Creating this imposing portrait was a daunting task. We utilised an entire range of embroidery techniques, as only by a combination of them, realistic, detailed and smooth realisation of the motif was even possible.
The traditional chain-stitch technique – that we at the Ercigoj company have been using for banner production for almost a century – gives a warm, grainy matte texture, reflecting light in all directions. The modern flat stitch, which is commonly used on promotional embroideries, was, for the purposes of creating this embroidery, redefined, altered and perfected to implement a method that can be best described as three-dimensional embroidery modelling using isohypses. This way, stitch directions follow 3D surface of clothes, the face, and even eyes. This technique also enabled us to create smooth shading and colour transitions, bringing to life every crease and wrinkle of the old man’s face.
Hair was done completely by hand, stitch by stitch, as only in this way, absolute precision could be achieved. At the same time, hand work inserted a hint of chaos onto a smoothly shaded image.
This embroidery is a perfect example of what different stitch directions can do for an image: the old man’s eyes appear to follow viewers when they move across a room.
About the artist
Arne Hodalič is Slovenian photographer, traveller, journalist, diver and caver has been photographing since the young years. However, his true journey into photography started in late eighties, when he spent a good month depicting everyday life on the Ganges river, and started publishing. He is a member of many distinguished photo and multimedia agencies, he lectures photography and photojournalism at the University of Ljubljana and is photo editor of Slovenian edition of National Geographic magazine.
As a photographer, he documents social themes, human rights violations, discrimination and poverty. He is also renowned for his underwater and cave photography.
Extra big formats
The main problem of big format embroideries are material contractions that make it difficult to correctly position all the details of a motif. To overcome such deformations and other problems, over decades of creating big embroideries, we have developed technical and software solutions that enable us to deliver perfect embroideries of any dimensions and number of stitches.
Extraordinary number of stitches
In a classic embroidery, the number of stitches is somewhere between 20,000 and 200,000, and is limited by stretching and contracting of materials. By overcoming this limitations, we are able to make embroideries with millions of stitches which enables us to produce photorealistic embroideries and recreate any painting of any artistic style.
Innovation of layering
We layer multiple colours of threads and so create rich embroidery and colour texture that is impossible to create with classic one-layer embroidery technique. By layering, we develop colour transitions and shadowing, by which we create multiple-colour surfaces, similar to pointillism painting.
Smooth transitions and shading
By intertwining threads of endless colours and creating colour transitions, we can shape soft shadows, make one surface transition into another and mix colours into an endless multitude of hues. This way, we can also recreate motives from photographs and sophisticated art paintings which wouldn’t be possible with classic embroidery technique, using vector surfaces.
Sophisticated colour calibration
Usually in embroidery, 10 or 20, maybe 30 colours of threads are used. We use around 1,000 colour hues and if a colour still doesn’t match the desired one, we create it by layering and colour transitions. We have digitally scanned colours of all threads by using a spectrograph, so we can colour match any colour from an original material or from CMYK, RGB or Pantone colour schemes.