Shadows Past and Present

September 12, 2007


This is the Long Man of Wilmington, a 69metre (227 feet) high ancient hill figure on the South Downs. I’ve known him since my childhood, and naturally he is part of the background ‘landscape of thinking’ that lies behind my proposed ‘Metamorphosis’ piece.

 You can  find out more about the Long Man on the web-site of the Sussex Archaeological Society.

The Long Man seems to change shape depending on the position you view him from, as is shown in these two sketches……


The image on the left is the Long Man as he appears from the foot of the South Downs and the one on the right the shape he actually is, as revealed by aerial photography.

Making ‘Metamorphosis’ requires drawing up a full-sized template and drawing a large image flat on the floor presents similar problems, since you can’t stand back to get a better look at the proportions of the work. Drawing a big image on the wall would also be impractical since I don’t have a high ceiling (nor a head for heights!)

With this in mind I’m hoping that tracing round different people’s elongated shadows on the ground will be a nice way of arriving at some interesting images. Furthemore, since the shadow templates will be drawn on the ground they should ‘look right’ on the gallery floor, whether seen from floor level or from above – eg. from a stair or balcony.  Having traced a fair sized shadow it is an easy matter to square it up like a tapestry cartoon.

Just to get started my partner drew round my shadow as it fell accross a large sheet of paper laid out on the grass…….


This was traced at mid-morning and is 250cm (8ft. 2inches) long.

(Although it was just intended as an initial ‘try-out’ to get a feel for the process I like the drawing and may scale it up larger to use at some future date.) 


Later I scattered the head and shoulders of the drawing with a few embroidered slate flakes just to get a rough idea of how the piece might eventually look…….


The final work will be on a much larger scale and with the flakes more densely placed. Also the flakes will be spread onto a plain white horizontal plinth and not on top of a drawing on paper.   However I’m quite pleased with the early indications.


Work will be interrupted for a few days as I’ve to be at the Knitting and Stitching Show at the NEC,  Birmingham.  I’m not exhibiting finished work this time but do intend having some ‘works in progress’  on the Embroiderers’ Guild stand, including the still unfinished ‘Studies’ piece (see earlier postings) and some shadow drawings. 

I’ll also be stitching more slate flakes……


I’m hoping visitors to the Knitting and Stitching Show will find this blog and post comments about the show (click on the ‘how to leave a comment’ page if your’e not sure how to do it).   

Looking forward to reading your comments…..


6 Responses to “Shadows Past and Present”

  1. Hello clyde, lovely to catch up with your work via this excellent site. Had very good reports about your work at Farfield, and think the development of the shadow works so exciting. Maybe one day I’ll be up in your region, and can see the work in the real.
    with very warm wishes

  2. Anna Huston Says:

    You seem to be bursting with ideas! How many flakes will you need to fill a shadow?

  3. clydeolliver Says:

    How many flakes do you need to fill a shadow? I feel there ought to be a zen-like answer to that question!

    The answer is I don’t know, but I’m sure I can estimate the number by making a mock-up of a small area and then multiply the number of flakes within it to get an idea of the final number needed.

    Now you’ve got me thinking about it I think it might be better to go by weight than number – ie, how many kilos of slate flakes – since they vary in size so much that weight might be a more acurate way of guessing the final sum.

  4. clydeolliver Says:

    Hi Lesley
    Nice to hear from you – it’s been such a long time since we last met!

    Thanks for your kind comments – I’m hoping the shadow piece will eventually come south (so you won’t have to come north to see it!)

    Best wishes to you and of course to Cloth and Culture – I’ll put a link to it in next post I write
    Kind regards

  5. Anna Huston Says:

    Hmmm…. A 12 kilo shadow. It’s a strange idea a shadow with weight to it, I hadn’t thought of that aspect of the flakes when I first looked at the picture of the mock up. When you make the flakes do you drill the holes and then decide on the stitching pattern, or do you plan the pattern first and then drill the holes accordingly? Somehow I imagine the first way but I don’t know why.

  6. clydeolliver Says:

    Hi Anna
    It’s not really that a shadow has weight, just that I’m hoping a shadow will be an interesting way of arriving at a figure ‘template’.

    Meanwhile I’ll answer your question about stitching flakes in the next posting……..

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