Thursday, February 28, 2013

Older Faces

Older faces have so much to say.



This Indonesian woman, Paini Vert, was forced to be a "comfort woman" for the Japanese during WWII.  She is 82 now.

The aging of our faces is largely affected by genetics but they are also a road map for how we've chosen to cope with our lives.

Some cope better than others.  Look at the pictures of some of the other women who were forced to be "comfort women" and you'll see what I mean.

The face of Mrs. Rose is pretty important.  Up until now, I've only stitched faces of the young such as Your Majesty or Audrey.  But Mrs. Rose's face was full of crinkles, laugh lines and character.  How to translate that into a face profile that is only 1" tall?

Since I am unsure, I do some research and turn to artists who have mastered the art of capturing the older face.

The dolls below are by artist Annie Wahl and I have always loved their charm and her ability to express joy within the exaggerated features of an older face...



Yet her medium is wax (these are resin replicas) not fabric, so I move on...

I turned to another artist whose work I have always admired, Deidre Scherer.



Deidre is a master of textile portraiture, often exploring the fragility of life.   With fabric and thread, she has the gift of translating the miracle of all life, even life that is waning.  I have had the good fortune of seeing her exhibition, The Last Year, where she chronicled the last year of a woman's life.  It's soulful and moving...and for anyone who has traveled with a loved one through this last phase of life on earth, you will recognize the stages.  Surrounded by Family is another one of her series that is so beautiful that it hurts.  (If you do go visit, remember to click to enlarge to see the detail of her work.)

I leave my study of Deidre's work understanding the importance of shadow, contrast, and value changes in the older face and move to another master whose work is three-dimensional rather than two.

Lisa Lichtenfels is a soft-sculpture artist whose ability to capture the human form using needle and thread is beyond compare.



Her work is so good that her images are often mistaken for photographs of real people.  She uses nylon and batting to sculpt her faces, having first built an armature of wire for bones covered by "muscles" made from batting.

Have a look through the photo galleries of her work...here, here and here.  Amazing.

Though her work is life-size, I am still inspired by her to re-create some realism in my little 1" face and think that layered nylons is likely to allow for more detail in such a small space rather than fabric.

In translating to a smaller scale, I have already learned that fewer stitches are better.  Our minds recognize facial features so well that we will often fill in feature details when they are suggested rather than stitched.

Lastly, I turned to this book hoping to find a few ideas:  Embroidered Portraits: Ideas, Inspiration and Techniques.  I had seen on it Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread blog, you can read her review of the book here.



Though Mary had expected more strictly embroidered portraits like the title and cover suggests, I was actually delighted that there were so many ideas for softly sculpted and appliqued faces.



And a whole two pages on heads in profile!  Just what I needed.

Now I'm off to buy some Mrs. Rose-colored nylons and start stitching, keeping in mind the advice given to me by Allie Aller when I feared the stitching of the queen's face on Your Majesty...

She recommended that I plan to make many faces.  So I did.  I prepped for four or five faces and chose the best of the lot...What a brilliant idea.  It completely takes the pressure off of making just one and then you get a number of different "expressions" to choose from.  It is kind of funny though, when I open up a drawer and see the rejected faces of the wanna-be queens...I mean, I can't just throw them away...that seems kind of cruel.  And so they remain, ladies in waiting.

Bottom line...plan on making multiples...this has been some of the best advice I've ever had.  Thank you Allie.

I'm off to put my best face forward sans botox.  Happy day to you.

21 comments:

Beertje Zonn said...

Beautiful is the foto from Indonesian woman'

Sonnja

Miss Sews-it-all said...

I really love this post, these faces and artwork are really amazing! I recently bought one of Martha Stewart's magazines at the airport to pass the time, only to notice many adds about the "war on aging", trying to sell products you need to make you look younger. I won't ever pay for another one of those magazines again. Aging is a natural process, and I want to be able to love every sag, bag and wrinkle that I earn. It's not a war, it's living! I wish we had more real images of real women as role models!

Gabriela said...

Wonderful portraits!

Catherine said...

Susan, thank you so much for this post and for all the links to look at. Our faces really do tell our life stories ~ which is why the plastic surgery/Botox craze saddens me. Have you also looked at any of the older portraits of Native Americans ~ their faces amaze me!

cucki said...

Truly the most sweetest post..I love older faces so much x

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Another bit of revelation of how you create your art. When I was young I remember Maybelline came out with a foundation meant for women over 26! I was astounded that I was coming up on an age that I had to worry about wrinkles - according to a make-up marketer. I've weathered my age well until I got dentures. Now, who cares. I have just a few wrinkles. Each one does not bother me, but sometimes I long for that wrinkle free face. Then I look at Terry and value the wrinkles that we each have created together.

I can't wait to see Mrs. Rose come to life.
xx, Carol

Mary Corbet said...

Ah yes, I agree! The books I perfect for this kind of project! I love watching this develop and can't wait to see your faces!

Rachel said...

I'm always impressed and intrigued by your research and your ruminations about your work. So much thought goes into every stitch!

Mosaic Magpie said...

How interesting to think of you making all those faces and then choosing one to complete your project. I loved seeing the needle sculptured faces...it reminded me of making "cabbage patch" dolls back in the 80's. Now, Susan I want you to get really skilled at this face making....learn all about adding wrinkles and taking them away...When you have learned that, I will be on my way over!
Deb

Margaret said...

Fascinating, and painful, and scary and beautiful all at once. I remember looking in the mirror after my husband's death and wondering if the furrows between my brows would ever disappear, once the stress of 10 years of care-giving had lifted. He's been gone 6 1/2 years...even with my face in repose, the furrows remain.

Createology said...

Your post has so much depth and emotion in your quest to stitch Mrs. Rose's face. I always learn from your research and I thank you for that. Blissful Stitching Dear...

wendy said...

I'm interested in learning to do faces and will look into the books you suggested. I can't wait to see your progress on miss Rose. I also have some faces in my embroidery basket that I don't have the heart to throw out, so as with yours they're in waiting!!! Have a wonderful weekend. Wendy

margaret said...

such character in these faces, wonderful, wonder what we we all look like when in our dotage, the wrinkles are already starting to appear on my ageing face!

Teresa said...

You are so good and doing your research. I am sure Mrs. Rose will be remarkable.
Teresa's Heartfelt Stitches

Gerry Krueger said...

This is my favorite post ever...

Mary Ann said...

Elderly faces are the hardest to do. Stocking nylon is by far the best choice. I used it to make elderly kitchen witches in my youth:) I always make multiple heads when making a soft sculptured doll because when you are working in a small size just one little stitch can change the whole look.

Allison Aller said...

As always, your approach to a new challenge is thorough and itself so informative and inspiring. Thank YOU!!

Jen said...

That article on comfort women is just heartbreaking. And how shameful that the Japanese government refuses to acknowledge what they went through. Awful.

Wendy said...

such wonderful faces! I am catching up on my blog reading. These are so fascinating to look at. They show such depth of character in each face. So much inspiration in this post.

Mary Ann said...

I had a gift card from Christmas and I used it to buy Embroidered Portraits...Love it! I've been thinking about doing something like this for awhile but in quilting/applique. However I think this is more my style. Thank you:) By the way the author is a fabulously quirky knitter...Google her name.

sudukc said...

I liked Embroidered Portraits too. The entire time I was reading ths book I thought of a picture of my grandmother as a young woman and one of these days I am going to try and duplicate this picture.

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