March 11, 2013

Rabbit and Maple - Work in Progress Update 4


The vintage component of this work is multifaceted.  I began with some embroidered blocks that I bought on eBay years ago.  They were dingy, and someone had appliqued odd butterflies on top of them, but they cleaned up beautifully and are of excellent quality.  At the time I posted a query on a listserve--remember those?-- and a kind soul snail mailed me a photocopy of an article by quilt historian Barbara Brackman.  I can’t find it online, but in summary it identifies my blocks as designed by Eveline Foland, who was associated with the Kansas City Star newspaper.  The “Memory Bouquet” set of twenty patterns was published in October and November of 1930.  I really love the graceful, flowing lines of her designs.  They seem timeless.

I built out the blocks with solid colored triangles, then added pieced triangle blocks.  The fabrics I used are from my personal collection, which begins with scraps from my mother’s housedresses sewn in the 1940’s.  A lot of the ones I pulled from the stash for this project were from my own garment sewing when I was in high school and made most of my own clothes.  It’s a bit odd to think that part of my personal history now loosely qualifies as vintage…..I am paying tribute to a lot of women who stitched and sewed with this work, my past self included!
I paint a lot of the fabric I use in my work, starting with pfd (prepared for dying) silks and cottons.  I don’t dye fabric, the process doesn’t appeal to me, and for the most part I don’t feel the need to acquire hand-dyes.  However,  now and again I come upon an artisan whose dye work blows me away.  I’ve used some of Deb Lacativa’s sugar dyed textiles in several of my pieces; there’s nothing else like them.  Lisa White Reber is another artist who has caught my interest.  I first met her online, and then talked with her in person a few times.  I am in awe of her technical knowledge and expertise, and the way she applies it to make unique art cloth.  A year ago at a quilt show I bought some yardage that she treated with multiple processes. I thought it was stunning, and it put it aside to await its moment.  With this project I realized it was completely appropriate for the patchwork and to build out the borders.  A visitor to my studio observed that the patterning resembled Rorschach-esque stylized rabbits, and while that did not consciously play into my decision to use it, it’s just possible that my subconscious was on the job.  See Lisa’s work for sale at her Dippy Dyes site, and check out her blog.  (Disclaimer--I have no affiliation to Deb or Lisa, and this is not a sponsored post.  I’m just a fan.)
What with the multiple rabbits, and two big maple prints, and 6 patchworked vintage blocks, and the bits and bobs and borders that I used to make it all  work together, the finished top turned out on the large side by my standards, roughly 75” by 88”.  I am very, very happy with the design and assembly.  I will be less happy once I am wrestling it under the machine to quilt it, but so it goes.  Quilting will have to wait for a bit as I am heavily into a design furor right now, and I am about to be distracted by the arrival of spring.

Bonus footage!  I was interviewed by the local paper as part of a story about the AQS Quilt show that’s coming to Lancaster, PA this week.  You can read the article here.  At the end, there’s a short video of me in the studio, and at one point I briefly display the finished Rabbit and Maple top.  Go take a look, and enjoy!

Addendum:  the newspaper just published the interview as a YouTube video.

March 10, 2013

Article re: AQS Lancaster

I'm featured in an article in today's local paper about the AQS show coming to Lancaster, PA this week.  My quilt, Ginger, is illustrated, and I'm quoted as part of an excellent exposition on the international character of the quilt world today.  There's also a brief video clip of me in my studio.  Read all about it here.


March 8, 2013

Rabbit and Maple - Work in Progress, Update 3

A truism about rabbits is their ability to reproduce with rapidity.  There’s never just one  in my neighborhood; there’s a plethora of them bounding about in the spring.  So I wanted a multiplicity of rabbit prints for this new addition to my Flora and Fauna series.
This side image highlights the workings of the jaw and those big rabbity teeth. You can also see the underlying structure for the twitchy nose. 
I like the way the tight circular stitching both highlights and grounds the imagery.

If you take a look at some of the other works in this series, like Skunk and Garlic Mustard:
Skunk and Garlic Mustard
Squirrel and Locust:
Squirrel and Locust
and Deer and Mayapple:
Deer and Mayapple
You can see that this is not a macabre treatment of the skull imagery.  The work is verging on cheerful.  As I'm working I consider it a celebration of all the small lives that are woven around mine here in the imperfect but beautiful suburban wilds of Lancaster County.  You are of course welcome to bring your interpretation to the party.

As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

March 7, 2013

Rabbit and Maple - Work in Progress, Update 2

Rabbit skull
I am sometimes asked where I obtain the skulls I am working with in this series.   Several of them were loaned to me by a friend who spends a lot of time in the woods and has a good eye and a special knack for spotting treasures.  Others I bought online, from a taxidermist who prepares small mammal skulls as a sort of sideline.  I think they are things of beauty, insanely interesting in their structures and their adaptations for their ecological niche and specialized diets. 
Rabbit skull negative image
I spent a lot of time taking photographs of the skulls.  In photography as in many endeavors I am largely self-taught, so I had to work out the intricacies of lighting, lenses and exposures through educated guesswork and trial and error.  Once I had an image I liked, I messed around with it in a photo program to turn it into what is essentially the equivalent of a photo negative.  The negative image gets printed on a acetate transparency sheet and used to expose and print the cyanotype.
Stitched rabbit skull cyanotype
Above is a print after stitching. I had fun doing the small circular patterning, and it really makes the image pop. 
As always, thanks for following along.

March 6, 2013

Rabbit and Maple - New Work in Progress


I’ve been hunkered down in the studio, waiting for the weather to break, and it looks like I will need to wait a bit longer.  I’ve been channeling my spring fever into a  rush of new work, including some additions to my Flora and Fauna series.  The series concerns the life cycle of the wild mammals in my immediate surroundings.  The parameters Ive set for the works are the inclusion of a cyanotype print of the skull of the animal, a print of a plant that I associate with the animal, and some type of vintage needlework.
Rabbits abound here in the woodsy suburbs, and one memorable spring there was a nest of them under my big red maple tree in the front yard.  So I began this piece by making cyanotype prints of maple branches.  The top photo is of the branch held flat under a sheet of glass as the treated fabric is being exposed for the print.  The next photo is of the resultant print.
Above is the print after being layered with batting and a back and heavily stitched. 
Up next--the rabbit!  Stay tuned.  And as always, thanks for reading and commenting.