city love affair again

This one took a while.... too many distractions.. too many new experiments... but I still loved it, so I finally finished it.

Presenting City Love Affair 4. My grandmothers vintage linen towel, a lot of vintage lace from oh so many sources, a TAP transfer, machine stitching and hand stitching. A portrait of a beautiful building belonging to a school I never went to, but might have if I had stayed in Russia.

sky and roof

not so little round window


details details
City Love Affair 4 © Natalya Aikens 2016
So different from the rest of the work I am doing right now, but yet such a part of me still.


If you are a subscriber to my newsletter, then you have already seen my latest artwork. I am delighted to share it here now.

In my previous blog post I shared the progress of this piece. Now I will share the details of the finished artwork. I thread-sketched the lower portion with the buildings and the street, and hand-stitched the sky. I was inspired by own photograph of a street scene in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was just after sunset and the sky was still glowing orange, threatening clouds just started floating across the sky, the street lights went on....and everything glowed.
irregular hand stitches in the clouds
thread snippets in the lights
city meets sky
Afterglow © Natalya Aikens 2015
Most textile art is hard to photograph and this piece presented an extra challenge due to the shiny plastic and the sheer chiffon. So really, you'll just have to come see it in person!

Afterglow will be a part of a group exhibit with my circle of art friends (Kristin LaFlamme, Vivien Zepf, Deborah Boschert and Robin Ferrier) at the Etui Fiber Arts Gallery in Larchmont, NY from June 2nd to June 30th. Hope you will be able to join us for an artist reception on Sunday, June 14th from 2 to 4PM.

in progress...

I have been hard at work in my studio. In June my art will be a part of a five person exhibit, I'll have more info to share soon. Meanwhile here are a few pictures to show my progress on the piece for that exhibit. The inspiration for this piece is nighttime in St. Petersburg, Russia....looks like I am heading back to my heritage for inspiration once again!
My base is a square piece of vintage linen, perhaps a small tablecloth in it's former life
I layered brightly colored plastic bags on and basted with small stitches in yellow thread
This is what it looked like after I finished basting
Then I thread-sketched buildings on clear plastic. I was trying to be really sketchy!
Here they are on top of the bright plastic, I did use a bit of gray for the pavement
A close up
Then I started layering navy lace scraps over the plastic. These will suggest night time clouds
Here's my night sky in progress, some navy silk chiffon was involved
Now I'll be basting the lace pieces and adding some hand stitching
My goal is to have this piece ready to share in it's full glory in my May newsletter which will be out mid month. Stay tuned!


I totally adore the ladies in my local fiber arts group. I don't get to see them regularly due my kids schedules, so I really cherish the meetings that I do get to attend, and the exhibits that we put on together.

And we do have a wonderful new exhibit coming up in May at the Mahopac Public Library in Mahopac NY. We have been exhibiting in their lovely third floor gallery for so many years now that it feels like home. Please join us for the opening reception of "We've Been Framed" on May 10th from 2 to 4PM. Everyone had to create an artwork that would fit into a frame. All frames where painted the same navy color to unify all the artwork. I had a preview at a meeting recently and it is a wonderful variety of styles, techniques and imagery!

Here's my work for this exhibit. I inadvertently seem to have gone back to St. Pete Lace series and created this piece using thermofax screens on color catcher sheets and thread painting. The screen printed imagery is from my photographs of many many wrought iron railings of St. Petersburg, Russia and the eloquent words of Alexander Pushkin. And the thread painted man is an Atlant who holds up the entrance to the Hermitage.
Atlant Spb 3 © Natalya Aikens 2015
Hope to see many local friends at the exhibit! Thank you!

holding up

That's what this guy does. He is an Atlant and together with the others Atlantes he holds up the entrance to the New Hermitage.

I admired his physique and took a picture. Yes I did. He's made of granite, very strong. I chose to manipulate him in Photoshop and print him on a dryer sheet. Then he needed a few stitches in silk thread....
holding up my mantle

Atlant Spb © 2014 Natalya Aikens
And now he's in my Etsy shop ready to hold up your mantle.... ;)

cathedral in the sky

That's not what this cathedral is called, but that how I came to think of it as I worked on its portrait. I took the photo that I used as my guide against the bluest brightest of skies. You'd think that would make for a great picture. It does. Because not only is the sky blue, but the cathedral is blue too. With white trim and golden domes...

The cathedral that I'm referring to is St. Nicholas Cathedral in St. Petersburg Russia. Otherwise known as the Nikolsky Cathedral in Russian and also as the Sailor's Cathedral as it was the official cathedral of the naval regiments of the Russian navy who were stationed near. It also has a personal significance to me, my dad was baptized there. He was born in 1941 during the blockade of Leningrad and this cathedral was one of the few that functioned during that time.

Starting with some details, here's my portrait of Nikolsky Cathedral:
one golden dome
a golden edge
an entrance detail
another golden dome
Nikolsky Cathedral © Natalya Aikens 2014
Did you read my birthday newsletter yet? If you haven't yet decided which of my pieces is your favorite, do add this one to the list. And tell me about it so I can enter you in the drawing for my gift to you on my birthday, December 17th! Thanks for playing!

little art

I have been waiting to post about a finished artwork or two. But it seems with all the seasonal craziness I cannot finish any artwork of a decent size even though I have a couple close to being done... So I figured I'll post about this little artwork (only 5"x5") which has a destination.
can you guess what material I'm using?
silk thread and wood
just a little bit of stitching

Choir Lace Spb © Natalya Aikens
This piece came about from my experiments earlier this year and further experiments preparing for this little video. The image that I worked with in it, is from my photograph of Choir Singers bridge and it's shadow in St. Petersburg, Russia. You might recognize the motif as I have used it in many earlier pieces. Oh and Spb stands for St. Petersburg.
I mentioned earlier in the post that this piece has a destination. Yes it does! And if you're a subscriber to my newsletter, you'll find out about that destination when you receive the newsletter later this week! I love a good tease.....

the finish line

I can see it from here! I have been very slowly stitching away on this small portrait of the St. Nicholas Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia. Now it's a question of how much is too much and how much is not enough?

This started as a wool sweater that I pounded, ahem, felted into submission, to make it as flat as possible without loosing texture and pattern. I then strategically sprinkled thread clippings and tiny swatches for an indication of color and machine stitched the outline of the cathedral. All that went fairly quickly. The next part, the hand stitching part, is the slow part. I want the portrait to have a loose sketchy quality to it, almost like a quick watercolor sketch.

Here are a few close ups to show you where I am:

What do you think? Am I achieving the sketchy quality?

city love affair 4

This artwork is still in progress.... It took a spring and summer hiatus, because other artwork took precedence and truthfully I wasn't too happy with how it was coming along. Now it's back out on my design wall and I'm hoping soon it will tell me what type of stitches it wants.

Meanwhile I thought I'd share a few Instagram photos I had taken while stitching on it.

something stitchy

I needed something stitchy to do. Perhaps it's because I just finished two pieces that involved some hand stitching, but were done rather quickly and I couldn't savor them? Or maybe it's because the large piece that I am hand stitching is not cooperating at the moment? Or maybe I just wanted a small hand stitching project that could travel well? Whatever the real reason, I have put everything aside and answered the call of the thread and needle.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the intense hand stitching I have done on my cathedrals pieces, so I thought I'd start another. This time I wanted to experiment with some thick wool sweaters and the embellisher machine. The sweaters have seen better days, but were still lovely to touch and since it's all about touch I figured they'd be perfect for this project. I took off the sleeves and decided to needle felt one for a less bulky substrate. Seven broken felting needles later, I decided that my embellisher didn't like bulky sweaters. Too bad.
I tortured it a bit more as I felted in some light blue wool onto it.
I am depicting the Saint Nicholas Naval Cathedral in St.Petersburg, Russia.  It's a stunningly beautiful pale blue cathedral, made even more special to me because my father was baptized there eons ago.

Following along with reduce, reuse, recycle mantra, I dug into my thread clippings (yes I save them...) and pulled color appropriate selections that I arranged on my "canvas".
thread clippings arranged
pale blue tulle will keep everything in check
Then I sketched with other favorite sketching tool, my industrial Bernina, and outlined the cathedral in pale blue thread for my hand stitching guidelines. It's going to be a bit hard to see, but I want the hand stitching to be the star here, so my eyes will just have to do their best.
can you see my sketch?
here's a close up
Now for the next fun step! Auditioning thread. At the moment I have pulled out all I have in the right color scheme, some editing will take place soon. And then I'll get stitching!
a few possibilies
Hopefully in another week or so I'll have an update to share after I have put in a few stitches. Don't expect anything speedy here, I plan to savor this one.. Perhaps while I'm in a starting mood I'll start another on a red sweater sleeve....hhhmm?


Feels like I've been stitching asphalt forever...but I'm done now!! I think it was about two years ago  that I declared this piece finished. And then it hung on the studio wall waiting for a sleeve until it began to taunt me. It screamed at me. It wasn't finished it said. Do something! So I did. I took apart the finished edges and decided it needed its asphalt stitched. With thick metallic thread. That took a while, but that was exactly what it needed. And then it said it wanted to be wrapped around stretched canvas. So I did that too. And now it's really finished.

Presenting City Love Affair 3.
First a few details...
vintage lace curtain dipped in light gray blue dye, layered over vintage linen
machine stitched with dark blue thread and hand stitched with yellow silk
bits of paper deliberately left behind
walking on wet asphalt towards the light at the end of a tunnel
And now for the whole...
City Love Affair 3 ©Natalya Aikens
Do you understand the need for asphalt stitching? Makes sense to me...


I think my month long diversion into beaded fruit and eggs has been beneficial to me and my art. While doing all that bead-work (and Thanksgiving cooking, cleaning and hosting) my brain was working things out. And I'm afraid (in a good way) that it has worked out quite a bit!

My head is bursting with new ideas, old ideas refined and everything in between. I've written and sketched everything down in my sketchbook and various legal pads, sorted in order that I would like to get going on it and even have gotten down to business.

First on my list are two artworks which have been languishing due to lack of enthusiasm and/or time for a while now. One (smallish) I thought was done two years ago, then I decided it needed more, and that "more" turned out to be an enormous amount of hand stitching with thick metallic thread. I have been working on it in tiny pieces of time here and there, but now I see the light at the end of the tunnel, so I am encouraged to persevere!
asphalt in progress
The other is a much larger piece that is part of my City Love Affair series. It got stopped in its tracks when I got tired of the tedious basting that turned out to be part of the process and distracted by other more immediate and faster paced art. I am excited about it once again, as I see a newish way I want work on it (after the basting) which will lead me to the next piece in the series which is in my head entirely at the moment.
basting very carefully so I won't have to rip out too much later
The third on my list to get done before starting anything new in earnest is the current occupant of my design wall. It is the other bridge in my City Lines series. The whole "cloth" base is done and now I am dying to get collaging with plastics on it. I have shared a bit of it a few weeks ago, but it hasn't budged since then... now that my house guests are off for a while and my studio (aka passage way) is allowed to get messy again, it will get very very messy!
the sketch is under a clear plastic for guidance
So. I hope to share updates on these three throughout the months of December and January. And if I get started on any of the other ideas my brain has come up with, I will share those too! And somewhere in there I have to squeeze in three costumes for my kids Russian school play... (I am taking a break this year from making costumes for the whole production). Onward with December!!

the sketchiness factor

It's an important factor to me. I like some of my artwork to look as it was sketched with a pencil. Strong deliberate strokes. Hard to achieve in thread. But I am happy with my results in this piece. It was started a looooong time ago, and is the last of four to be completed. Here was one, then two, and three not too long ago. There maybe a few more in the pipeline in the future..

Meanwhile this one is finally finished. Knowing when to stop is a fine line too. It took me a long time to decide that I was done. I could have gone on indefinitely I think, and then all would have been lost.
the top
the bottom
the inside
Dormition Cupola © 2013 Natalya Aikens
I truly enjoy the long process of hand stitching. The meditative aspect of it is restorative. The contemplative aspect is eye opening. The tactile aspect is simply pleasure.

Recycled fabric scraps, various cotton, rayon, and metallic threads. 12"x12" on stretched canvas with a gold acrylic painted edge.

finally finished!

I have been working on this piece for quite a while, it might have been last spring when I started it. Once the machine stitching part of the process was done, and the laborious hand stitching began, the artwork became a "take along project" that got brought to waiting rooms through out the school year. When I finished a few deadline driven things at the end of last week, I finally brought this piece to completion too and I now I am delighted to share it!

This work fits into my St. Pete Cathedrals series which explores the beautiful church architecture of St. Petersburg, Russia. I photographed this church through the windows of an apartment building at the back and while it was under restoration, thus the covered dome behind the one I feature. I liked the juxtaposition of the gray covered dome with the ornate stone dome quite a bit. Actually this cathedral is still under restoration, perhaps I will revisit it in my studio once the restoration is complete.
under restoration
Dormition Cathedral, Natalya Aikens©2013
The materials in this piece include scraps of silk and cotton, lots of thread bits, painted dryer sheets and tulle. It measures 12" x 12" and is mounted on stretched canvas with a painted edge.
I have another from the same series awaiting hand stitching... maybe it'll be done by next spring.....

a gift

The season of gift giving is upon us and I have a gift for you. Yes you! December is my birthday month and once again I decided to pursue the shameless quest for birthday wishes by offering a gift for my blog readers and newsletter subscribers. I am making a new small artwork specifically for that purpose. At the moment it is still in the stitching stage and I have some teaser pictures below of how it's coming along. The finished piece will be revealed on Monday, December 17th (my actual birthday) and the lucky winner will be announced that day too. Watch for my newsletter this Friday with more details!

I chose my photograph of a window in St. Petersburg, Russia, and this is what's been done to it so far.
it started like this
then I made it teal
and decided it needed more background
somehow the background became winter like.. must be December influence.
then there was a possibility of three
a double layer of chiffon was what I liked best
pinned onto white silk shantung and ready for machine stitching
machine stitched
hand stitching in progress
 Tune in on December 17th for the reveal!

brush strokes

I have always paid attention to brush strokes, my own when painting, but especially the masters - in museums. In the last ten or so years I have neglected brush strokes... must be because of concentrating on stitches so much. This summer I seem to have noticed them again. First at the Erarta museum in St. Petersburg, Russia which features mid career and established contemporary Russian artists. The following is a selection of a few paintings that made me hold my breath in awe...
Sergei Bakin. White Nights.
gorgeous moody brush work
Dmitry Flegontov. House at Petrogradskaya.
glorious rough brush work
Ilia Gaponov. Parallel Kuzbas. (this made me think of Elizabeth Barton's quilts from afar)
shine with rough sleek
Maxim Nurulin. View of the Kama.
such easy, light handed brush strokes
Alexander Volkov. Stranger's Dream.
thoroughly thickly layered texture
 And just the other day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art looking at THE masters brush strokes.
Paul Cezanne. Detail of Gardanne.
Camille Pissarro. Detail of The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning.
Vincent Van Gogh. Detail of Sunflowers. Swoon worthy!!!
Perhaps it is the fact that I have been concentrating so much on texture in my own work? I have a ways to go before getting even close to the masters... but I am eager learn at their feet. Here's a peek at my latest..
detail of The City ©Natalya Aikens