New Project: Cuffs, entry 1

After falling in love with Russian goldwork embroidery, I want to make something to really show off the art style itself. I want it to be something I can wear – after all, clothing is the best place to show others new ideas. I’m thinking cuffs since it doesn’t need to be washed and, unlike collars, they are not attached to the clothing at all. Plus it’s something I can wear with multiple dresses. Perfect!

After looking at many period cuffs, I found one I’m going to base mine one, but with some changes. Most of the cuffs have saints or religious figures in the center, after all, they are made for the church. I want something more ornamental, but still period – perhaps a cross.

The main piece for my inspiration is “The Annunciation,” a 16th century piece currently found in the Museum of the Monastery of Putin. It’s embroidered with gold thread, silver thread, silk and gold and silver kanitel. It also has pearls all over it and a few glass or gemstone beads. The base is a light green silk, and I have a perfect piece of fabric to use.

Pic: “Благовещение.” Иконография восточно-христианского искусства. Web. 13 Apr. 2017

I have the details. Now to sketch out the design.

Basic art style: Most of these cuff fall into 3 basic design types. All 3 types have a central figure or figures, usually saints, but sometimes a geometric shape, such as a cross. Two of the types are bordered by archways. I’m not doing those, so I’m not going to get into the specifics (trying really hard not to get off track). The third type has a central element surrounded by vegetative scrollwork. This is my type!

I’m going to take the basic principle of the layout, but change up some of the flowers and leaves. Everything needs to stay consistent with the time period and art style. Let’s take a look at the style.

The scrollwork shape is mirrored on the left and right. It can be divided up into two separate scroll sets. The first is more loopy and curves around the outside. Above you can see the basic shape of the curls.

Here’s the curls with the flowers and leaves added in. Once you get the basic design, the rest is just dressing. The second is simpler and surrounds the central figure.

It is also mirrored and left and right sides.

Here it is with the flowers and leaves added in. The basic shape of the scrollwork is more important than the flowers and leaves. Once you get the basic shape of the design, you can pick and choose the ornaments.

Both stem from a base that is under the central figure. The left and the right cuffs (I don’t know which is which) have the same basic scroll patterns even though the flowers are different.

I like this scroll design! I’ve seen several that are similar in other Russian goldwork pieces and in many other pieces of Russian art from the same time period. None are exactly alike, but the elements seem universal. I’m going to use this basic design.

Now to find flowers and leaves!!

I’ll be sketching some rough shapes out and will hopefully have some progress to show tomorrow.

Until then, do some art! 🙂

Esperanza de Navarra


My Tedious Art

I am not an artist, but I have always wanted to be one. Since I was little, making beautiful things has been one of my life goals. Art does not come easy to me. As a child, my doodles did not look much different from random scratches on a paper.

When I started classes with Ubrus, 1/3 of our lessons was art, specifically in drawing. “Ugh!” I thought. This is where my amazing lack of natural skill and talent is going to show itself. However, I underestimated Jelena, our art teacher.

For the first few weeks, we did intuitive drawing. Popularly called zen doodling now, it is a way to free your mind of preconceived notions about drawing. We learned to take simple shapes and build on them to create texture in our drawings.

I started to look at everything as a potential for a design. As I look around my room now, from the texture patterns on my walls to the way the doorknob looks from this angle can all be turned into a doodle pattern. Although I had seen books at the grocery check-out on this type of drawing, I did not know how truly fun and liberating it could be.

One of the first concepts I had to rid my mind of was “originality.” I find myself often striving to create something completely unique that I frighten myself and end up not creating anything. With our intuitive drawing exercises, we were encouraged to look up the many patterns others have created. Putting pencil or pen to paper was more important than coming up with our own design.

At first I thought we were encouraged mainly to get us to do something. Doing something is better than doing nothing. As I learned more about Russian art, I came to realize that their artwork, then and now, is steeped in tradition. The difficulty is to perfect your ability to do the craft, not to create new approaches. Such a simple thought can change so many other thoughts.

The more I drew, the easier and better it became. I began to see that my lack of natural skill did not matter. Maybe I will never be a famous artist, but who cares! I was having fun and making pretty things – my lifelong goal.

Yes, my work was still sloppy, but if I could see myself improving in such a short time, then I knew that I COULD improve.

It was then, while browsing through pictures of Russian goldwork, that I saw something that made the intuitive drawings even more relevant – the fill-in of the goldwork. Traditional Russian goldwork is not flat. Going back centuries, we can see the same patterns that fill in our doodling designs in the gold thread.

Amazing, isn’t it!

I encourage everyone to pick up pencil and paper and try this method of intuitive drawing. Only by learning to see the curves and patterns and shapes of the world around us can we improve the way we create art.

Go out and draw something!!
Esperanza de Navarra

10 Day Challenge

I’ve been neglecting my blog for months, and not in the ordinary simply not having anything to share way. I have so much I want to share with you! Time has been the factor.

On the way back from Gleann Abhann coronation this last weekend, the thought to renew writing about my projects hit me. For a few moments, I was passionate about it. I have a ton of information just waiting to be posted and talked about. New sketches. Ancient Russian embroidery designs. Tutorials. All sorts of stuff!

In that passionate moment, I decided to do a 100 day blog challenge. About a moment later, I realized that once again I was attempting to eat the elephant in one swallow as opposed to one bite at a time. Instead of 100 days, I’ll start with 10.

For the next 10 days, I will post something I have not posted or shared before. I’m going to try and keep the focus on medieval Russian embroidery. I’ve been so engrossed in my classwork for months that I had not realized how little information there is about Russian embroidery written in English. If I have to single-handedly change that, I will!!!

Happy art-making!
Esperanza de Navarra

My First Video Tutorial!!

I wanted to show a friend a way to sew pearls on the edge of her silk veil, and figured that the easiest way was to make a video.  I’ve never done it before because I felt that my voice sounds like that of a two year old!  But it came out pretty well.

Here it is:



My Russian Embroidery So Far . . .

I’ve been a student at Ubrus ( a Russian school of ecclesiastic and gold embroidery since the beginning of October.  It seems like much longer. I have learned so much!!  It has been since my early days at university since I have studied so hard or worked so much to learn something.  As much as I complain about the work being tedious and difficult, I am exhilarated to learn.

In the next few months, I will be able to teach some of what I have learned.  I can not copy the schools curricula or lessons, since that would be a breach of trust as well as infringing on the ownership of their material, but I can teach it in my own way and share the wonderful world of Russian embroidery.

What I have done so far:

Our first few lessons had to do with stitching gold cord onto fabric.  I learned to make my own cord. My Russian online translator translated  the name of this cord as “waste of time.” It’s one of many possible translations for a word that does not translate (sewing terms do not translate!), but it is the one that has stuck at this house.  “Mom’s making some more waste of time,” the kids say exasperatedly.

My first work. It seems simple, but the new concepts and the new way of stitching was the main focus of this lesson.

It is not only stitching that we learn. One teacher focuses on stitching, while the other works with us on our art skills.  Until we can see the harmony of good art, our embroidery will always lack something.  Art is my weak point in all of my endeavors.  In high school, I was asked by the art club not to help them paint the school windows for holidays.  My work was so bad that it took them more effort to correct it than to do it themselves from the get go.

But I do try, and I am willing to learn. Our first few lessons incorporated doodling.  Looks random, but it is meticulously planned out in hopes that it will spark creativity and encourage artistic thinking.

JosieSewell 1.2..jpg

Besides, it’s fun!

As much as I would love to sum up nearly 3 months worth of work in one post, I’ll post more later.

Until then, happy art-making!
Esperanza de Navarra

Being a Student

On top of everything else I have going on in my life, I decided to go back to school.  laugh Crazy, I know.

Here’s the twist. In typical Esperanza fashion, I did not choose a school in America, or even one that teaches in English.  Instead, I found a school in Saint Petersburg Russian that teaches ecclesiastical embroidery using methods that date back 1,000 years.

I’m in my 6th week of classes. These are 6 Russian weeks, which seem to last anywhere from 4 to 15 days.  So far, I love it!  The work is challenging, especially since I do not read or speak Russian, at least not yet.  I’m using the Rosetta Stone software to learn Russian, but I just started.

Even if I were fluent in Russian, sewing terms do not translate!  For example, the name of the twisted gold cord we use for the first few classes translates literally into “waste of time.”


My first application of the first “waste of time” I ever made.  (I did get better after this 😉 )

So far, my favorite assignment has been a 3 dimensional flower.


I told you that I got better!

As you can see, between the week one assignment (making and attaching the “waste of time”) and the week 3 assignment (the 3D flower) there was a heck of a-lot of learning.

Setting aside the excitement of learning new things, what excites me the most is being able to share this experience with my fellow English speakers. As far as I can tell, I’m the first non-Russian (or non-Ukrainian, non-Slovakian, etc) to be in this school.  Thankfully there is another student in my class of 14 students who lives in American, although she is Russian born.

I feel honored to be a student. They only open up their online course roughly once a year and each class has around 12 students.  To be part of this . . . I have no words to describe how blown away I am.

As I muddle along in my learning, I’ll keep you posted!

Esperanza de Navarra

Gulf Wars Champion

When I last wrote, I was gearing up for Gleann Abhann’s Kingdom A&S and finishing up my Skjoldehamn tunic to enter.

As much as I hate procrastination, it seems to love me greatly.  And there is something about not sleeping for an entire week while finishing up a project that shoots the body full of adrenaline.

My project got finished and I was chosen as one of three people to represent our kingdom at Gulf Wars!!


My Linen Version of the Skjoldehamn Tunic


My Display


My Tunic & Display