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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn
The First Noel...
Ambigram Stocking

This stocking is interesting to me on several levels—it was a long time in the making—the sketch is dated 2004, and I didn't finish most of it until 2006, or the name, (IIRC) till 2007, and in fact is the only one made to date for which I made a sketch. The name is an ambigram; and it incorporates a wide variety of iconographies.

sketch for noel stocking. Journal entry, colored pencil. dec? 2004.

Sheep, along with shepherds, are mentioned in The First Noel. I'd already done one stocking with a christmas carol, and decided to continue with that theme for this one. So that gave the sheep, shepherd (and star).

showing star and moon under flap. The star has a tail because I'm so fond of Amahl and the Night Visitors—another xmas story featuring shepherds.

The child's grandmother, who lives in the sierra nevadas, bought a children's book about a coyote named Frank, which I thought was awfully cute. So, though traditionally, it is the lion that lies down with the lamb, I substituted a coyote (or wolf, which along with their smaller cousins are the enemies of sheep that I've heard about in the US, though we do have mountain lions). And of course, if we're to have a coyote, we need a moon for him to howl at, and a mountainous forest (a nod to the grandma living in the rockies) for him to live in. (Come to think of it, I saw a coyote crossing a road roughly the same time I came up with the sketch—who knows, incorporating my first experience with this animal in the wild might have even been the impetus.)

Using the selvedge to imply shorter/lighter colored belly fur and a raveled bit of cordoroy for the brush proved to be those happy serendipities that come out of letting the medium (in this case fabric scraps) do the work for you, rather than forcing it. This was really the first year that I added in non-felt fabrics to help the imagery, as with the cordoroy for the canine, and what I suspect is an upholstery fabric for the shepherd's robe. That, along with the looping stitching on the sheep, was one of the reasons this piece came together.

I first encountered ambigrams in Douglas Hofstadter's Godel Escher Bach (or mebbe it was Metamagical Themas) and thought they were pretty cool. This stocking has the name of the carol, the child's name and the child's nickname all worked in.

showing name(s).

Other details include a quite old braid and tassel that nevertheless matched nicely; and I have to say that though I was dubious about my design, it was one of those rare experiences in which the finished product came out better than I expected.

sketch 29?dec04, stocking dec06, flap/tassels/braid/bells 2007? (Braids and tassels late 90s/early 2000s); photography 18dec07; file started 04jan09, completed 06jan09.