Over the course of its 143-year history, the Royal School of Needlework has created a wealth of beautiful, hand-embroidered pieces of huge historical significance, ranging from the Queen's coronation robes to the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding gown.
However, one of its tutors' latest creations was for something a little different: an intricate, hand-stitched collar and cuffs for a five-foot sculpture of Aardman's Shaun the Sheep. The sculpture, named Ruffles, was designed by RSN tutor Deborah Wilding as part of the 'Shaun in the City' trail from Wallace & Gromit's Children's Charity. This saw 50 individually-designed sculptures of Shaun the Sheep, each created by a different artist, designer or celebrity, installed in iconic locations across London for nine weeks this spring. The London trail was followed by a second trail in Bristol this summer, which featured 70 different designs.
The sculptures will be auctioned on 8th October to raise funds for Wallace & Gromit's Children's Charity, which supports children in hospitals across the UK, and The Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children's Hospital charity. The Grand Appeal previously organised the 'Gromit Unleashed' trail in Bristol, which saw 80 sculptures of Wallace's canine sidekick raised £2.3million at auction.
Ruffles was on display at Devonshire Square in London during the trail, who also sponsored the sculpture. He could then be seen at Hampton Court while Deborah created his costume. Deborah said, “I loved the 'Gromit Unleashed' trail in Bristol 2013 so when I saw the call for artists for 'Shaun in the City', I couldn't resist submitting a design. My choice of design was a blackwork-inspired piece with the legs and ears being a geometric pattern, with the rest of 'Ruffles' a freehand design incorporating common embroidery motifs found on historical examples. I really wanted to showcase embroidery designs as a beautiful and inspiring method of decorating Shaun, and giving him a unique yet classic identity.”
To get Ruffles ready for his star turn on auction night, Deborah and a team from the RSN spent more than 100 hours creating his special costume. Deborah said, “When first thinking about my design for the sculpture I had envisaged a fabric creation, as that's the medium I'm most experienced in. However, as the sculpture needed to be weatherproof to go on display outdoors, I decided to create a painted sheep with the feel of a textile item. Then I thought, what would be better than to have the best of both and create bespoke clothes for the grand auction night! “The logistics of creating items to fit a giant sheep was a challenge. There are no 'off the shelf' patterns available! I was supported by a wonderful talented team who deserve a huge thank you for their hard work. One of the fundamental ethos of the RSN as an organisation is that all are staff and students are taught to the same standard, so work is of just as high a quality whoever is involved in the stitching; a great advantage in completing this project.”
Ruffles' and the rest of the 'Shaun in the City' flock will be auctioned in Bristol on 8 October. The auction, hosted by TV auctioneer Tim Wonnacott, will also be streamed live online. Anyone who would like to register their interest in bidding, either in advance, at the event, or online, can visit www.shauninthecity.org.uk/auction for further information.
Posted: 6 October 2015
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