What is 'Opus Anglicanum'?

From the 13th century onwards, professional English embroiderers developed a reputation for particularly fine work that created pictures using silk and gold threads and which came to be known as 'English Work' or 'Opus Anglicanum', prized by royalty and the Vatican alike. The types of item created varied from the secular to the ecclesiastical, but many of the finest extant examples are ecclesiastical, such as the Syon Cope and the Chichester Constable Chasuble. Material embroidered in this fashion was often heavy with metal threads, gems and pearls and must have been incredible to behold on formal garments for either court or church.

My own interpretation of this style of embroidery uses the same stitches and techniques and, while not designed for drapery or garments, aims to capture the style of Medieval manuscripts of a similar period. For example, the colour triad of red, blue and gold features frequently in my designs, just as it did in European manuscript art. I use modern materials but, where possible, seek to evoke the experience of looking at the rich fabrics, silks and metals of the past; I have used linen, cotton broadcloth and canvas with a mixture of synthetic gold threads, real gilt and silver threads, pure silks (e.g. soie de Paris), pearls, gilt and silver spangles and even embroidery cottons. The description for each piece featured in the gallery contains detailed information regarding the technique and materials used.

What's the difference between Giclee and Digital Offset?

First and foremost, I'd like for my art to be accessible, but I'm aware that art originals in any medium are usually expensive and not within the reach of an average budget. Prints are of course never the same as originals when it comes to capturing the sheen of the silk or the play of light across a couched gold surface, but, even when making allowances for this, there can still be a vast difference in quality across differing print types.

Digital offset printing is the most affordable and accessible option of those which retain much of the original properties of the artwork. There are constraints with the overall print size - nothing can be larger than 14" x 20", due to the printing process.

Giclee is really a fancy French name for the concept of squirting the ink at the paper, but if you are tempted to envisage a standard inkjet printer at this point, then think again! There simply is no better method for capturing as much as possible of the energy, vitality and tones of the original piece, especially given my penchant for using pure silk and metallic elements, both of which have a tendency to lose brilliance and nuance of shading when reproduced by other methods.

When a great, professionally-captured digital image at high resolution (e.g.300 dpi) is Giclee printed on a textured fine art paper or canvas, one achieves as great a sense as is possible that the image viewed is the original. This is especially important for textured needlework that might otherwise lose not only tonality and shading but also the experience one has when looking at an essentially three-dimensional artwork. I love Giclee for the fact that I really feel that I could almost reach out and touch my stitching.

The ink is of a special quality and light-fast, which means that if prints are framed and displayed correctly (see the FAQ answer on framing recommendations), then the colours will remain true for decades. In actual fact, all prints will lose colour over time no matter by what method they were produced; this is an inevitable process that is accelerated by acidic conditions, fluctuating humidity or exposure to direct sunlight. Giclee prints have a very good potential lifespan when handled with the care that they deserve.

What kind of printing paper do you use?

Giclee prints are currently produced using Hahnemuhle William Turner fine art paper. This offers a standard of reproduction second only to canvas but at a more affordable price. The textured surface blends beautifully with the high resolution images to create a real semblance of three-dimensional stitching.

Digital offset prints are produced on a good quality white paper stock of medium to heavy weight.

Can I buy your work in a store?

I am currently gearing up solely for internet sales but I am looking for opportunities to offer prints and originals in local stores and at art/craft shows in south eastern Pennsylvania. I will also be attending various conventions and events in the wider United States and Europe. My home page will display a list of forthcoming events and exhibitions as soon as my attendance at these is confirmed.

When will online print purchase be available?

There will be a link to my Etsy store on my main page once print production is complete and my store opens. Current estimate for this is mid October 2013.

How should I frame my print?

Once you've purchased your print, you are of course at liberty to use whatever framing solution you wish and to hang the art wherever you choose! It is, however, worth taking care to follow a few simple guidelines in order to maximise the lifespan of your print, especially if you have a Giclee.

Use archival quality framing materials wherever possible. All wood and plant based products contain lignin, which forms acidic compounds over time that will break down paper fibres. Archival quality materials are designated as "acid free", which means that they have been produced in a way that limits the damage that can otherwise be caused over time. You might find that you have a smaller range of mat/mount colours to choose from if you select one that is acid-free, but your print will thank you for this care.

Use glass, preferably museum quality glass. Framing artwork behind any glass will lower the vibrancy of the colours in the artwork by a little, but it will give some protection from environmental fluctuations such as humidity and ultraviolet light that can otherwise be very damaging, not to mention accidental spills or toddler crayons! Museum quality glass is more expensive, but is also much less reflective than ordinary glass and is arguably the most attractive framing method. If your budget is not up to museum glass, discuss with your framer for other options.

Pick the right environment in which to hang your print. The best glass and acid-free framing in the world will not provide lengthy protection if you hang the finished piece in a damp basement under a harsh spotlight or in a seemingly beautiful shaft of direct sunlight. Whilst you do of course need relatively good light levels to appreciate your artwork, direct or harsh light will accelerate the damaging processes previously mentioned and lead to premature fading. Heat, including that from radiators, forced air heating systems and even spotlights will also accelerate the chemical reactions that lead to paper damage. If you take care to avoid direct light of any kind, high or low humidity, nearby heat sources and environments to which pests such as silverfish or book lice might be partial, you are giving your print the best chance possible at a long life.

All works, designs and images ©Liz Heffner 2013, unless otherwise noted