Monday, August 16, 2010

Not So Frida

I started work on what I hoped would be my pièce de résistance for the upcoming craft show: a bib-style, intricately-tooled statement necklace featuring a portrait of a notable Mexican artist whose life and work I find intriguing. Although I'm well-versed in drawing the human face, this is only my second attempt at carving and tooling a semi-realistic one in leather (I would consider my first attempt to be the La Catrina necklace). I thought it was going fairly well but when I started on the painting stage I realized that the likeness was only rather vague at best. The jawline should be more square, the arc of the eyebrows is off, the nose is too broad, etc. The image itself is turning out well, but not if I expect people to immediately recognize it as a portrait of a particular person.
I guess I shouldn't be so surprised. Unless you're drawing a caricature, achieving a likeness is an exercise in subtlety. Even a small shift in the contours of the features or a minor, unintentional change that affects the proportions throws it all off. When designing and creating a piece like this in leather, there are so many stages from the original sketch to the finished piece that sometimes things get lost in translation.
(1) First is the pencil sketch which is then inked to determine the final lines (2). Then I take tracing film and trace the drawing onto it (3) to make the re-usable pattern. From here, the pattern is transferred to the cased leather with a stylus (4) after which it is carved with the swivel-knife (5) and then tooled (6).
Normally a slight change from drawing to tooled piece isn't a big deal. It happens all the time so even if I use the same pattern on multiple occasions, each version is bound to be one-of-a-kind, but in this case accuracy is vital to a likeness and I lost it along the way.

I was really saddened by the lack of likeness and I almost abandoned the project. My boyfriend said that I should just continue with it and disregard the original plan: be content with a necklace featuring a vignette of a regal Mayan woman. What do you think?


  1. I think he has a wonderful idea. It looks like the makings of a gorgeous piece, regardless of how close or far it is from looking like Frida, herself. The portrait itself is wonderful, and just like your boyfriend has phrased it, she definitely looks like a regal Mayan woman. Can't wait to see the finished product!

  2. Thank you Elle! While I cannot actually credit my boyfriend with the phrasing (that was all me ;)), it was his idea to continue with it. I just hope now I can get it finished in time!


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