is also quite a large embroidery panel and I liked the taller, narrower shape, as I had not yet worked with that particular framing, and the #Chinese used it with great regularity. There were many other examples throughout the institute. I included this particular piece in the @UCLA @FowlerMuseum exhibition "Threads of Light" because it's combination of transparency and stitch styles were so stunningly and perfectly complimentary.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #60
SILK ROAD #60: The technique of using #thread direction in the #stitch to change the way #light is reflected was especially effective on transparent backgrounds and double-sided #embroideries. My favorite was a rather large rendering of fish, a small detail of which is represented here. Of course there was great attention to detail in the stitching of the scales of the fish, BUT more interestingly to me, the #embroiderers had used the directional thread technique to give the "water" both the appearance of transparency, and also of motion because as you "moved" past the piece, different threads picked up light in differing ways and the "shimmer" effect was amazing. The more I pondered these applications, the more I began to consider working with an entirely different group of photographic images, and the more I began to see the embroideries as #film #transparencies.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #59
SILK ROAD #59: As I mentioned in the last post, #silk thread has a unique structure. For lack of a better term, it is angular. Because of that, it reflects light in definable ways and the knowledge of that can create dazzling effects. Sewing threads in opposing directions is a technique that takes advantage of this angularity because a light source will only cause radiance for the threads sewn in the same direction, BUT NOT those sewn going the other way. As you move the light source, or as you move around the #embroidery, the reflective angles and the radiance change to favor the opposing group of threads. Within traditional #Chinese embroidery one of the most beautiful ways to show-off this technique was in the feather display of a peacock. Sewing threads to reflect varying angles of light causes the feathers to shimmer and appear more transparent.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #58
SILK ROAD #58: This detail of the classic #Chinese #embroidery, "100 Butterflies" does NOT reflect the #textural #surfaces and the more obvious #dimensional space SERI and I have been exploring in the #embroideries on which we have #collaborated, but it did cause me to consider working with the #silk in new ways. The #butterflies are rendered with one of the finest #stitches, which while laborious, is clearly beautiful and capable of astounding detail and subtlety. As "dense" as the stitch is, it is perfectly double-sided and still "thin" enough to be luminous as light passes through the matrix into which the stitches are sewn. Silk thread, because of its structure, also has a unique radiance and reflectivity, all of which seemed enhanced by the more transparent, 2-sided technique. For me, it felt as though I were looking at transparency film, and unexpectedly, I was suddenly more conscious of thread in relation to light and color, than in relation to texture and surface.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #57
SILK ROAD #57: As I previously noted in this blog, I was often inspired, or exposed to new ideas by simply walking around the institute (SERI) and observing other work being done, or showcase pieces being displayed. One such #embroidery, "100 Butterflies" was an especially stunning example of the double-sided #stitching technique and I thought the dense, pale matrix into which it was stitched made it more luminous, bringing out the beauty of the #thread colors and enhancing the illusion of light and air. This was also quite a large piece, about 40" x 40", and appearing even larger in the display stand which GREATLY enhanced the power of the embroidery on exhibit, so much so that is was the "welcoming" embroidery at the entrance to the 1999 @UCLA @FowlerMuseum exhibit of my earliest collective works, "THREADS OF LIGHT: #Chinese Embroidery from #Suzhou and the #Photography of Robert Glenn Ketchum." This 6-month show at UCLA included 13 of my most-significant #embroideries completed to that date, and a selection of 14 Chinese embroideries that Zhang and I agreed were personally significant to me or best represented the breadth of the SERI #embroiderers skills.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #56
SILK ROAD #56: I had come to #China / #Suzhou to work with #embroiderers in pursuit of creating a #photo-realisitic rendering in #textile, but as in any successful collaboration, we each learned things along the way that changed the way we used the materials. If you have followed this blog from inception, you have seen six embroideries, five of which pretty much address ALL my curiosity about textural surfaces: "Red Maple with Back Trunk," "Wild Meadow," "Sumac along the Chattahoochee," "Double-wide Wasatch," and "2:10 PM" were an evolution of a revolution for the embroiderers and myself. Each #embroidery explored #stitch #application in a different way, and "2:10 PM" took all the "rule-breaking" we had generated and put it in one place. After that orgy of work, my attention turned to "other" things the workshop could do that we might integrate. One of their most famous techniques was to work double-sided - with exact same image on the reverse of the matrix - as they had done for me on the very 1st embroidery, "Snowfall."
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #55
SILK ROAD #55: I must apologize for I misspoke in my previous post and stated that I was showing you the full #embroidery image. The image posted was a large view, but it WAS NOT the entire image; this is! In this picture you are actually looking at the image as mounted on its "#loom". The pale blue #matrix that was used for the #background is #stretched tightly by cotton rope that is tied to a surrounding wooden #frame. The stretching opens the fine-mesh pores of the matrix and makes it easier for the #embroiderers to pass their #needles through. "2:10 p.m." was actually framed in this way for #display, because it makes clear the "magical" element of this work (for me), seeing the #photographic #image arise from the blank matrix. Mr. Clifford Heinz acquired this #embroidery and kept the framing as it was because he appreciated the "emergence" as well.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #54
SILK ROAD #54: In the previous posts, you have been viewing various sections, so here is the full 30"x 40" #embroidery, "2:10 p.m.", incorporating at least 26 different #stitch styles and more than 500 #shades of #dyed-thread. Director #Zhang approached me when this was finished and ask me to write a "generous" letter on behalf of #HuangChunya, so #Huang could be "promoted". Otherwise, Huang would leave, she was burned-out ! I talked with Huang, and she felt she had just given SO much time and energy to this image, she could not work on another of mine. I told her how grateful I was she did this and did not see her in my workroom for several visits. However, some years later I was back at the #institute to oversee new work, and there was Huang, leading the embroidery team. When I asked about her change of heart, she replied that the "traditional" images were boring to her now, and once she recovered from working on "2:10" she was excited to approach another embroidery that would challenge her #creativity.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #53
SILK ROAD #53: At times you can clearly see a #visual rhythm in #HuangChunya's #stitches, #but even as the overall view begins to draw back and enlarge, the intense detail of the #embroidery is simply astounding. Here dozens of different stitches and hundreds of #colors literally "swim" around and over each other. Tiny, single-#thread stitches create subtle color spots on the tree trunks giving them volume. All of this work takes an immense amount of time, and although Huang was assisted by #HuangNanping and several others that did work on specific stitches, Huang Chunya did the majority of the embroidery, dedicating more than two years to its completion.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 16, 2014
Silk Road - Embroideries #52
SILK ROAD #52: In these #details you can see the astounding effort that #embroiderer, #Huang Chunya put into this piece. These details also confirm how revolutionary her stitches were in light of #Chinese #embroidery #history. In agreeing to work on this piece, it was intended some of the #rules of #tradition would be broken, but for such a skilled embroiderer, the freedom to be truly creative opened a whole new door of possibilities. Here you can clearly see that we are combining many #stitches of different #textures together, and sometimes, one on top of another - CLEARLY there is NO emphasis on any one individual #stitch style. You can also see where Huang has sewn back over the base-stitches with looping stitches which she felt helped accentuate the highlights on leaves. It may not be apparent when viewed this closely, but when you look at the overall embroidery, the #photographic #illusion is perfect. As you can also see, there is an amazing intermixing of #thread #colors to create subtle #illusions of #shade and #depth. Remember, you are viewing an area that is about 2"x 5" in an embroidery that measures 30"x 40".
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #51
SILK ROAD #51: It was clear from the "discussion" that there was NO WAY they would leave the trees without #embroidery, it simply seemed illogical to the #Chinese not to render the most prominent objects. Besides, I was grateful just to be working at the larger #scale they proposed and I did not want to compromise that opportunity, so I let go of my negative-space idea. I did use my refused request to some leverage, however, because it allowed me to emphasize my desire to exploit stitch textures and dye colors, and Huang Chunya heard that very clearly. She also recognized that within our group of #embroiderers a new "freedom" was emerging. Working with me and the "different" ideas I was proposing allowed the embroiderers to experiment with their skills and apply them in new ways. Until my arrival, 2,500 years of embroidery history and tradition dictated specific ways all things were rendered. Certain stitches were never combined; many stitch variations in the same embroidery were considered an obstruction to "appreciating" the beauty of the individual stitch. Color was most often used in subtle tonal arrangements of ascending/descending shades - as far as I was concerned, those rules were limitations, there was SO much more we could do....
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Silk Road - Embroideries #50
SILK ROAD #50: With DOUBLE-WIDE WASATCH being #embroidered in one room and 2:10 PM being embroidered in another, my days at the institute were very exciting. At 30" x 40", 2:10 PM would be the largest, most complex subject we had yet attempted. The young #embroiderer, #HuangChunya, and her team worked to emphasize the numerous #textures of the foliage in the #background while incorporating an incredible spectrum of #threads colored by very subtle #dye #tonalities. I knew the black tree trunks would ultimately be "filled-in" - not one of my favorite techniques - and so I proposed to #Zhang that we would stitch on a black matrix and leave the trees unembroidered, in effect transparent, negative space. When I said this, a noticeable "buzz" broke out in the room. ALL of those attending this discussion asked the same question. How could I leave out the most prominent objects in the picture?
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2014, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, December 26, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #49
SILK ROAD #49: Please excuse the "soft" image but I have enlarged this tremendously from the full-frame catalog shot to make a point. In this picture you can clearly see the sameness of the #stitching - no fancy textural variations - but having said that, the experiment to create the illusion of one layer of trees beneath another clearly worked. Part of the success of the effect is that we have worked from a dark background and chosen not to "fill-in" stitching, thus there is ACTUAL depth to the thread layers. HOWEVER, the embroiderers also accentuated this illusion of depth with their extraordinary palette of dye colors, using blues and deep purples to enhance the sense of "shadows-beneath-the-branches".
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, December 19, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #48
SILK ROAD #48: Finding the "flip" image of seasonal change (previous post) just TOO much for many reasons, the embroiderers turned their attention to my first suggestion, the 2 "similar" hillsides. It was agreed between us that a young embroiderer, Xu Jianhua, would do this entirely by herself using the random stitch with no varied-stitch embellishments to address textures of differing trees. Instead, working from a dark background (which we had learned from the creation of SUMAC ALONG THE CHATTAHOOCHEE - previous posts) Xu would concentrate on the depth layers of the forest. From subtle dark areas of no-stitching, the first "layer" of shorter, red trees was embroidered, then "layered-over" by the taller green and yellow trees. Watching this piece evolve on the loom also caused me to marvel as its' dimensional reality "emerged" from a drawing on a blue-gray matrix,..to this! Part of my excitement about DOUBLE-WIDE WASATCH was seeing this photographic "reality" in contrast to the raw matrix and hand-loom on which it was created, so I decided to frame it for exhibit in that fashion - as though it were on a loom.
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, December 12, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #47
SILK ROAD #47: My alternative suggestion for a "double-wide" #embroidery was to flip one of the spring/fall images and attempt to seam them. The exactness of the framing made matching them simple enough, but #Zhang feared there was no "seamless" way to blend the fall hillside into the shadow. I disagreed, but I think this was just TOO much "freelancing" for her to feel the #embroiderers could accomplish the task. It also proved difficult to have much discussion about this as an embroidery because EVERYONE was talking at once about the color changes in the photo. Many at the institute could not believe these colors were real and were sure that I had "done something" to the photo.
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, December 5, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #46
SILK ROAD #46: Clearly not the same, BUT similar enough, I felt by flipping one of these two images, they could be #embroidered to blend together. In places where the seam was less than perfect, I suggested the #embroiderers could "freelance" to make the hillside appear continuous. #Zhang pointed out that in some places the vegetation and color shift were significant. She also worried that the foreground-to-background description of depth would be difficult because my composition had "flattened-out" the #landscape and that was further complicated by the forest in the foreground where she foresaw another depth issue. In many places the red trees are beneath the green ones and show through - one is clearly below the other. These multiple layers of surface in several directions were of concern, but she did agree the colors would be great to work with, and she liked the idea of doing something "double-wide".
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, November 28, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #45
SILK ROAD #45: While photographing in the #Wasatch #Mountains of #Utah, as part of my #Artist-In-Residence at #Sundance, I recognized that I had been at this location before, but I had NO idea what the previous framing was. It was only after I took this shot and got the film back did I realize how exactly similar this image was to the one I posted last week of spring foliage from the same viewpoint. So this, and the THREE-previously posted photographs now play into my proposal to #Zhang and the #Suzhou #embroidery #guild to try a little experiment with the next embroidery we would attempt.
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, November 21, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #44
SILK ROAD #44: There was also this other wild card (above) in the experiment I was trying to encourage the #Chinese #embroiderers to try. Here is a spring view of an image that evolved into another possible "pairing". As I have stated before, I NEVER mark or measure my viewfinder when doing pairings or #panoramas as I would rather let them "flow", and that might mean overlaps or "approximate" seams that do not truly match. Similarly, I would NEVER intentionally re-frame a subject through an exacting measurement, but as I approached this view I DID realize I had been there before...
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, November 14, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #43
SILK ROAD #43: As with the previous image from my #Sundance work, this one also suggests #scale and #depth using #textures and #size, and has no defining #horizon. Although there is a significant color shift, the trees in both images are similar, as is the roll of the #landscape. I was amazed that as single images they shared so many similarities (from very different locations), and decided to use that as a reason to get the Chinese #embroiderers to indulge my experiment.
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, November 7, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #42
SILK ROAD #42: By this time in my relationship with #Zhang and her #guild of #embroiderers, we were both eager to explore MORE ideas more quickly. Her agreement to do a large and detailed #embroidery  with a dedicated team was a huge commitment of people and time, SO, I was surprised when she suggested we consider an additional piece (or two). At that time back in the States I had started my Artist-In-Residence work at Robert Redford's Sundance and some of those images appealed to me. I also wanted to see if the embroiderers could "invent" parts, once they had some sense of the greater whole. This image -- in particular -- is interesting to me because depth and scale are suggested by span and recession of textural size; without a horizon, the view is quite flat otherwise.
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, September 26, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #41
SILK ROAD #41: Riding on the energy and excitement of several very successful embroideries, Zhang agreed to expand the work we were doing. With each previous piece completed, we had moved up in scale and Zhang knew I wanted continue in that direction. Based on the embroiderers response to what we had done, I decided another of my Hudson River images wld appeal to them AND they wld agree to stitching it at larger scale based on what we had learned from "Sumac along the Chattahoochee," previously posted #33-40. After the "committee" discussed this image, Zhang also agreed that this subject wld b a perfect place to display their dye color skills, as well as their breadth of stitch variations, the latter of which wld b used to bring textural dimensions to the background. So, it was decided that "2:10pm" wld b 30 x 40 inches, and a brilliant, young embroiderer, Huang Chunya, was assigned to lead the team.
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, September 19, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #40
SILK ROAD #40: As I worked with the #framing on this, including inserting the black "background" behind the #embroidery / #matrix, I was lighting the #embroidery and moving the #light around to see if there might be glare from the insert. It was then I realized how the new #stitch techniques with their more #dimensional #layers, cast shadows based on #lighting position. Color of #thread is also VERY lighting sensitive. Compare this post with last week. Same shot, and regardless of color temperature - a COMPLETELY different look to the embroidery based on the lighting change. In pieces stitched this way, properly lighting them in display optimizes the dimensional #illusions we have created. This piece stopped traffic in shows and I am happy to say is in the collection of #RhettTurner and his wife. I hope they and their family are enjoying it. 
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, September 5, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #39
SILK ROAD #39: "Sumac Along the Chattahoochee" was groundbreaking for us all - it captured the dimensional space of a #photograph by using #stitch variety in some new ways, AND in working from a black #matrix, not stitching all represented surfaces with "fill" stitches meant less work and new ways for the #embroiderers to "conceive" of their process. If you held this embroidery to the light, you would be surprised at how much of the surface is transparent, and this disturbed Zhang, who was worried about display. When I framed this, a black lacquered panel was inserted behind the embroidery, actually intensifying the depth of the background black. The chops are notable here, and stand out, so if you are curious, one is the "signature" of the #Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute (#SERI) and the other is mine. 
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, August 29, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #38
SILK ROAD #38: Up until this point in my collaboration with Zhang Meifang and the guild of embroiderers she directed in Suzhou (#China), we had proceeded cautiously, creating one piece at a time, BUT by breaking with some Chinese traditions, each new embroidery taught us all a great deal about this merging of photographic imagery and hand-sewn stitches. Because all agreed the 1st few #embroideries had been successful, everyone was excited to move forward more rapidly and Zhang knew I wanted to work at a larger scale, so our way of operating with each other began to change. Zhang agreed to expand the number of #embroiderers committed to my project(s), allowing us to proceed with 2 images, both much larger. Clearly, EVERYONE recognized the 3-dimensional aspects of "Sumac along the Chattahoochee" were like no other embroidery in history, and it was inspiring our guild to push forward. 
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, August 22, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #37
SILK ROAD #37: Zhang had also previously expressed concern about the dimensional layers within the #photograph and how to translate them to embroidery and she decided that to appear natural, there had to be a "vanishing point" in the background and the #embroiderers would have to work "forward" from there. Thus distant objects would have thread sewn OVER them, rather than on the same matrix plane. By leaving the black areas of the matrix devoid of embroidery, this layering of the stitches became even more dimensional. Here, looking "thru" the sumac stalks to the undergrowth behind, clearly produces the photographic illusion of dimensional space. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, August 15, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #36
SILK ROAD #36: Zhang was immediately concerned that the #embroiderers would not be able to see the #tracing / #drawing of the subject on the BLACK #matrix, BUT after some tests with white #pencils, she agreed to work with the ideas I had suggested we might incorporate into this image. The black matrix / #background proved ingenious as it created #dimensional #thread #layers, made even more obvious by subtle #shadows when the piece is lighted on display. It also meant less embroidery work, as the black areas were NOT being filled. The tight #foreground #stitching set against the more loosely stitched background DID capture the in-out focus effect of the #camera and along with the #embroidery "layers" of thread created by the #unstitched black areas of the matrix, a palpable #dimensional perspective was accomplished. 
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, August 8, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #35
SILK ROAD #35: Zhang knew I wanted more #realism which meant more #details, and her concern was that detailing both #foreground and #background flattened the #dimensional effect of the #photographic image. I thought "Sumac Along the Chattahoochee" offered new opportunities. One of my few images to have the background slightly out-of-focus (as this tight crop shows), I suggested that we render the foreground sumac with attention to #realism using tight, fine #stitching similar to what I had seen on the more traditional #embroidered #screen (my last SILK ROAD post). I felt the "softer" background could be defined with inventive #stitches, without them having to describe anything "exactly". MOST IMPORTANTLY, I wanted to break ALL PREVIOUS #TRADITION and #embroider onto a black #matrix / background, which I asked them to leave #unembroidered - blank of ANY stitching - anywhere the image was black. 
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, August 1, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #34
SILK ROAD #34: As I mentioned previously, often as a break from our "discussions", I would walk around the embroidery institute and study whatever pieces were currently on display. Above is a "typical" landscape from this period (1980's). Although it represents shapes from nature, there is very little "actual" detail. The "Lake Taihu" rocks in the background were ALWAYS the way "rock" was represented, and the leaves in the foreground feature one of the most seamless and beautiful stitches, but the embroidery emphasis is about color, not realism. One of the concerns that arose from the sketch of "Wild Meadow" (previous FB posts #26-32) was how to use detail in both the background AND the foreground without it "flattening" the image.These very fine stitches gave me an idea which I hoped to realize in developing our next piece, "Sumac Along the Chattahoochee." 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, July 25, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #33
SILK ROAD #33: I understood Zhang's concerns about my complicated imagery - especially the intense details - and how it was difficult in #embroidery to render all those details and still have the visual illusion of a background distinct from a foreground because the threads were all on the same plane. I showed the embroiderers this picture, one of the few I have where I DO NOT have all of the subject matter in perfect focus, and suggested this might be a good image to further work thru the idea of representing the dimensional space of the photograph with stitches. Zhang also wanted to use the red leaves to show off the subtle dye capabilities the embroidery guild could employ. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, July 18, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #32
SILK ROAD #32: My 1st embroidery, "Snowfall" (previous posts #10-13) was purchased by a private client and has been pledged to the collection of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, TX. My 2nd embroidery, "Red Maple with Black Trunk" (previous posts #15-23) was acquired by Cargill MacMillan, Jr., for the Cargill collection, currently housed in various locations in CA. The "sketch" of "Wild Meadow" looked like this after being framed for exhibit, and it was purchased by Clifford Heinz, who for awhile had it hanging in his beautiful house on Lake Cuomo (Italy). Clifford eventually sold that house to George Clooney. Clooney requested "retaining the furnishings" in that home for awhile so I hope he enjoyed viewing this piece as it is now back in the USA and hanging in Clifford's apartment. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, July 11, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #31
SILK ROAD #31: Although I thought the stitch created to look "wheat-like" worked well, I was more interested in the layered embroidery stitches that defined the grasses and background trees and bushes to the right of the image. Hard to conceive of as a "quick sketch," this area of detail is simply an astounding display of stitch variation and virtuosity. I wanted to see this done at greater scale! 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, July 4, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #30
SILK ROAD # 30: As #Zhang promised, the embroiderers experimented with a stitch variation she described as "like-wheat" to represent the dry grasses in the foreground and they gave their usual astounding attention to minute details and the rich variety of colors and textures in the background. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, June 27, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #29
SILK ROAD #29: Zhang was right. Doing a sketch of "Wild Meadow" opened up a lengthy discussion abt scale and the representation of dimensional space. We all agreed that the foreground, and the trees in particular, were very "flat" in the embroidery because there was little or no separation from the background. I suggested that a more realistic detailing of the trees wld give them dimension and I particularly disliked the "filling in" of the sky. More and more I pondered the use of transparency in "Snowfall" and began to consider the idea that water and the sky should NOT be "filled in", but rather, left transparent. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, June 20, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #28
SILK ROAD #28: "Snowfall" (postings 10-13) took about 18-months to complete. "Red Maple with Black Trunk" (postings 15-23) was nearly a 2-year project. Based on Zhang's concept of a "sketch", "Wild Meadow" only took abt 6-months - a stunningly short period of time for so much detailed embroidery. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, June 13, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #27
SILK ROAD #27: Only beginning to be comfortable with embroidering a photographic image, Zhang was still not willing to initiate anything at the scale I proposed - too much time, too many embroiderers needed, too much money... BUT she also thought the colors and textures of this "Wild Meadow" would embroider well. She was especially attracted to the pale grasses (left) and the red/purple leaves (right) in the foreground. The leaves would show off dye skills and for the grasses she suggested they might "invent" a new stitch. Further, she wanted this to be a small "sketch" - a quick rendering with limited details to invite discussion about how to approach a larger more complex piece. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, June 6, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #26
SILK ROAD #26: Inspired by the large standing screens I viewed that were displayed throughout the institute, I wanted to work at that scale. As it happened, I had started making multiple-image panoramic views during my commission to photograph the Hudson River and I carried that visual investigation forward when I began working on another commission in the Cuyahoga Valley of Ohio, where I created the photograph(s) of the meadow shown here. With all of the textures and colors, this seemed a perfect image to embroider - I was thinking each photograph would be divided into 2-panels, about 4-5ft tall - making a 6-panel screen like the ones I admired. In retrospect I realize the Chinese must have thought me completely insane, but Director Zhang handled it all very tactfully... 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 30, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #25
SILK ROAD #25: Our 1st embroidery, "Snowfall" (previous posts #10-13) was small, black and white, and created to determine if a photograph could be represented accurately thru the embroidery process. "Red Maple with Black Trunk" (previous posts #15-23) was slightly larger, 20" x24", our 1st embroidery in color, and the Institutes' 1st chance to show off their dye skills and unique stitches. In between the work and numerous meetings, I would often wander thru the Institute visiting its many rooms and halls where other finished embroideries awaited clients. Observing these broadened my understanding of how to use this medium considerably. I especially LOVED the large, multi-panel standing screens and truly wanted to increase the scale of what we were doing. 
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 23, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #24
SILK ROAD #24: "Red Maple with Black Trunk" offered me the textural richness I was seeking, and it excited the embroiderers to be able to stitch in a more creative fashion, not having to follow the application of stitches in structured, traditional ways. Our 1st color embroidery, it introduced me to their dye skills as well and more than proved they could "copy" a photograph. Even so, within this beautiful piece were parts that still clung to tradition. The tree trunk is what I call "random stitch fill", a pattern gives it the illusion of bark, but it is still a less-than-natural pattern that bothered me. The same "fill" stitch was also used for the water... and it started me thinking about the 2-sided transparency of our 1st B/W embroidery, "Snowfall" (see postings #10-#13). 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 16, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #23
SILK ROAD #23: With just a few of the "rosette-like" stitches in the upper-left, this is an extremely close detail shot of several sizes of "bundled" stitches. As tiny as these stitches actually are, they still involve numerous threads twisted together and then stitched through the background matrix. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 9, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #22
SILK ROAD #22: Here the "red rose-like" stitches are part of an orgy of texture that includes some random stitches and another stitch style that involves "bundles" - several threads bundled together, sometimes using threads of different colors within the same group. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, May 2, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #21
SILK ROAD #21: In this even closer detail you can see many variations of the "random" stitch. Most notable to me, however, are the small red stitches that look like roses. These stitches are VERY small, and also VERY COMPLEX, as several threads must be twisted, then collectively coiled around themselves to create the ball-like effect. These stitches create one of the embroiderer's most textural surfaces, yet they are also laboriously time-consuming to stitch. 
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 25, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #20
SILK ROAD #20: Viewing the embroidery stitches this closely makes it apparent that the embroiderers are NOT detailing every leaf, but rather they are creating textural illusions of the leaves. Nonetheless, when you step back to view the overall image the photographic representation is completely believable. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 18, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #19
SILK ROAD #19: We are looking at a VERY small area of this embroidery and you can see that even at this scale there are 1000's of stitches of various styles and colors, sometimes layered one atop another. Remember too, any time you see a color variation in the stitching, it means the embroiderer had to change the thread. The subtlety of color-use to complete the "photographic" illusion is stunning.  
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 11, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #18
SILK ROAD #18: With each successive shot, I am bringing you in more closely to the stitchwork. At the time I was shooting with a 35mm hand-held camera and a macro lens, working in the natural light of the embroidery studio. It is probably closer than you could get to these when they are on exhibit. Here in one small detail I count at least 7 different stitches - try placing this detail within the larger image(s), #15 & #16, previously posted!

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, April 4, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #17
SILK ROAD #17: Historically stitches had VERY specific applications to VERY specific subjects. It was also traditional to limit the number of stitch variations in any given piece because the Chinese felt too many variations made the subject "busy". I suggested that "real" nature was a busy place with limitless textures, so... the embroiderers took me at my word and it opened a floodgate of creative stitch applications, often utilizing strongly contrasting stitches next to one another to show off their differences. 
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, March 28, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #16
SILK ROAD #16: Besides having an astounding range of dye colors, the embroiderers had nearly 40 different styles of stitches. My initial reason for attempting this cooperation in China was to bring "actual" textures to the tactile surfaces "represented" in my photographs, so in this piece I encouraged them to use their many different stitch styles to express variation in the leaves and other foliage. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, March 21, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #15
SILK ROAD #15: All agreed, "Snowfall" a beautiful, small, 2 sided standing screen. Our "co-operation" was a success, so now what? Failing to yet fully grasp all to be learned from "Snowfall", I was eager to explore more complex stitching and attempt something with color. Red is the national color of China. Set off by this black, rain soaked trunk and the fall pastels, this image from a concurrent project - The Hudson River - appealed to the embroiderers vast dye capabilities, so we agreed it would be our next effort: a 20"x 24", opaque, one-sided embroidery. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, March 14, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #14
SILK ROAD #14: The process of selecting a photograph to be embroidered was a lengthy "committee" discussion. With Dr. He struggling to translate, Zhang led the discourse, but top embroiderers and painters also participated. As I was the 1st non-Chinese to ever work at the institute, having a discussion with me was part curiosity, part intellectual / creative interest, and part chaos because everyone, excited by our opportunity to work together, wanted to speak at the same time. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, March 7, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #13
SILK ROAD #13: As I was learning about embroidery - the embroiderers were learning about photography. The exchange fed the creative energy between Zhang and I. It took many weeks to convince the guild to go forward with "Snowfall", but once they did Zhang suggested it be 2-sided so the sky was diaphanous and she would have a special background woven with vertical streaks as she felt that would suggest downward movement to the "snowflakes". The streaking was further accentuated by using fine strands of silk thread to elongate the treetops, adding to the illusion of downward movement. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, February 28, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #12
SILK ROAD #12: Hoping to address Zhang's concerns the viewer would not understand the embroidery of the photograph - I suggested we call it, "Snowfall" thus making the subject matter clear to viewers. FURTHER, I suggested the embroiderers cld show off their stitching when doing the snowflakes. Most importantly I asked, even it were a little "different" wouldn't it still be beautiful? 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, February 21, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #11
SILK ROAD #11: The silk embroiderers loved my WINTERS images, especially "Snowfall", BUT it was their perspective that they could not render it in embroidery because, as a photograph, the audience would understand the falling snow was suspended by the action of the camera. As an embroidery, those snowflakes would just be "unexplainable" clusters of stitches... 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, February 14, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #10
SILK ROAD #10: After MANY long days of discussion it was clear Zhang and the embroiderers particularly liked my early black & white images published as the portfolio, WINTERS: 1970-1980. However, they felt they could not embroider such photographic subject matter because it would not translate, the mediums were too different. The image "Snowfall" became a particular point of discussion... 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, February 7, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #9
SILK ROAD #9: Encouraged by the support of her friend, Dr. He Shan-an, Zhang Meifang seemed comfortable with the political risks of working with me, but WAS concerned as to whether the embroiderers could actually render a photographic image. A greatly respected master embroiderer about to retire, Ren Huixian (shown here conversing with me), became an unexpected ally as she embraced my photographs and my ideas, encouraging everyone to go forward with the collaboration. 
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 31, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #8
SILK ROAD #8: Zhang Meifang (left) was a People's Republic of China Congressional delegate so I needed to be "introduced" to her by someone of equal stature. Dr. He Shan-an (center), Director of the Nanjing Botanical Garden, had colleagues at UCLA who connected us and Dr. He CLEARLY supported and understood what I was trying to accomplish. He became godfather to this project, introducing me to Zhang and serving as principal translator / negotiator for many years. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 24, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #7
SILK ROAD #7: As the Chinese would say, the timing of my arrival in Suzhou was auspicious - the directorship of the Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute was about to change hands. The departing administrators would have NEVER worked with me given the politics of their recent lives, but Zhang Meifang, the director-to-be, was my age and strikingly willingly to embrace new ideas. You DID have to argue your point, however... 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 17, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #6
SILK ROAD #6: Mao purged intellectuals by sending them to hard labor in the country, but his recognition of the Suzhou embroiderers as "artists-of-the people" gave them elevated status and better lives. Suzhou is noted for many private gardens built on the canals by wealthy dynastic administrators in previous centuries and Mao made one those the home of the Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute (SERI). Featuring rambling rooms, private gardens with many water features and Taihu-style rocks, a cave and an elevated tea house from which to view all, this would become my place of business for many years to come. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 10, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #5
SILK ROAD #5: When Chairman Mao became "leader" he recognized the silk embroiderers of Suzhou as meaningful artists, partly because they embodied his concept of "working class" artists - as opposed to the vilified intellectuals - but also because they had discovered the random-stitch style and were practicing a "realisitic" style of embroidery. Many such embroideries were commissioned by the Mao government to honor specific events - here Mao addresses "the people" in Tian'AnMen Square. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, January 3, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #4
SILK ROAD #4: The city of Suzhou, China, produced China's most beautiful silk and silk embroidery for 3,000 years. Then, Marco Polo's arrival opened the "silk road" trade with Europe. Marco Polo found Suzhou particularly appealing because like his native Venice, Italy, Suzhou was laced with canals. Marco Polo told the Italian court that Suzhou was the Venice-of-the-East. My Chinese hosts reminded me Suzhou existed centuries before Italy rose and their view was Venice is the Suzhou-of-the-West. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, December 27, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #3
SILK ROAD #3: Certain subjects have metaphor in China and the Suzhou embroiderers often repeated those images, mostly from nature, in many varying ways. Here an '86 version of myself inspects a 2-sided standing screen, loom-weaving at the Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute (SERI). Note my stylish mohawk / mullet! As if the Chinese were not already freaked out enough about my sheer presence in their midst. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, December 20, 2012
Silk Road - Embroideries #2
SILK ROAD #2: Silk embroidery in Suzhou had been practiced by generational families for 1000's of years. Initially the best embroiderers decorated the robes of wealthy administrators and high officials, most often with elaborate patterns and simple representational objects. As stitch styles developed, however, embroiderers also began to render specific, realistic subjects as wall hangings or standing screens to be appreciated as art. 

Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Thursday, December 13, 2013
Silk Road - Embroideries #1
SILK ROAD #1: If you follow my Friday autobiographical post, it tells of my 30-years of travel in CHINA. My purpose in going to China was to turn my photographs into textiles, so MY THURSDAY POST WILL NOW TELL THE STORY OF DEVELOPING THOSE TEXTILES, some of which are currently on display thru January at the Zask Gallery, Rolling Hills, CA. 
Photograph © 2013 @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd #Embroidery @WesCFA @RSSDesigns
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Silk Road - Embroideries of Robert Glenn Ketchum

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