First I have to tell you that I had early plans to combine the embellishment challenge with my recent shy hat lady piece, but when it came down to it I was not happy with the idea of adding anything more to that piece. It just didn't seem right. So I designed a piece with a subject that seemed more likely to provide embellishment opportunities. She is a saint or an angel, sort of loosely based on the idea of old religious icons that traditionally used gold leaf and other precious materials. The first photo shows St. Pearly before embellishment. The second photo is the finished piece, embellished with some of my collection of shell buttons, silver and gold beads and a bit of silk embroidery on her collar.
What I learned:
- When I started adding the buttons and beads I found that the soft, subtle face faded away to blandness. I could see that the face needed to be stronger, with great contrasts to hold its own against the embellishment. I actually completely redid the face for the embellished version.
- Adding embellishments, especially reflective ones, brings all focus to the foreground and tends to flatten the image. See how that halo lays back behind the head in the first photo? Now, when you look at the second with all the buttons and beads, everything appears to be sitting on the same plane. Good to know and explains to me why pieces I have seen that have little beads sewn on a night sky to represent stars never look right. The "stars" are sitting right in the foreground and they always will. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but something to be aware of and use to advantage or not.
- I tried using just a few buttons and a few beads in the halo and found that they looked half-hearted and tentative. If you are using embellishments, I think you need to be bold with them.
- I tried adding more beads—to her hair, and to the background. No way could I make that work. It just became schizophrenic with competing foci.