So here it is, all 118 elements, a different and relevant pattern for each. I must admit that when I started out I never imagined I would be able to find a meaningful pattern for every element. The initial plan was simply 118 different blackwork patterns, perhaps incorporating a few of Dalton’s symbols.
It was the exhibition at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge in March 2019, the International Year of the Periodic Table, that brought alchemical symbols into my awareness, then came Peter Wothers’ fascinating book, Antimony, Gold and Jupiter’s Wolf – How the elements were named, which led me to various other ideas. Kit Chapman’s Superheavy followed on nicely from where Peter’s book leaves off and generated further ideas for some of the newer elements.
My search led me via several more books and websites: the RSC’s interactive periodic table and podcasts, Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams, Peter van der Krogt’s Elementymology, Andy Brunning’s Compound Chem, Mary Soon Lee’s Elemental Haiku, The Elements – A Visual History of their Discovery by Philip Ball, Science History Institute digital collections, Wellcome Collection, Martyn Poliakoff’s Periodic Videos, plus plenty of Wikipedia and general web browsing, and ideas from friends and Twitter followers.
Once the stitching was complete I had to consider mounting and framing, and who better to ask than the Royal School of Needlework. It was a real treat to visit them in Hampton Court Palace and to know my three years of work was in safe hands. It was the straight lines I was worried about, having been bitten once before. Interestingly they don’t lace across the back as most people do to mount an embroidery as changes in humidity can cause the laces to warp and pull the canvas out of alignment. Instead they place a cloth across the back and stitch all round the edges.
It was a picture of a piece from the RSN archives that first gave me the idea of a blackwork periodic table and the lovely Gemma (right) who mounted mine brought this piece (bottom left) and its sibling from the archives so I could see them in real life.
Then it was onto the framing and I can totally recommend Andy Miller at Byard Art’s Chesterton Mill site in Cambridge for guiding me to the right decisions and confirming my choices, and getting it done at super-quick speed for its first public viewing, but that’s another story…