Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Baking Tombstones

Most people bake cookies, cakes, special recipes...but I've been baking a Tombstone.  Yes, a Tombstone.  Not just any Tombstone, but one for an individual very close to my creative heart.

First I found a suitable Tombstone model, that of Major Samuel Appleton, which is located in the Old North Burial Ground of Ipswich, Massachusetts.  I thought it suitable for a number of reasons, one being its look.  But also, the resident of that grave has a unique historical background which seemed to hit the mark for what I was creating.  Major Samuel Appleton was a rebel against the heavy-handedness of "his Majesty's government" and was strongly opposed to taxes being levied upon subjects "without consent of the Assembly chosen by the Freeholders."  And this is decades before the American Revolution, my friends.  You really should read about him...

Interestingly, Major Appleton was also a judge in the early witchcraft trials held in Ipswich in April of 1692 but,  unlike Salem, all were acquitted at these trials.

To create the proper look, I stitched the outline of the tombstone, using grey DMC cotton thread.  Then, borrowing from Stacey Mead's technique used in her marvelous whale pin keeps "Nantucket and Norman," I mixed water with India ink and dabbed it on the area of the Tombstone.  Then I cooked it until dry in the oven.  It gave it a very uneven "tombstoney" look.  Some bled over the outline, especially at the bottom.  No worries, as I will stitch green meadow grass over it.  It bled a bit at the top of the Tombstone, but I think that just gives it an ethereal aspect.  :)

I am currently designing the Tombstone motifs that will grace this marker and be stitched in black and dark grey DMC threads.

***With a nod to "From Stories of Ipswich," and to folk artist Stacey Mead.

***Update:  I've gotten the outline entirely done...and have begun the tablet (the part on which the words are carved), which I wanted to do in severe black thread so that the very thin lines would stand out. But I've gone back and accented with a dark grey to make it look like carving, giving it more dimension.   My color palette so far is laid out.  Those on the tombstone thread holder (appropriate, don't you think? my first purchase ever from Notforgotten Farm) are various shades of grey and black, with a golden green, which I will use for the grass in front of the tombstone.  I wanted it to be a rather muted green.  The brown and the other green lying there on the linen I'm thinking will be pine trees behind the Tombstone, as the dear lady will be buried on the edge of her woods.  They are more vibrant shades, shades of life...but I've also been playing with the idea of stitching New England White Pines in wool thread...

Now I'm stitching the tympanum, which is the rounded top of the Tombstone, the motifs of which are usually mortality symbols, such as winged angels, death's heads, skull and crossbones, etc.  Of course, this one is a rabbit, a hare.  :) First I hand drew my hare design on paper and then traced it onto the linen Tombstone (see image on the left...haha, I accidentally drew it on a printed picture of a White Pine...here it is flipped over...looks kind of cool).  This time, though, the hare is facing forward, instead of looking back (as Goody Prymm had stitched on her sampler)...yes, there's a significance to that, as you will see by the end of the Goody Prymm Series in the next several weeks.  I then stitched the outline in dark grey and am filling in with satin stitch using the lighter grey.  I like the effect very much, as the stitching lines show a kind of movement/flow, and gives the image dimension, lifting it up off the linen ground.  After I finish this part, I will begin the images on the shoulders and side borders of the Tombstone.

Next update:  For the side borders, this morning I have stitched two Crescent Moons, one Maiden and the other Crone (will show later).  Then, I decided the dear lady would have loved a tree on her Tombstone, as she so loved the Woods near her. Of course, it is a tree in Winter...Here you see the tree rightside up and then upside down.  As it is above, so it is below... :)

Now I'm working on the scrolls, etc., at the bottom of the tablet.  Thinking about a small crow...perhaps a snowdrop lying down.  So whilst I was thinking, I stitched the grass at the base of the Tombstone.  Mostly I used two threads for the grass (remember, I'm covering up some of the ink stain that bled past the Tombstone base line), but also used one thread for taller, wispier grass.   I'm only showing you part and parcel of the Tombstone as I work, saving the completed picture for the last GP episode.  After I complete the Tombstone and a few background White Pine Trees, I will do a bit of cleanup around the outline of the Tombstone.  With all this detail, it's looking a bit undefined.

Update:  I nixed the idea of the crow and snowdrop, opting instead for a simple scroll at the bottom.  Don't want to overdo it.  This morning I began the backdrop of the White Pines woods, choosing wool thread for texture contrast, and color to suggest life.  There will be more trees, but here you get the idea.

The final episode of A Year and a Day in the Life of Goody Imagination Prymm is today, June 29.  Exactly one year and one day ago I began writing about this endearing character of early Colonial Ipswich Massachusetts...I hope you'll read the final episode...

© 2017 Nancy Duncan


  1. Me, too. Silly to say, but this is my way of letting the dear lady go...