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Always Rising.

The phoenix image is just one that keeps coming back to me.  A few months ago, I sold the phoenix quilt I made last year and felt I was in a different place in my life and wouldn’t use that image again.  I thought about how I felt stronger and how maybe I was ready for imagery about power and already being strong, not still rising from the ashes.  And then, I was hit hard by a few things in my personal life.  Really hard.  I realized that this idea of rising is recurrent.  We don’t rise just once.  It is a constant journey.  A constant battle to leave behind the things, and sometimes the people, that pull us down and make us feel like we have no where to go, and that rising is not within our capabilities.  Some people make us feel that way deliberately. Others do it in much more subtle ways.  One of my biggest battles this year has been fighting the fear of insignificance.

We all want to matter.  I want to matter.  I want to feel like I’m worth a phone call, a kind word, a quick message to ask how I am or if I’d like to grab lunch and catch up.  Something.  Anything. And, don’t lecture me on how a healthy self-esteem would cure me of needing that reassurance from others and how I need to just know I am valuable deep within. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all of that.  Sometimes, though….sometimes I want to FEEL it from another person.  And that made me realize that I am still in the process of rising.  Of peeling off whatever it is that holds my spirit down. I am still that phoenix looking up and lifting my wings and flying while part of me is still dripping flames and ash and all the things I’m trying to leave behind.

“My Unconquerable Soul”

And that led me to this latest phoenix design using a very different technique.  My first phoenix quilt, entitled “My Unconquerable Soul”, pictured on the left, was built entirely as appliqués. Every piece was cut and the edges were turned under and stitched down on top of a base batik.  In my newest design, the background is a piecing extravaganza! (which is code for nightmare…)  There is no way to cut out a bunch of one shape because the same shapes and sizes rarely exist in this piece.  Once I piece together the background, I will build the phoenix as I did before, through a series of appliquéd feathers and layers that make up her body.  And then the whole thing will be stitched, and most likely I won’t be able to resist adding lots and lots of Swarovski Crystals, though I’m not exactly sure where they will be placed just yet.  She’ll let me know, though. When she’s good and ready.

 

This is the line drawing I had printed full size for the pattern. I will work pieced by piece, cutting it out of vibrant patterned batiks and stitching as I go along. As tedious as that gets, I find it the least confusing way to approach the design.
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The Strong Will Remain

This year.  Ooooo boy. There have been some incredible highs and
lows.  I have become fascinated with what it means to be strong. I don’t think I’m alone in that fascination, because I’ve noticed that my biggest sellers are often images of strength.  The phoenix rising from the ashes, square-jawed mermaids with hair flowing in the water or withstanding a furious wind, tough women, wolves, bears, tigers and especially lions.  Lots of lions. Most of these pieces have lasted a day or two in the shop before they sold.  Some were sold while I was still working on them.  Why is that?  Why do these strong images resonate with all kinds of people? Is it because we are strong? Or because we want to be strong? Or both? Maybe we are strong already but need to be reminded.  Maybe we need to surround ourselves with these images so that on those days when we feel weak and wonder how we’re going to pay for car repairs or help our child with a learning disability or fight that ongoing battle with weight loss or rejection or abandonment, we can feel inspired. Strengthened. Emboldened. These images send us out into the world in the morning and are there for us when we return at night seeking refuge from the day, battered by life’s challenges, ready again to look at that reminder that we ourselves picked out and placed in our own home.  We secretly believe in ourselves enough to feel the connection with the tiger or the phoenix or the lion, but we also know ourselves well enough to understand that we still need their inspiration in these moments.  We understand, but also welcome the reminder that  “The weak fall, but the strong will remain and never go under!”  — Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

More images of Strength.

“Mermaid Dreams”

 

“I Am Both”

 

“Lionhearted”

 

“Queen”

 

O tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide!” -William Shakespeare

 

“Aloha”

 

“Peace”

 

“Mama Bear”

 

“She-Wolf”

 

“Lion for a Day”

 

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Love is Not What Conquers All.

Love.  It’s one of those words we all throw around and claim that it conquers things and makes the world go round and is all you need. I think those statements are about as true as “time heals all wounds”.  Time doesn’t heal jack.  Do you know what heals? Growth, learning, paying attention to another person’s story, understanding a little better why the hurt came and why you felt it so deeply, coming to terms with the fact that life happens, accidents happens and most importantly for me, that I am sometimes the cause of another’s hurt.  These revelations and so many more things come to us over time, but it’s not time itself that heals wounds.  And it’s not just love that conquers all.

I will concede one thing that I believe about love and that is that loving ourselves enough that we learn how to find some peace and joy in daily life gives us the confidence to face the pain we encounter, forgive others and more importantly than forgiving, to feel empathy.  It allows us to see beyond ourselves to understand that others are also fighting battles that we cannot understand, which helps us to let go of anger of being offended and judgment. But….and this is a very hard lesson…that does not mean our love itself can change circumstances, heal another from their physical or mental ailments or force others to make choices that would bring them greater happiness and so much less sorrow.  And, perhaps one of the hardest lessons, it does not require us to stay in a situation in which we are being hurt in any way by a person to prevent that person from experiencing the  pain of being removed from our lives. LOVE, in and of itself, is not all you need.  What we need are all the the actions that love inspires us to take, the words it inspires us to say and the things it inspires us to think and believe.

So….why do I have so many pieces that are centered on love?  Well….for one, they always sell! If I’m being completely honest…. 😉 And why is that? I’m sure there are a thousand answers.  For me, I believe it is at the core of all we do and all we want out of life. It is the great motivator, just not the end result.  When we love and respect and find peace with ourselves, it leads us to want that peace and happiness and love for others, which leads us to act on those desires and affect change and reach out in whatever ways we can.  Maybe it sounds selfish to think loving ourselves is so important, but I truly believe it is. It’s hard to love our neighbor as ourself if we don’t love ourself first.

This became a pillow. Monochromatic grey, black and white in the background, red and fuchsia appliqués and stitching. Lots of pattern and color.

I know that in the grand scheme of life, I will only truly affect a very small number of people, and that’s okay.  I hope in some way I can inspire my kids and friends and acquaintances to love themselves and do good so they will in turn affect others in a positive way, and those “others” will affect even more others, and so on.  Real love inspires nothing but good.  And that’s why I think people buy these love pieces, whether its a card or a pillow or a piece of art, so they can have these little reminders of something good.

 

 

So many little details and scenes added with the free motion stitching on this piece.
I try to add lots of detail stitching to create another fun layer of things to discover.
These little 6″ minis have become a favorite. This one had some hand beading on it.
Another LOVE pillow with so many vibrant batiks and lots of free motion quilting.
One of my 5″x7″ notecards. The love and heart ones sell year round.
There are ten thousand ways to assemble the batiks and stitching into these fun designs.
Another of my 5″x7″ blank notecards. Can’t keep these love ones in stock.

 

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“The Best Way Out is Always Through.” –Robert Frost

Layered batiks on cotton batting.

You know, I’ve had better weeks.  As I was packing some things up to work on at the studio today, I found this piece that I started a couple of months ago. Sometimes I create happy sea stars and fun octopuses.  And then sometimes, I am inspired by life and how it changes.  How it pushes and pulls you in these different directions, forcing you to either change with it or hold steady and fight it.  And the best solution isn’t always the same choice. Sometimes it’s about the happy things that inspire us–cute animals, beautiful scenery, vibrant colors or a great new piece of fabric.  And sometimes, it’s the not-so-happy things and in those moments of pain and struggle, I often visualize images that seem to parallel what I’m going through.

My rendering for “The Mouth of Hell” for “La Pastorela” at The Adobe Chapel in Old Town, San Diego.

One of those moments reminded me of this painting I had created years ago for a primitive styled production of La Pastorela.  In this little Christmas play, there is a very literal mouth of hell.  For this production, the director just wanted a very simple, fantastical design and this was my rendering for that backdrop.  I don’t know why I thought about it all these years later, but I pulled it out of my stash of paintings and decided I would turn it in to a textile piece.  It seemed symbolic of where my life was and I wanted to create something a little less happy-beach-day and a little more true to what I was experiencing.  That said, I am an optimist and I always like to feel there is hope.  I’ve been contemplating a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel piece for quite some time, and thought it might be cool to combine those two ideas and have the tunnel be this demonic mouth of hell, as that’s what it felt like I was faced with at the time.  I came across this Robert Frost quote that I felt fit so perfectly:  “The best way out is always through.”  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the difficulties of my life these past few years, it’s that.  There are no short cuts.  There are no easy paths that will allow me to circumvent the pain and stress and sorrow that my situation brings me.  It is only in walking through the fire that I will be able to pass my demons and step out of the darkness, over those sharp teeth and into the sunshine that awaits.  I don’t know how long it will take to feel that fresh air again.  Sometimes I feel the breeze and the warmth of the sunshine and know it is getting closer.  Sometimes it seems to take forever.  But, through it all, I know there’s only one way to go, and that’s to face it head on and walk straight through.

The finished piece. 19″x19″. Indonesian batiks, lots of free motion stitching, including red and gold metallic threads. The eyes and the sun are embellished with Swarovski crystals.
Love this little sun clearly bold and visible through the mouth. Lots of thread and a handful of Swarovski crystals make it shine and draw your eyes through the mouth on to something better.
Lots of free hand stitching and a beautiful red and black binding.
One more view.

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Liturgical Art. Such a Great Phrase.


Here’s my second piece of “liturgical art”. I love that phrase.  If feels so classy and righteous. But seriously, I really love making these pastor’s stoles.  There’s something about the odd size and the fact that it’s a wearable that make these quite interesting.  There
are two sides that need to sort of go together but don’t actually touch each other, and each side is only about 4″ wide and super long.  It’s not a proportion I’ve ever used in painting or textile work and it presents and interesting challenge.  The goal is to make it a piece of art in some way, but that can be tricky with such a long skinny surface area to work with.  Well, two long skinny surface areas, that really make up one picture, but split in half, so not exactly.  I feel
like I’m in a Dr. Seuss world.

My friend gave me a quick sketch of what he wanted.  This is to be a special baptism stole and he wanted abstracted water swirling. He had been inspired by a design I had created for my mother’s piece (coming soon). So, I shopped for an interesting assortment of blue batiks and got to work creating this little work of art.  I used a lighter batik with less pattern for the background so the river would contrast more and be the focal point.  I picked one that had a little pink and yellow in it as well, to add to the contrast, since all my water batiks only had blues in them.  Then it was just a matter of cutting out and layering all the swirls.  That’s probably simplified just a touch, but that’s really all
I did.  Layered wavy lines until it looked right. 🙂 The cool way of describing that process is to call it “organic”.  Which sounds much better than “lacking a plan”.  I love building designs from scratch as I go, though.  There are times for patterning and there are times to just roll with it and see where the batiks take you.  This was the time for that.  When it was finished, it needed a few bubbles to break it up and to tie the background together with the waves.  The stitching helps with that, too, but I like adding the circular shapes against the wavy lines.  Five thread colors for the free motion quilting and this beautiful little river was finished!  I also love the back.  I’ve been using darker batiks on the backs of my quilts lately so the stitching is very noticeable and I just love how it looks. Very happy with the way it turned out.

 

A few more closeups:

Love the back!   

 

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Selective Randomness

You know that song “You Are My Sunshine”? Well, I hate it. Eleven years ago, after going through more than a decade of fertility treatments and so many difficult things, we were finally placed with a sweet baby boy with the hopes of adopting him.  It was the best.  Such a special time for me.  But for some reason, all these years of waiting and preparing for a baby, and the only song I could think of to sing to him for months was “You Are My Sunshine”.  I mean have you ever listened to all the lyrics?  It’s a super depressing song but I think everything thinks it’s happy because it says the word “sunshine” except it’s not about sunshine at all. It’s about loss.  And it turned out to be prophetic.  Five months later, we had to give that sweet baby back to his father, and I haven’t sang it since.  I have this idea in my head that if I sing it, I will lose one of my boys, and I can’t risk that again.  I know it’s not rational, but it’s how I feel. Well, this week, it was featured in my son’s elementary school music program, and it brought me to tears very quickly and unexpectedly. I’ve been thinking about how often I use the sun motif in my work, because it does still represent joy and peace and warmth and beautiful Southern California days.  I just can’t sing that song.

This sun textile art is still a favorite.  I created each piece completely separately because I didn’t want anything to line up perfectly at all.  I wanted each piece to be a quadrant, but I didn’t want them to look like they went together.  I often refer to my process (and I used this term as a scenic artist also) as selective randomness. I need it to look random but if I really threw caution to the wind and didn’t check anything, then there is a big chance some parts would line up way too perfectly or the colors would match too well, and I don’t want that.  So, how do I coordinate but clash?  Well, clashing takes a little more skill than you might think.

I started by choosing four background fabrics that were very different from each other.  I chose two warm colors and two cool colors. From there, I picked up one of those squares and added all the fabrics and stitching.  The first one was kind of easy. But, from then on, I had to make sure things didn’t line up, and I didn’t use the same exact shapes.  It may sound easy to not match, but it’s surprising how repetitive our brains can be, and how they like to go back to their go-to shapes and colors and suddenly you wind up with four very similar pieces.  I often ask myself when I’m laying out fabrics “what does NOT go with this?” and then I choose that fabric. It’s a way of pushing me to step away from a routine or a tendency and instead pay attention to an instinct.  It requires intention, though.  It isn’t something you craft while you’re chatting with a friend.  I find in those times, we often revert back to habit.  It takes a conscious effort (at least for me) to push a boundary and to make a different choice.

Once I pieced all four quadrants, then I had to shift them around until I found the grouping I liked the best.  Next, I photographed it from all four sides to decide what direction I liked best, and that determined how I stitched the pieces together.  The individual quadrants were stitched to canvas before all the free motion quilting, to give the cotton batik fabrics some stability and to protect it when I stretched it over the frame.  Lots of free motion stitching, including several gold metallics.  It’s bold and abstract and full of life and so many colors.  Much better than that stupid song. 🙂

 

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And Strength. My Ode to Motherhood.

My almost five-year-old has become fascinated with boobs lately.  “What are those? Mine are small. When will mine get big like yours? Mommies use these to feed their babies.  How do they do that?  How does milk get in them?”.  I’m trying to be the cool mom and take all these questions in stride, answering the questions like an intelligent, educated, forward-thinking woman because I want him to see this as biology. But, I admit, sometimes it makes me laugh and sometimes I get squirmy, a little uncomfortable with talking so bluntly about things we never discussed when I was a child. These recent conversations, and the fact that it’s Mother’s Day weekend has me, as I’m sure much of the world, contemplating what it means to be a mom.  And if you aren’t a mom, you’re probably thinking about your own mother and what she has meant in your life. I mean, it’s not just about milk-producing boobs. Thankfully.  As an adoptive mom, mine never did that, so I’m glad it’s not the criteria. So, what is it about?

“You are the best mom”. And I love how my favorite store is Vons….I won’t correct him. 😉

Nothing influences my work more than relationships, and the strongest relationships I have are with my mother and as a mother myself.  It is the greatest source of joy, pain, comfort, loss, self-doubt and self-confidence. It is everything.  Everyone has a mom story.  It might be more full of pain than joy, but everyone has a mom or is a mom or was a mom or is desperate to be a mom or maybe has no desire to be a mom. There is something so deep and tangible and transformative about motherhood, no matter how you experience it.

My boys own my soul. They came at great cost and yet a price I would have paid ten times over.  Years of fertility treatments, tears, physical and emotional sacrifices in attempts to get pregnant and have a child changed me.  It steeled me up and gave me perspective and empathy and strength.  And then there was the choice to adopt.  And that led to over a hundred hours of classes and lots of paperwork and home visits and background checks and so much scrutiny.  Lots of waiting.  And that gave me patience and perseverance and determination. And more strength. And that led to my sweet baby Isaac, our first adoption.  But, five months into motherhood I had to hand that baby back to his father and watch him drive away forever.  That broke me in a way I had never experienced.  And it gave me humility and compassion and oh so many tears.  And strength.  And eventually, all of that led to my sweet Dylan.  And four years later, another miracle came in my 12 lb baby Seth.  Now, as they celebrate their 9thand 5thbirthdays this month, respectively, I find it has led to so very much more.  Understanding, gratitude, so much love and acceptance. And strength.  Always strength.  Forever getting stronger.

This is why I am inspired by strong women.  I love them and am inspired by them and I want to be one.

“It is the custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtinesses and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind; and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.”
― J. M. Barrie, The Adventures of Peter Pan

 

 

 

 

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Creating Contrast

I’m taking my boys home to Texas this summer for a couple of weeks. I’ve been incredibly homesick and ready for them to have a taste of where I came from. These two California boys need to experience rural living, dogs, fields, southern accents, neighbors separated by more than a wall, real barbecue, stifling heat and humidity and some lake life. I love San Diego, but Texas will always hold a special place in my soul.

So, when an old high school friend asked me if I would make a quilt for her, I jumped at the chance. Aside from being flattered that she would want something of mine, I loved the idea of designing something inspired by this beautiful lake where I spent many days swimming and boating and even having a few waterskiing adventures.  That said, when I was spending those days at Lake Texoma, paddleboarding wasn’t a thing there.  So when my friend told me it was her passion and she wanted a quilt of her paddleboarding on the lake, I loved that it combined a hint of the California lifestyle themes that I often do with my Texas home.  And since it was another quilt that involved a water theme, I knew I had to pay attention to the differences between my tropical style and the more earthy, woodsy feel of the landscape in that area. My quilts may often have simpler layouts, but my MFA in set design doesn’t allow me to make sweeping generalizations–water isn’t just water.  There are California beaches, Florida beaches and Texas lake beaches and they are not the same thing.

I will share other aspects of the design process for this quilt in other posts, but for today, I want to share the things I did to make this particular quilt read Lake Texoma and not sunny San Diego.

I’m including these three quilts, side by side to illustrate my points.  I know they are often subtle things, and maybe to some people, it doesn’t make a difference.  But it does to me.

  1. Color Palette: All three of these quilts are strip quilts and have similar water and sunset colors.  Strip quilting is a technique I use frequently to build the background.  I like how it allows me to use lots of different fabrics and also creates the feel of a horizontal landscape. The colors in these quilts are similar, but I made a few adjustments to each one. I used thin strips to create the octopus quilt, which, coupled with the gradated colors (light at the horizon line and darkening as it gets to the deeper water), creates more depth. I picture this scene way out in the vast ocean somewhere, far away from land. In contrast, the manatee quilt in the middle is the brighter, clearer shallow waters in Florida where the manatees live.  I also used larger blocks of fabrics which makes it feel closer, but still kept the horizontal lines. Contrast both of those with the lake quilt. The water in Lake Texoma is much darker, and though I didn’t want to go too dark and murky, I wanted to show that it’s more green than tropical turquoise. My ratio of greens to blues was much higher in this quilt, and even the prints were not quite as fantastical, which gave it a little more of a realistic look.
  2. The trees and grasses: These details are what solidify a more specific location.  The octopus is out in the deep ocean, so I gave no hints of land being anywhere nearby.  The manatee quilt got some land and a few palm trees flanking the sunset, plus the grasses that are a part of that natural environment. This, coupled with the larger blocks of color, gave it a more close-up, intimate feeling.  The lake quilt needed Texas trees.  Very different from palm trees.  I added a couple of those large oak trees and also grounded them in some land because there is never anywhere you are on that lake where you can’t see land.  I also added a few grasses which would be a part of the environment there, but kept them more natural looking.
  3. The animals.  I mean of course these have to be different.  But, I try to be consciously different. Fish live in all waters, but I didn’t just want to throw in any old fish.  The octopus quilt has a fantastical feel to it.  The octopus is sending up the sea stars which, when they cross the horizon line, turn into the night time stars.  The mermaid is pushing the moon into the sky and the sun is setting, giving the whole thing a magical feeling with everything in motion.  So, I stuck to more magical looking creatures–the amazing diamond print octopus, all the stars and the mythical mermaid. For some reason, fish just seemed out of place and too banal. No offense to fish! 😉 The manatee quilt was supposed to be fun, sweet scene with these beautiful peaceful creatures going about their daily life.  Of course it needed little fish! It’s like the manatee and the sea turtle needed their little friends nearby to create this perfect Disney-esque setting.  I researched the type of fish that would be found in those areas and that’s the style I created.  Cute and colorful and several different sizes.  Lake Texoma has lots of different fish, but in order to really drive home the fact that it was this particular lake and certainly not any kind of ocean, I added one of the more recognizable fish–the fun, visually interesting catfish. Ain’t nobody from Texas that doesn’t recognize a catfish!  I also added a rainbow trout and some other little fish and a duck.  All things very common to this area and all things that say “lake” and not ocean.  (Not that there aren’t trout in the ocean….but it has more of a lake feel to it.)

So many things are interchangeable and I don’t have to always make such specific decisions on every piece that I do.  But, I feel like I need to have a clean thought process through my work or else it just gets diluted and everything starts to look the same. Muddy, like the bottom of that lake.

To read more about the quilts pictured above, click on these links:

Octopus quilt, “Connected”

Manatee quilt

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“The Best Way Out is Always Through.” Robert Frost

This past week has been a painful one for me and I was not feeling the desire to make cute little sea creatures of any kind. I felt like I wanted to express the darkness that I have often felt going through these difficult times.  I love words and I often look at poems and quotes and other writings to see if I can find a phrase or a paragraph or a song lyric or something that seems to capture how I feel in a way I can’t seem to express.  I often use these quotes as inspiration for art pieces, although it’s not usually the intention at first. But, when I find a beautifully crafted phrase that strikes a chord deep inside me, then my natural reaction is to have some type of visual image pop up in my mind, and then I sketch that idea.  This natural flow was a little out of order today, but it still resulted in the beginnings of an new art piece.

The beginnings of the fabric layout. Lots of little pieces. I love how the layering is beginning to add depth.

Many years ago I worked on a sweet little show called La Pastorela.  It is a centuries old Spanish play about the shepherds journey to Bethlehem as told in the Gospel of Luke. I got the chance to design and paint the scenery for a production of it that took place in The Adobe Chapel in Old Town, San Diego. It is a primitive show, often performed as it would have been hundreds of years ago in Mexico in chapels just like this one, and this director wanted to keep that same historic feel to the look of this production.  A few days ago I came across my rendering (pictured above) of a backdrop that I designed and painted for that production.  It is an image of the mouth of hell. In keeping with the tradition, I created the paintings in the style of primitive Mexican folk art, so the images were kept simple but fun and colorful and a little fantastical.  When I saw this painting again, I was immediately struck with the emotions of the last few years and thought about what it means to stand at this proverbial mouth of hell and still move forward towards something better.  What exactly does it mean to survive?  I knew right away that I wanted to created a quilt piece very much like this painting.  But, something was off.  Something was missing.  Hope was missing.  Much of my art work is about triumph in some way, whether large or small, and this painting was missing the triumph.  I have sketched a few ideas in the last few months that explore the idea of the light at the end of the tunnel.  As I was thinking about what it means to pass through some type of trauma–or a gaping mouth of hell–I had the idea to combine the two images and make the light at the end of the tunnel only accessible once you’ve faced this demon.  That light doesn’t always come easily, and there are so many scary things before you reach it. But, it is doable.

The new sketch. I wrote down three quotes that stuck with me, but the Robert Frost quote is the one I felt best captured the concept.

I did a separate sketch of the rendering, incorporating the two images together and then began assembling the textile art piece.  I built the center of the mouth with the sun and the sharp teeth around it like a type of primitive bear trap.  The stitching is really going to be essential on this piece, although the layering of the fabrics has already created a beautiful depth to the piece. I need more red batiks to finish, so stay tuned and watch how I use a layering technique to realize this design.  Despite this being a frightening image, the concept is truly one of hope and triumph.  Of walking past the things that should kill us, or in the very least, stop our progress, to a wide open hopeful life full of choices.

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“Little by little, one travels far.” J.R.R. Tolkein

Leah took this beautiful photo of the nursery all ready for the new baby. So lovely! The pillow on the left is also one I made for her and I will be posting about it very soon.

Oh, this quilt.  It will be the subject of several posts because there are so many aspects of what I do that are captured so well in this project. Custom orders can be so tricky, as I have mentioned before. On one hand I have to at least partially assume (or hope…) that the customer chose me because they want my signature style and so will hopefully trust me to just do my thing.  However, any time a person seeks out custom work, it is because they already have some idea of what they want (or don’t want) and they want you to make it happen. This can be difficult when you don’t live in that person’s brain, and no amount of sketching and exchanging photo ideas and color palettes can 100% portray all those thoughts.  I am never more anxious about mailing off a product than when it’s a custom design.  I just want the customer to be happy and to love what I did and ideally, to feel like I exceeded their expectations. It can be stressful!

When Leah contacted me about this custom crib quilt design, I was excited, but also a little terrified.  First of all, she is a photographer and creating art for another artist can be a blessing and a curse.  I know other artists appreciate my work, but they also have a more discerning eye and often a strong idea of what they want.  She was no exception.  Second, this quilt is very complicated.  Most of my work is a single scene, so my research stays pretty focused and the layout isn’t the most difficult part of the journey. This quilt was a collage of many of the places her and her husband had traveled to together.  So, not only was it a complex layout and design that required researching many different places and landmarks, but it also held great sentimental meaning.  I didn’t want to create a flat, lifeless version of these vibrant locations they had actually visited in person.  I wanted to do justice to their memories. Third, I tend to work in bold, vibrant colors.  Leah asked for a softer palette with pops of color here and there.  I have to say, subtly is not my strong suit! But, I took this as a great challenge and looked for the opportunity to learn and grow and do something I don’t normally do.  And I’m so glad that I did.  And fourth, and perhaps the most intimidating part of this project, is that all these things I just mentioned had to come together not just for the quilt itself, but it was for their very first child!  So, not only was it sentimental because of the subject matter, but also because this quilt would be the big thing she did to commemorate the birth of this sweet baby girl. Her first child, with all the emotions and expectations and hopes that come with preparing for such a once-in-a-lifetime event…so absolutely no pressure whatsoever! And as if there needed to be more pressure, this quilt would be arriving in time for the baby shower and would be unveiled there to all of her friends and family. And to add more to the suspense, even though she knew I had shipped it, her husband kept it aside and didn’t let her see it until the baby shower.  So….I was VERY relieved to find out that she loved it! The last thing I wanted was for her to feel let down at that precious moment.  Thankfully, all went well, and I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.

I will go into more detail about the process next time.

Leah is an amazing photographer. The photos in this post are ones she sent me. You can see her work at leahrhiannephotography.com

 

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