Lasers and cycles - story of a commission

19 September 2018

It all began in January. 

A lovely lady sent me an email asking if I ever did commissions. She explained that her partner, who had bought several of my pieces at last year's Hampshire Open Studios, really liked my work and had a 'big' birthday approaching and that she would like to commission a new work from me. Would I do a special piece for him?

Now this was a first for me, and in truth I did hesitate - but it was only for a moment. Yes, I said, of course. I would be delighted. 

So she sent me the brief. 

  • His favourite colours were yellow and blue
  • He loves sailing his laser dinghy
  • He loves riding his bike - the Colnago C60
Could I work with that? 

Yes, I said, I could - and then the muse left me! 

I don't know if it was the pressure or the colours and subject matter ( well out of my comfort zone) but I found it a real struggle to envisage this piece.

But then, on holiday in Denmark, I saw a laser dinghy in the sea just near 'that Bridge', and it all began to come together. 

So first of all I played with a simple print block made from foam sheet. 

I liked the results - but .....

Meanwhile I auditioned background papers. 

Coloured tissue above, stock yellow paper below.

I also went to the Laser dinghy website to look at the specification of the boat. I love the shape of the sail.
I also think the hull is very elegant, and of course you cannot see this below the waterline. 

More printing experiments, this time on tissue, but now I wasn't so sure about this print block or quite where it was going.

Meanwhile, I had made a decision on the tissue paper and began to add more detail to the background. Remember the bicycle was also in the specification, so I used circles referencing the bike wheels to add texture to the background paper. 

At this point a new idea struck. I would use the shape of the silhouette of the laser. So I cut out a few shapes. Some were from painted papers and some from an A-Z of Gosport, the home of the customer. 

Now, I really liked where this was going. But it still needed more depth. 

I rummaged through the painted papers stash. 

These looked promising.

Placing and experimenting. 

I'd got the laser all worked out, but how could I fit that bike in? 

Meanwhile, more experimentation and beginning to incorporate a few place names. ('The Solent' for example).

Confident enough to stick them down. 

And a brainwave with the bike! Tiny ribbons of coloured tissue. You have to look really hard, it doesn't detract from the design but I think it really works, tucked in there. 

Ready for stitch!

Stitched! (below).

It is fully stitched but I used a variegated thread, blue running to yellow. I stitched around the boat profiles but I did stitch over the three background blocks to tie them in. 

At this point I left well alone for a couple of days, just to let everything settle down. 

And then added some additional blue hand colouring . 

It still needed a little extra so back to the stash. 

Free motion stitched ribbon using organza and dissolvable film. I'm introducing another colour here, a little bit of pink, so again this was not a rushed decision but one that needed to be carefully considered.

The back of the piece for the quilters among you. Nifty stitching, don't you think? 

And the final piece, framed and ready to give.

One happy customer and one very happy recipient. 

Really pleased with this. It was a tough one but when I got going it came together really well. 


  1. Loved the story of your journey. It is hard for other people to understand that it doesn't all happen at once. and somethings need to simmer before the next step.
    I am glad they liked it!

    1. Thanks so much Sandy. Yes, I agree. People don't get the process. Luckily in this case the customer was patient and understanding.

  2. It looks just super framed! Oh, I just love it when the muse pushes me towards something with that unspoken "I've got your back" only to suddenly disappear to parts unknown (I always envision mine wafting off to the Caribbean). I love seeing the progress of the piece and your explanation of process. Your approach to research is not unlike mine and a must for this particular commission. Sure, you could have used any bike and boat silhouette but that just would not do for this. And you KNOW I love me some circle stitching. :-) Congrats on the commission and congrats on such a wonderful finish!

    1. Thank you so much Sheila. It was quite stressful at times. Would they like it? But when I got into the swing of it I really enjoyed making it. And it was really appreciated. Being pushed out of my comfort zone was a very useful exercise ( but you might have noticed a touch of pink crept in).

  3. What a lot of work has gone into that piece!
    It really works well, and thank you for sharing your process photos with us- so interesting x

    1. Thank you so much Mrs B. A little comment from you always makes me a bit giddy with excitement!


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