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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Christmas sampler - Cross Stitch Collection 256

In my great big excitement about Olivia, I almost forgot the latest publication in the UK shops: Collection 256 has a rustic (primitive?) Zweigart sampler, stitched by yours truly... in 18 hours, if I remember correctly, so I didn`t stop to take several photos of this one, but here is the finished product:

The Twelfth Night Cushion Saga

Apologies to everyone who`s already familiar with this story - and to the rest, here`s what`s been happening on the Olivia front.
It all started around April this year, not long after I first saw the 2012 Globe production of Shakespeare`s Twelfth Night on SkyArts (since then I`ve bought the DVD - naturally!). ;) Twelfth Night has always been one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and I have seen many different versions of it on stage and film, but this Original Practices, i.e. all-male production was a real treat. I`m not much for categorical statements like `this must be how it was back then` - I`m more in favour of toying with the idea of the possibility that `this is how it could have been`, `this is how Shakespeare`s contemporary audience might have seen this play`. Not just because the groundlings are leaning on the Globe`s stage and male actors play female parts, but the attention to detail is legendary: the musicians play on replicas of contemporary instruments, and Stephen Fry marvelled at the fact that the brass buttons on his costume were made using molds that were authentic (cf. around 5 mins into this interview on YouTube).
And the sheer fact that Stephen Fry plays Malvolio! Johnny Flynn and Paul Chahidi were true revelations to me, and I`m especially glad that I have this record of the production with Roger Lloyd-Pack who, sadly, died last year. The image of him stuck in the box tree will stay with me as much as that of Trigger and his trusty brush. :)
So around April-May, I got the idea of doing something to celebrate this rare occasion when everything comes together to create a `perfect 10` of a play that was, in a huge part, thanks to the award-winning performance of Mark Rylance, often tagged as `the most talented Shakespeare actor of our time`. He played the countess Olivia in Twelfth Night, whose white-faced, high-collared image just begged to be translated into a cross stitch pattern - so after a little fiddling with my trusty Jane Greenoff design making program, I eagerly started stitching.

The original theatre poster and Phase 1: the face; 27 hours

43 hours

65 hours

78 hours

96 hours

103 hours

And finally, after 140 hours, the finished stitching, complete with crownlet:

From Day 1, I always imagined the finished product as a plump, natural coloured cushion. I discussed it at the time with the lovely Rebecca Reid, who was my magazine editor at the time (sadly, she has since left our mag but although I miss her a lot, I know that the stitchy world`s loss is the sewing world`s gain). She very kindly provided me with the fabric - and even made up the finished stitching into a cushion for me, what a star! :)

Rebecca chose gold-and-white fabric for the piping, to complement the ruff and the crown - beautiful!

So after half a year, Olivia was ready for her journey to London; I contacted Mark Rylance`s agent and posted the cushion to the address she provided - and I thought that would be the end of it... or maybe I half-expected an email from the agent, letting me know whether they (Mark Rylance and his wife, composer Claire van Kampen, who provided the music for Twelfth Night) liked it at all...? Hehe, I even bribed his agent with some gummy bears to say they did, even if they didn`t - because I`m well aware that cross stitch is not to everyone`s taste, and non-stitchers usually don`t know how much time and work is involved in one of these pieces, not to mention that I wasn`t even sure whether M. R. was in the UK or maybe shooting in Hollywood... So to find that he actually took the time to find my tiny address label on the parcel (I never put it on the card) and personally write a wee note to say thank you means a lot to me - actually, scratch `a lot`: I am over the moon right now! :D